Published on in RetailDigital Transformation

Black Friday is practically upon us and is tipped to be the UK’s first £1bn online shopping day. With vast amounts of online and in-store customers expected, what have retailers been doing to ensure they’re ready to deal with such high volumes of traffic?

Realistically, preparation for Black Friday started last Christmas. If retailers are only just thinking about last minute issues to address – it’s too late, they’ve already missed the boat. Stores should have thought about having their supply chains ready and getting suppliers geared up for outages, extra distribution companies and ensure they’ve hired enough extra staff to deal with the influx of customers expected.

Traditionally, it wouldn’t be unusual for retailers to maintain their focus in store during peak trading. However, there are now more complex systems in place, and retailers need to ensure their back-end systems and online channels are working in harmony.

In previous years, some websites weren’t optimised for the big uplift in traffic. This can be extremely frustrating for customers if they can’t get on to a site. Typically, if they have to wait more than two seconds for a webpage to load they’re likely to give up, despite the bargains on offer.

At Fujitsu we’re helping retailers for these instances, as for many it’s difficult for them to decipher what capacity to build. No-one can predict if online traffic will surge by 20%, 100% or even 200% – and as a result it makes Black Friday difficult to plan for. In one hand there’s the case of overspending on site capacity and optimisation, which hurts profitably. In the other hand, under doing it means a retailer fails to meet customer expectations, resulting in loss of sale and reputation damage.

So what should retailers have done?

Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. It can’t be stressed enough how key preparation is for peak trading days such as Black Friday. Retailers need to plan for every scenario so they know what to do in every situation. It’s very much like a military operation, plan for every eventuality!

This year some retailers have trialled Black Friday events purely to test the waters, while others have extended their Black Friday run over a number of days to ease pressures on their systems. It’s still quite difficult to actually replicate Black Friday, but by doing this retailers can spread the flow of activity.

If any lessons can be learnt from last year, it’s that preparing really well and making sure the peak is not all in one day can make all the difference.

This year, Argos implemented a ‘12 days of deals‘ strategy which launching last week, letting customers visit the site before Black Friday. It lets customers see what offers are available sooner, giving them a head start while in turn reducing the chance of the website crashing.

Also, identifying key trends and planning for which types of products will be most profitable is another critical element. Commercial issues are really pressing for retailers right now with consumer expectations of huge discounts. This makes it difficult to deliver volume, while at the same time be turn a profit.

There’s a lot to learn from last year, and by using the last Black Friday as a case study, retailers will be equipping themselves with solutions to deal with a range of scenarios, satisfying customer expectations while maintaining the bottom line.

Picture credit: Giulio Jiang

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