9th November, 2015

Here it comes again: Preparing for Peak

With the peak trading period about to hit, a panel of experts got together at the recent BT for Retail Summit to share their thoughts on what we’d learned from last year’s peak trading period – with a special focus on the first genuine British Black Friday pandemonium.

The discussion was chaired by BT Expedite product manager Mel Jensen and included, Darran Kilburn, e-commerce manager at Get the Label, Ben Seymour, director of solution consulting with Amplience and MetaPack’s general manager, Shiran Liyanage.

So what did we learn from last year’s experience, when an estimated £810 MILLION was splashed out in one day, websites melted under the pressure and people battled in the aisles for bargains? And how can we make sure we’re better prepared across the board for peak periods in the future?

Going mobile

One of the first areas that came up was mobile. About 15% of all traffic now comes from mobile devices and that figure is continuing to rise.

With this in mind, the mobile experience needs to be good – and that means quick, easy and relevant. So the need for good quality images – to help avoid returns further down the line – needs to be balanced with the need to load pages quickly. The advice was to keep load times under a second and to load the most important stuff so that people don’t get frustrated and immediately look elsewhere.

One sticking point for everyone on the panel was the question of guest checkout, with the fear that forcing people to set up account or register could be a conversion killer.

Real-time search

When it comes to searching for products, relevance is key. That seems obvious, but with most purchases completed through direct product searches during Black Friday, relevant results could boost search value by 30 per cent.

The other thing to be aware of is the general increase across all sites and channels during peak periods. Last year, even some of the big boys couldn’t cope with the traffic and demands on their sites – with more hits in one day than in the whole of January.

Deliver the goods

The last mile is the most expensive part of a delivery. As consumers, we are trying to control delivery and make it as cheap and convenient as possible. But this puts incredible strains on retailers and we may be seeing the end of free delivery options – unless it is to store.

Click and collect gets people into the store and creates more sales opportunities so there is a great value in it for both parties, assuming customers have a store nearby.

Return to sender

One of the big feature of peak periods is post-peak returns. So how do you minimise the impact of this? Again, it seems to come back to product search and presentation – so making sure there are enough high quality images of features (a zip on a dress, for example, or the inputs behind a TV) to reduce the unknowns and make purchases surer.

Returns have to be built into the cost model – and again, can provide opportunities for sales. And you have to learn from your experiences; drill down into search logs and get a clearer understanding of what people want and how they find it, or not.

Three little words

The session finished by asking each of the panellists to describe the peak focus for retailer in just three words. Across the board they agreed that it was all about:

  1. Search
  2. Stock
  3. Performance

And those other three little words: Preparing for Peak. This year Black Friday is Friday 27 November. So, on your marks, get set… go!

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