Black Friday 2014 hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Unprecedented demand for discounted goods took the UK by surprise and two thirds of customers felt retailers were unprepared for the scale of the event, according to City A.M. In spite of this though, last year’s Black Friday was a resounding success for many retailers.

The Telegraph noted that John Lewis experienced its highest all-time weekly sales and City A.M. reported that Asda had its busiest day of the year with over two million shoppers taking advantage of its offers. Sales weren’t just restricted to physical stores – the Guardian reported that UK consumers spent £810 million online and ordered 5.5 million Amazon products during the day.

With this year’s Black Friday set to be bigger and more popular than ever before, how can marketers ensure they are ready to capture pre-Christmas spend?

Optimise to specific campaign goals
It’s easy to get caught-up in the hype but retailers need to step back and consider what they really want to achieve from Black Friday. For many retailers, this will be targeting Christmas shoppers. Despite a third of UK consumers starting their festive shopping in September, plenty of shoppers are holding back for November bargains.

But it’s not just about driving sales. Some retailers may use their Black Friday messaging to encourage customers into their stores or to make sure they’re front-of-mind for last-minute shoppers who won’t be buying until later in December. To achieve maximum impact, campaign goals need to be established early on so marketers can choose the appropriate ad types, placements and targeting options.

Consider the entire customer journey
While Black Friday itself is only a single day, the consumer journey will begin several days before Black Friday and continue through to Cyber Monday and beyond. Ideally, digital campaigns should start around two weeks before Black Friday to achieve a well-timed peak of brand awareness.

The consumer journey moves seamlessly between online and offline channels, with customers researching online and buying in-store, or vice-versa, in a process known as showrooming.

Consumers may also buy online and collect in-store, or order in-store to be delivered at home. This means retail marketers require a holistic cross-channel view and the ability to connect in-store transactions with online advertising, which can be achieved using a programmatic marketing operating system.

Leverage the real-time opportunity of programmatic
The real-time nature of programmatic makes it easy for retail marketers to adjust exposure during their Black Friday campaigns, including throughout the day itself. Marketers can amplify the demand curve as it begins to rise to maximise campaign impact, and then decrease investment as demand declines, for example when the the cut-off time for free delivery passes.

They can also move spend between channels, perhaps increasing mobile ad spend during Black Friday itself, before transferring the emphasis to desktop advertising for Cyber Monday. This real-time tactic is frequently used in search engine marketing but should also be applied to all programmatically bought channels.

Use customer insight to personalise messaging
Rather than offering blanket Black Friday deals, retail marketers should use what they already know about their current customers to predict what they will buy this holiday season. Using a programmatic marketing operating system to activate consumer insight, marketers can use the wealth of first-party consumer data available to them and layer this with third-party data to target consumers with relevant and timely offers. Retail marketers can also make use of dynamic creative technology to deliver highly personalised messaging that will resonate with the consumer.

Black Friday is a huge opportunity for retailers to reach consumers who are ready and willing to buy. By setting campaign goals, embracing the real-time benefits of programmatic, and using customer insight to personalise messaging, marketers can prepare themselves for the imminent shopping frenzy and ensure that – this year – it’s their astounding sales figures that are making the headlines.

Edwin Lee is vice president of global retail at MediaMath