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Kickstarting the festive period with Black Friday bargains

Many consumers look forward to Black Friday to pick up some bargains and make the expensive Christmas period that little bit more affordable. The Black Friday weekend, therefore, is a very busy time for retailers and much preparation has gone into the lead up to ensure that their systems are durable and secure to withstand the expected rush of traffic. 

Yet, with the current economic climate, many are unsure of what to expect this year, as living and business costs are rising, impacting retailers and consumers alike. As Alex James, CTO of Ascent, notes, “this year feels a bit different, especially for online retailers. The recent collapse of might be a bit of a canary in a coal mine – once the darling of digital retail in the UK, its recent fall into bankruptcy is a stark reminder that although the future may well be digital, the journey is likely to be rocky and full of missteps.”

So, how should Black Friday be approached so that retailers provide a positive experience for their customers and maximise sales?

All I want for Christmas is my parcel

With the ongoing supply chain disruptions, postal strikes, driver shortages and rising costs in all stages of the distribution process, this year is undoubtedly going to be tougher for retailers than previous years. 

“Supply chains are under significant pressure from almost every direction right now,” begins Hugh Scantlebury, Founder and CEO of Aqilla. “So, online shops and vendors need to ensure anticipated demand over the festive season is well served with a flexible and scalable IT infrastructure — and the supporting supply chain, order fulfilment, and accounting systems capable of meeting demand. Automating key processes at each stage is especially critical if businesses want to supply efficiently and effectively while reducing the incidence of human error and providing efficiencies and productivity improvements.”

Liad Bokovsky, VP of Pre-sales Consulting at Axway, agrees that flexibility and scalability is crucial to ensuring a positive customer experience and recommends APIs to help businesses adapt to the increased demand. “APIs enable applications to exchange data and functionality easily and securely, and underpin almost everything we do in the digital world – be it comparing the best Black Friday prices, ordering through a third party app, or tracking your parcel delivery. In an age where consumer demand and expectations are higher than ever, on massive retail events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, businesses must innovate and adapt quickly and efficiently, and using APIs is the most effective way to achieve this. In fact, reports show 60% of organisations share APIs internally among development teams to deliver products and services faster.”

However, ensuring that your website is flexible to adapt to demand is only the first hurdle to overcome this Black Friday. The delivery process to get the parcel to the customer also comes with challenges. “Couriers are each required to deliver in excess of 100 parcels every day,” explains Rob Gilbert, Managing Director for Commercial & Logistics Business at Totalmobile. “Simultaneously, customer expectations have never been higher – the popularity of next-day and same day delivery, often in narrow allocated time slots, has put increasing pressure on courier services to deliver more in a shorter space of time, often without the support of additional staff. Because of this, Field Service Management (FSM) technologies have never been more vital as the means to meeting internal targets, and thus ensuring customer satisfaction. If courier services are going to succeed this holiday season, having the right solutions at their drivers’ fingertips is non-negotiable.”

Any mistakes or oversights this weekend could have long-term consequences for retailers. As Jamie Cairns, Chief Strategy Officer at Fluent Commerce, explains, “without visibility of inventory, across stores, online or in warehouses, retailers will leave the customer disappointed and potentially never to shop with the retailer again, it also leaves the retailer with a negative cost having spent money on acquiring that customer, online advertising spend, ecommerce platform fees, payment capture fees and the cost of managing the refund. All of this can be avoided.”

Don’t let your website drop whilst customers shop

Whilst customers get a headstart on their Christmas shopping and buy presents for their loved ones, the increased traffic on Black Friday is also a gift for cybercriminals.  

“Retailers can expect cyber attacks to come in all shapes and sizes – from DDoS to Magecart, or most likely, in the form of ransomware,” warns Stephane Cardot, Director Presales EMEA at Quantum. “Last year 77% of global retailers were reportedly compromised by ransomware. The effects of these attacks can result in complex malware destroying computers and computer systems, with organisations suffering data loss, credential theft, and heavy regulatory fines. Falling prey to a cyber attack without a recovery method in place would be disastrous – not only in terms of profit loss, but also in damage to brand reputation.”

Gregg Mearing, Chief Technology Officer at Node4, adds that retailers will also likely see “credit card skimmers being injected into e-commerce sites and server overloads. With this in mind, it’s important for retailers to ensure all e-commerce software and content management systems are updated to their latest versions to ensure the best protection. This is essential as even a 1-second delay in website performance could lead to a potential 7% drop in sales on one of the busiest shopping days of the year. The consequences of a data breach can also be pricey – the average cost of a data breach is $4.35 million, but the damage to their reputation and loss of customers, as a result, will see further financial loss for retailers.”  

With this in mind, Robert Sugrue, Product Director – Cyber Security at Six Degrees, shares his top tips:

“- If it seems too good to be true, it probably is;

– Don’t get carried away and always take a moment before you buy;

– Do not click through links on emails – go to the website directly from your browser;

– Check URLs carefully, and make sure you are indeed on the website that you know and love;

– Genuine emails will provide voucher or discount codes – you will not need to use special links that take you to places that are not familiar with;

– Be aware of ‘thank you for your order’ emails that are not genuine;

– Do not hand over credit card details to people you do not know; and

– Most importantly, always ask yourself “Is this really a good deal? Do I really need it?”

Terry Storrar, Managing Director at Leaseweb UK, concludes: “Retailers can put in place many levels of security to protect data and financial transactions and this could mean making changes to offer additional reassurance to customers. In fact, in a recent survey on IT trends, improving security (28%) was the most popular reason for why the UK’s IT pros made infrastructure changes to their organisation. This is a reminder that, no matter how challenging the economic climate is, security is absolutely essential.”

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