With just ten weeks until Black Friday on the 29th November, Michael Cade, Global Technologist for Veeam, outlines his top topics for retailers preparing for Black Friday and Cyber Week this year.
In the past five years, Google Trends shows us that consumer interest on Black Friday has more than doubled. In the UK, the percentage increase is [242%] making it both a lucrative, but also a highly strenuous time for retailers.
Cloud Data Management is enabling retailers to prepare their digital channels for expected extreme peaks in traffic generated by online shoppers. Furthermore, it is helping retailers improve the digital experience for customers, underpinning value-add promotions and discounts, and enabling transformation of the logistics and distribution process. With a digital infrastructure where data is fully available, retailers can accelerate decision-making, as well as reach better decisions.
Top 5 tips for Black Friday preparation
The 2019 Veeam Cloud Data Management report found that on average, IT decision makers (ITDM) from the retail, distribution and transport industries said their organisation had experienced six unplanned outages in the last 12 months, lasting an average of 77 minutes. High-end department store, John Lewis, experienced technical issues on Black Friday in 2018 – negatively affecting sales on one of its busiest days in the year. Similarly, American fashion retailer J.Crew ‘s website crashed on Black Friday – with some customers taking to Twitter to complain about the inconvenience and their aggravation. An hour of downtime can have dire consequences on a retailer’s bottom line any day but during Cyber Week or around major holidays, the impact is even more severe. The same is true for transport and distribution companies, with demand for next-day, even same-day delivery services significantly higher than average. Reports of Black Friday deliveries arriving late are not uncommon, so any business which sees increased activity at this time of year must act now to ensure that they have robust systems in place ahead of any peak trading.
2. Personalize customer service
Businesses know they must prepare for critical trading moments like Black Friday, Cyber Week, Christmas and summer holidays. However, it’s not only about being always-on and available during these flash-points. The retailers who are able to provide personal and customised interactions with customers over this period will stand out from the crowd. Ecommerce giants like Amazon and ASOS already use algorithms to make informed recommended purchase suggestions to customers based on what they are buying at that moment and their individual purchase history. To make the service personal from the first interaction, fashion retailer, Very.co.uk, uses its customers’ location and weather data to showcase products related to the forecast. Insights gleaned from data don’t have to be used on websites and social media though. Beauty brand, Chanel, sends hand-written cards to its most loyal customers based on their engagements with them – to help develop more personal connections. Over half (52%) of retail, distribution and transport ITDMs believe Cloud Data Management will transform their organisation’s customer service. Moreover, 51% say it can increase customer responsiveness. Deploying Cloud Data Management will help customers maintain their highest levels of customer service even during their busiest times of the year.
3. Provide instant gratification
Retailers must ensure their IT systems are scalable and able to deal with the uptick in traffic which sale-intensive moments like Black Friday and Cyber Monday create. Three-fifths (60%) of ITDMs said their organisation is unable to meet its digital challenges due to legacy systems and technology. As shopping habits are driven more online and mobile-first, retailers risk losing their customers if they do not have the digital infrastructure to support a seamless experience which gives shoppers instant gratification. Adobe research in 2018 suggested that mobile accounted for over 50% of visits to retail sites in the US on Cyber Monday – leading to 36% of all sales. With shoppers refusing to wait more than a few seconds for pages to load, retailers must be ready to achieve new levels of speed and agility to ensure they are not missing out on mobile sales.
4. Learn from the data
While the phenomenon of Black Friday was born in the USA and only became commonplace for shoppers in the UK more recently, retailers can learn from past experiences to prepare better for the future. The online shopping experience is about more than the point of sale. It’s everything from the first engagement with promotional marketing, television advertising to receiving products on time, beautifully packaged and in working order. It’s the amalgamation of Very.co.uk’s location-based weather chat, Amazon and ASOS’s suggested purchases and Chanel’s hand-written letters, which makes a truly personal and unique customer experience. Over half (57%) of retail, distribution and transport ITDMs say Cloud Data Management is helping their business plan more effectively, enabling them to execute more personalised campaigns and higher-quality customer engagement strategies. Like all businesses, retailers need to listen to what the data is telling them: what are they doing well, what should they dial up, how can they improve, and what should they stop doing altogether?
5. Bring digital skills on-board
For retailers and distributors looking to enhance their businesses by deploying Cloud Data Management, it’s vital that they have the right skills on-board to manage these systems. Over half of ITDMs from these industries say there is a clear lack of digital skills within their organisation, with 94% agreeing that upskilling existing staff is vital to their organisations’ success in the next few years. As well as technical personnel who can ensure that the organisations’ digital infrastructure is fit-for-purpose, data-driven businesses will on-board data scientists and analysts to extract key insights from the vast pools of data at their disposal.
Given the growing importance of Black Friday and Cyber Week period, the stakes are too high for retailers to leave any stone unturned when it comes to safeguarding their online infrastructure. With only 100 days to go, retailers must look at what investments they need to make in their digital platforms to ensure they are open and available at all hours on Black Friday. Furthermore, Cloud Data Management provides retailers with an opportunity to augment the customer experience and build more personalised engagement with shoppers for overall competitive advantage.
By Michael Cade