Guy Murphy, industry technology evangelist at MuleSoft, looks at the challenges that retailers face with Black Friday, and the ways in which they can string together their various technologies to support their efforts.
As well as being an immense revenue opportunity, Black Friday also represents a major risk for retailers that let consumers down. In the age of digitally-empowered consumers, shoppers have come to expect a seamless journey across all channels; whether they’re browsing on the web, comparing prices on their mobile, or making a final purchase in-store. Those that fail to meet these high expectations risk haemorrhaging customers; as many as 61% of UK consumers will consider going to a different retailer because of a disconnected shopping experience. It’s therefore important to remember that the experience customers receive as they’re looking for a Black Friday bargain will influence their perception of a retailer and impact their shopping decisions far into the future.
One of the major bugbears that consumers have during the Black Friday rush is finding out whether the item they want is in stock and where it’s available. Since the inventory and order management systems of many retailers are often so poorly integrated, it’s common for customers to receive inconsistent and inaccurate information on product availability depending on which channel they are using. Research shows that nearly two-thirds of UK consumers think this is unacceptable.”
To resolve this, retailers need to make sure all their systems can exchange information seamlessly. This can best be achieved using APIs to allow applications and systems to talk to each other. This can really allow retailers to maximise their Black Friday opportunity; unlocking the ability to do things like alert customers when an item listed as out of stock on one channel, such as online, is available via another, such as a local high-street branch. Fashion retailer GANT is already using this approach to deliver a seamless omnichannel experience all year round, but those capabilities should be particularly invaluable during the Black Friday rush.”
A further downside of Black Friday is that it creates a superficial demand spike that disappears very quickly. Retail systems are designed to handle peak load under normal circumstances; such as higher volumes of traffic in the weeks running up to Christmas and during the January sales. It’s difficult for retailers to optimise those systems to deal with the short demand spike that Black Friday creates, without over-investing in infrastructure that just gathers dust for the other 364 days of the year. The most effective solution is move more workloads to the cloud when a safe threshold is exceeded to prevent legacy systems from being overloaded. Such a protection layer can be controlled with APIs, that act as a throttle on legacy systems and switch traffic to the cloud during periods of unusually high demand.
By Guy Murphy
Industry technology evangelist