Black Friday is fast approaching, bringing Christmas early to those who are on their marks. The 2017 e-commerce event saw record online transactions and revenues, and a marked tipping point for mobile orders, which accounted for 66% – up 13% in 2016, according to online retail association IMRG. Its research also found that online spend totalled a massive £1.39bn on Black Friday 2017, up 11% on the previous year.
That said, a recent survey, from digital marketing agency MarketingSignals.com, found that
Even big-name retailers have been known to lose out on Black Friday sales in past years by not being prepared or having the logistics in place to meet the spike in demand. As a result, they have forfeited vital income and lost sales and customers to their competitors.
However, there is still time for business and IT leaders to act using readily available e-commerce technology platforms to hyper-scale at critical points in order to sustain online sales and a fluid customer experience, just like some of the world’s leading online retailers.
Retailers can make the most of the massive uplift in website traffic that the golden quarter generates if they successfully tackle the following five key issues.
Support Traffic Spikes
Make sure you don’t lose customers by making them queue for your website. During every peak period, retailers, often very large and well-known ones, find their websites falling over. You really want to avoid this, as some online retailers generate as much as 10% of their revenue during the Black Friday peak. It’s important, therefore, to ensure you can fully capitalise on the opportunity that Black Friday, and other seasonal sales peaks, offer you.
Leading e-tailers are able to go within 24 hours from a standing start to scaling up by 30% and successfully load-testing their platform. These online retailers are likely to be using a new breed of e-commerce solution, which enables efficient scalability during peak trading.
Systems like these use cloud integration technologies to provide scaling at speed. They might also use a distributed cloud solution that brings the platform closer to the customer, to combat loading delays and maintain a consistent service.
Remove Friction from the Checkout Process
Another issue worth addressing is the customer login. This needs to be hassle-free and consistent from the customer’s perspective, and robust and secure from yours – particularly during peak times like Black Friday.
There are certain parts of the e-commerce journey, such as your customer login or registration service, that will need to withstand more hits. These will come from a variety of channels and devices, which means particular ones will need to scale up faster than others. The sorts of questions you need to ask are: do you have guest checkout? Is your login experience consistent across devices?
The secret to getting these things right is to implement a cross-platform, single sign-on identity solution that includes all of your channels – including social platforms like Facebook and Google.
Food for thought: the number of social media users worldwide in 2018 rose to 3.2 billion – up 13%
Offer the Personal Touch
To maximise the value of each customer, retailers need to know who they are and what they like and service them in the right channel at the right time.
Many retailers have invested in linking offline and online interactions but have not found it easy to develop a personal relationship on a digital platform. However, the technology does exist to give your customers real-time recommendations that will help to increase your revenue growth and build vital loyalty.
For example, online fashion retailer ASOS designed a global identity, loyalty and integrated e-commerce solution, based on vendor-neutral cloud technologies. The solution helped the business better understand its shoppers, and by building stronger relationships with them, ASOS was able to improve its customer engagement. Driving revenue from existing customers led to a 30% growth in annual revenue.
Ready Your Fulfilment and Logistics
To really capitalise on Black Friday opportunities and keep customers happy, retailers must ensure they have their fulfilment and logistics sorted out.
Making sure you have a multichannel inventory available to match a huge spike in order numbers is one thing. But making sure you have good integration with multiple logistics providers is just as important, and a capability that often gets overlooked. You should be considering developing integrations with multiple carriers and logistics suppliers well ahead of time.
Customers don’t want to wait three times as long to receive their goods just because you underestimated the logistics capacity you needed. Having the right technology and processes in place will enable you to integrate closely with third-party warehousing and fulfilment partners so they can respond as quickly as you do
“Don’t rely on your Content Delivery Networks – they will certainly help, but outages over the last three Black Fridays have been chalked up to big-name brands with big CDN bills. It doesn’t matter how well your front-end scales if your vouchers, checkout and fulfilment services fall apart at the first sign of a busy day.”- Alan Walsh, CEO, Amido
Secure Your Systems
The fifth factor that will help you to win on Black Friday is having adequate security as the demand comes in.
On Black Friday 2013, hackers used a third-party vendor’s credentials to log into US retailer Target’s gateway server, and compromised millions of customer records, resulting in a significant fine.
To avoid this, you must have a vendor-agnostic technology consultancy with experience in building cloud integration solutions to help keep you secure by building systems that filter out bad actors at the ‘edge’, far away from core services, so they don’t stand a chance.
There are many powerful security technologies available that will strengthen the security of your systems. These include Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) to secure your customer logins; and data encryption at rest and in transit to protect your data.
With the right advice and support, you can bullet-proof your website and operations, and make a success of Black Friday. Get in touch to discuss some technical quick wins or anything you don’t understand in this article to make sure you don’t end up on the who’s who list of ‘the slow, the crashed and the out of stock’ this Cyber Weekend. The big day is fast approaching but there is still time to act.
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