Basic Black

If you haven’t started planning for Black Friday, it’s time to start. Anticipate the challenges and make the most of what could be another record-breaker for online sales, says John Beechen, head of managed services, Salmon

Black Friday 2015 was a historic year for commerce. For the first time ever, UK retailers clocked up over £1 billion in online transactions.

The figures from the US were even more dramatic, as consumers chose convenience and Black Friday pushed online trading sales past traditional bricks-and-mortar stores – a feat that had never been achieved before.

Salmon is predicting history will be made again with ‘BlackFiveDay’ this year set to push sales past £5bn.

But the busiest trading period of the year will raise multiple logistical challenges that retailers must address. Shoppers will expect a faultless experience from electrical retailers, who often thrive during Black Friday sales. Failure to prepare could not only damage retail sales, but tarnish a brand beyond repair.

Traffic jam

For more than 25 years, Salmon has worked with retailers to develop their online presence and understand the complicated decisions e-commerce players make to perfect their online offering.

Traffic volume alone was a huge issue in 2014, even mega-retailers River Island and Boohoo suffered online outages, while other frustrated customers were forced into virtual waiting rooms, so retailers could avoid website clogging.

Unsurprisingly, Amazon triumphed where others failed by ensuring they had a seamless e-commerce platform in place that enabled users to make a sale on average every 48 seconds.

Amazon got it right, but website load-time isn’t the only issue retailers should consider. Consumers may not specifically know what product they want to buy, but they do crave an infallible experience. Importantly, once consumers are ready to purchase, retailers must guide them through to the point of delivery. Having a performance engine that works both front-end and back-end is therefore vital.

Too much time can be wasted ensuring a website’s load-time is efficient, and although it is important, retailers mustn’t forget about the back-end processes that should quickly send out a confirmation e-mail, effectively package the product and, of course, deliver it with ease.

In 2015, we at Salmon found that the busiest order times of the day were between 8am and 9am. Client orders reached a peak of 900 orders every minute – a substantial number for any retailer to process.

The morning is evidently prime time for trading and retailers must find the balance between releasing all deals in the morning and spreading them through the day. By conquering these fulfilment system processes, coupled with a great multichannel offering, retailers will be able to navigate the pitfalls of Black Friday with ease.

Strategies

Shoppers will want to forget the riot-esque experiences of 2014, but if 2015 is anything to go by, 2016 will pose a unique raft of challenges and increasingly tough consumer demands. If the copious system demands weren’t enough, retailers are also privy to various marketing hurdles.

The primary goal for marketing is to drive sales. Anticipating when to begin marketing strategies can prove the difference for managing online traffic peaks. Implement a predetermined communications plan that drives consumers to the right place.

Consumers don’t always know what they want when it comes to mass trading events such as Cyber Monday. A clear line of communications and marketing can align all business processes perfectly and connect the consumer to the product they want.

The congestion online is bound to be heavy during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but retailers must ultimately understand what will work best for their consumers and tailor their messaging accordingly.

All retailers should already have begun their preparations for Black Friday and the BlackFiveDay week, and system testing is a vital component of that. Testing allows retailers to simulate the effects of peak trading and reviewing past years’ processes can help predict what problems may arise this time around.

Furthermore, testing both front- and back-end processes well before peak trading can uncover limitations, eliminate problems and be the catalyst to build a perfect system. Doing all of this will produce results that ultimately benefit both the customer and retailer.

Black Friday is now too important to ignore in this increasingly digitally-savvy world. Last year proved to be a record-breaker for online retailers, as Black Friday swept across the nation, and preparation is the key to success.

As the peak trading season quickly approaches, retailers must understand that a poor online offering will damage not only sales, but brand and reputation.

Plan in advance and you are guaranteed to collect all the rewards on offer from Black Friday.