Following Black Friday’s traction in the US, the hysteria surrounding it has, predictably, crossed the Atlantic. With this year likely to herald a similar frenzy, retailers will need to ensure they are fully prepared in order to meet these challenges head-on.
For retailers, a sudden increase in online traffic can cause spikes across all IT services and result in unwanted website and systems outages. Downtime needs to be avoided at all costs as it halts sales and affects brand reputation.
Retailers must plan substantial mitigations against outages. It’s important to remember that a consumer’s main objective is checking out and, as a result, disabling additional functionality may be necessary in order to deliver a consistent customer experience.
Turning off personalised elements of the store, such as mini baskets, recently viewed products and recommendations, will take the pressure off the website’s back-end and ensure that its transactional power is not too seriously impeded. Customers won’t care about innovative personalised homepages if they are unable to check out on the biggest Sale day of the year.
In modern multichannel retailing it is somewhat passé to reserve stock for specific channels, such as in-store or online exclusives. However, for busy times such as Black Friday, retailers should reconsider their approach. If an item is bought in-store before sales staff have a chance to grab it for an online order, this will lead to disappointed and frustrated customers.
Even if they have a good single view of stock with near real-time updates, on peak days retailers should either create generous stock buffers for store fulfilment, turn off fulfilment for online orders from the busiest or smallest stores, or fulfil directly from their distribution centre.
Preparing for chaos is perhaps the best way to approach Black Friday. Retailers should use the data available to them to predict when peak traffic times will occur. Using Google Analytics data from last year’s festive period should give retailers a good idea of when peaks will occur. Retailers should load-test their website; ideally, it should be able to cope with three times the expected traffic.
Retailers should approach every day as though their site has the potential to fail and have an end-to-end technology strategy. Effective due diligence combined with the correct procedures and preventative measures will help make Black Friday less about fear and more about sales.