Whether the thought of Black Friday sends you into a logistical panic, or you’re ready to embrace the long queues and frantic customers, the global shopping phenomenon will soon be upon retailers once more. Heralded as one of the busiest shopping days of the year, the day after the American Thanksgiving holiday poses a conundrum for retailers as they contemplate whether to make potentially costly business decisions on stock levels, staff allocation, or even if they should participate in the event at all.

With some stores in the UK, including Walmart’s Asda choosing to boycott Black Friday last year, many retailers are apprehensive about the success of offering staggering price cuts for one day of the year – how can they guarantee customers will make big purchases?

Along with other major business decisions such as relocation, expansion, changing product lines and pricing strategies, making a success of a retailer’s participation in Black Friday requires answers to some crucial operational questions and an insight into shoppers’ purchasing habits – namely, how they behave on-the-ground in stores.

The struggle

Retailers have often struggled to track information about the ‘last mile’ of the customer journey, only identifying their customers once card payments or loyalty cards are registered at checkout. However, rather than attempting to install expensive tracking technologies or beacons, filling this gap can now be achieved by utilizing existing technology that many retailers will already have installed in their stores.

Most retailers already offer their customers free WiFi, but too often they overlook the unique ability that this technology has to deliver useful analytics and data insights. For starters, user analytics garnered at the WiFi login stage can shed light on the demographics of customers and help determine which shoppers might be most receptive to marketing promotions in advance of or on the day of Black Friday.

Getting more out of WiFi analytics

WiFi analytics can then serve up a host of invaluable customer information, including presence and location data. For example, by identifying the hours/days in which the store is most frequented, retailers can pick out the time slots that are best-suited for delivering marketing campaigns to entice customers in. Combined with this, retailers can also optimize merchandise allocation by identifying the areas where footfall is highest in-store.

By determining the busiest periods of the day, retailers can allocate staff accordingly, and in larger stores, floor staff can be assigned to where footfall is greatest. During big sales events such as Black Friday, this information can be vital in coordinating employee shifts and positioning experts at key points throughout the store, to ensure customer service expectations are met and optimum sales achieved.

Furthermore, once a shopper has logged into the in-store WiFi, they no longer need to stay connected to trigger an alert on the retailer’s management dashboard when they next return to the store, giving the retailer the chance to automatically send out communications or incentives to reward them for their return.

The make-or-break moments in the retail calendar

Collecting data through the year in this way via WiFi allows retailers to better understand the shopping patterns of repeat customers, as well as the timings and duration of their stay, thus allowing them to optimize or streamline in-store operations. Business operations can significantly benefit from WiFi analytics when it comes to the make-or-break moments in the retail calendar. Retailers that have nurtured their ongoing customer relationships with personalize communications, targeted marketing campaigns and unique promotions will have a much clearer outlook on the potential success of big ticket events such as Black Friday.