20th November, 2015
November 28 2014 (Black Friday) was meant to be a day for extraordinary business activity and huge sales for many UK retailers. Many retailers had lined up deals and offers that were meant to draw shoppers to the stores and websites but a lot of them spent the day trying to manage the issues and potential damage to reputation that came with websites crashing under the weight of the unprecedented traffic. On top of that, many of them were dogged by fulfilment issues for weeks afterwards.
In the run up to this year’s event, a lot of the discussion has been around whether or not Black Friday 2015 will be as big as last year’s event and if so, how do retailers avoid the disasters of last year. Retailers like Asda have pulled out of the event altogether, stating that customers have asked for sales to be spread across the year and not focussed on the odd day or two. Tesco on the other hand has delayed its stores’ opening time to avoid, or at least reduce the chaos.
Whatever the approach, it is clear to see that retailers are taking steps to avoid last year’s mishaps and that this year’s event is likely to take a very different shape. What shape this year’s event will take is yet to be fully known but it is fair to say that a repeat of last year’s chaos could go as far as drawing the curtain on the UK involvement in Black Friday altogether.
Black Friday, just like other major shopping days, comes with as many opportunities as challenges. The perfect combination of massive price drops and eager customers is an offer not too many retailers can refuse. But this increased activity and exposure comes with added pressures. Competition for loyalty is fierce and the tendency for even the slightest mishap to snowball into something bigger. Retailers cannot afford anything less than a seamless customer experience as the repercussions of that could go beyond Black Friday sales figures.
To enable the seamless experience customers want, retailers need to invest in the necessary infrastructure to support the huge sales and traffic spikes. Retailers need an ecommerce platform that will support an increase in traffic and a network that can react to a big jump in orders needing to be shipped. On the back of this, retailers can really give themselves the best platform to make the most of the customer’s appetite for the deals and offers.
Retailers also need to remember that, for customers that shop online, the experience on the website is only the beginning of the customer journey. Clicking through and completing a purchase is all well and good but failure to fulfil orders could cause significant damage to brand equity as well. Some commentators have even suggested that retailers should consider adjusting their delivery and fulfilment options to accommodate the heighten activity. For example, it has been suggested that retailers should suspend next-day deliveries once the maximum orders have been accepted so that there isn’t an opportunity for customers to be disappointed.
Customers don’t want to feel like they are losing out by choosing one platform over another. Whether they are in the physical store or they are shopping online, customers want to believe that the offers in front of them are as good as what is anywhere else. Retailers that realise this, that the future of retail is joined-up, and invest in the necessary technology to enable this new phase have a lot to gain. Retailers need to invest in technology that provides this joined-up view of customer interaction across every channel. Through this, retailers can use information customers have volunteered across various channels to influence their experience and personalise the customer journey.
By now, we expect retailers participating in Black Friday to have the solutions detailed above in place. Or at least to have consider alternatives. If these are not in place, Black Friday might turn out to be a very dark day for many retailers