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Talking Business: It’s about time for joined-up thinking on Black Friday

Damian Hanson, chief executive of One Iota

Damian Hanson, chief executive of One Iota

Damian Hanson, chief executive of One Iota

Damian Hanson, chief executive of retail IT systems provider One Iota, says retailers must bridge the gap between in-store and online to capitalise on flash Sales.

Damian hanson one iota cropped

Damian Hanson, chief executive of One Iota

Damian Hanson, chief executive of One Iota

It’s that time of year again: the clocks have gone back, the Christmas ads are in full swing and Black Friday is upon us.

As final preparations get under way, retailers are sure to be better prepared this time around, having learnt lessons from last year’s well-documented pitfalls. From hysteria on the high street to websites struggling to handle the increased traffic, crashing completely and leaving customers waiting for hours in virtual queues, it’s not rocket science to know that preparation is key.

Yet despite employing more staff and planning better web infrastructure, it’s frustrating to see that many retailers are still missing a trick by failing to provide a fully connected shopping journey, losing huge sales opportunities.

An estimated £810m was spent on Black Friday last year – that’s 50% more than industry experts had predicted – and this year’s event is set to be bigger still. According to online retail association IMRG, retailers should be prepared for a rise of almost a third in spending on Black Friday 2015, making it the first time ever that UK retail sales exceed £1bn in a single day. Additionally, with footfall up 23% on the previous year, Black Friday 2014 demonstrated more than ever that shoppers still want to venture on to the high street to touch and feel the items they wish to purchase.

So the customers are out there, ready to part with their hard-earned cash, yet that spending is only going to happen if they can get hold of the item they want on the day they want it.

And there’s the rub.

You would have thought that the presence of eager shoppers on the high street, on a day specifically created for spending, would be a golden ticket for retailers – yet many are failing to capitalise on it. Too often, shoppers are left disappointed on Black Friday, finding that the bargain Christmas presents they had planned on getting are just not available on the day.

So what’s a retailer to do? The solution is simple.

Retailers need to stop treating online and in-store as two separate entities, and start marrying the two by bringing ecommerce in-store. Modern technology has made it simple to bridge this gap with assisted selling devices, such as transactional kiosks and iPads. By utilising in-store technology, the retailer is able to sell beyond what is simply “on the shelf”, and showcase their entire product range directly to the customer – ensuring they capitalise on every possible sales opportunity. These innovative solutions also enable customers to buy out-of-stock items and choose from a variety of delivery options, even on Black Friday.

My prediction for Black Friday 2015 is that, while we will see improvements on the chaos of previous years, there will still be frustrated shoppers, out-of-stock lines and poor website experiences. Technology has come a long way over the past few years and is now more readily available to both retailers and consumers than ever before – but if retailers fail to capitalise on it, it’s a wasted opportunity.

Damian Hanson is chief executive of One Iota

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