Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Opportunity knocks: How can retailers take advantage this Black Friday?

Black Friday is one of the biggest shopping days on the calendar. This year is looking like no exception, with shoppers expected to splurge £3.38m per minute, and weekend sales set to hit a record £9.148bn.

The surge in demand presents a huge opportunity for retailers to boost sales and attract new customers. However, the sheer number of orders can cause problems even for well prepared retailers. As Rob Shaw, MD EMEA at Fluent Commerce, notes: “Websites crash, stocks run out and customers can get frustrated. This year promises to pose an even greater challenger with an inconsistent supply chain and labour shortages.” To add to the pressure, recent research from Fluent Commerce revealed that 42% of people in the UK plan to start their Christmas shopping by Black Friday this year.

In light of these potential roadblocks, we spoke to seven industry experts about how retailers can bolster their offerings, and take full advantage of all the opportunities that Black Friday presents.

Managing increased demand

With stores open again for Black Friday this year, retailers face a huge challenge optimising their staffing levels. Ian Rawlings, RVP EMEA at SumTotal, notes: “The so-called ‘great resignation’ has made this more difficult, with job vacancies at an all-time high. When you consider that retailers are already managing a disruptive HGV driver shortage and an IT skills deficit, additional resourcing challenges over the upcoming holiday period are nothing short of a logistical nightmare.”

He adds, “getting Black Friday right this year will mean being prepared in advance: making sure staff have the most suitable facilities — whether they’re working remotely or on the shop floor — and that workforce management programs are up to date.”

“Santa has it easy and just calls up more of his elves, but for the rest of us, coping with this anticipated demand increase requires a flexible and scalable IT infrastructure — and supply chain, order fulfilment and accounting solutions all need to be up to the job,” furthers Hugh Scantlebury, Founder and CEO at Aqilla. “Automation of key processes at each stage is absolutely critical if retailers want to keep systems running efficiently and reduce the likelihood of human error — and to ensure everyone who wants one can grab an end-of-year seasonal bargain.”

Optimising omnichannel offerings

2020 was a tumultuous year for the retail industry and physical retailers will be pushing to make up for lost time after an online-only Black Friday and condensed Christmas shopping period last year.

However, Martin Taylor, Deputy CEO at Content Guru, reflects how “the consumer landscape has undergone its own form of Long Covid, with permanent behavioural changes established. To stay competitive organisations cannot provide anything less than exceptional customer service across every conceivable engagement channel – both digital and physical. While the industry will be enjoying a welcome boom in customers shopping in physical outlets, the need for retailers to continue to optimise their online operations is inescapable.”

“Particularly over the past few years, online shopping has soared in popularity, and so retailers need to ensure that their websites are able to cope with this influx in demand,” agrees Jeff Keyes, VP of Product Marketing & Strategy at Plutora. “On days like these they’re faced with an unpredictable load  

Ecommerce Age – Black Friday 2021

on the system combined with last-minute changes to handle special processing on the deals. Part of this relies on businesses not scheduling updates to critical systems, such as their websites, during these busy times, risking the site being unavailable during this crucial window.”

Utilising technology

In an age where consumer demand and expectations are higher than ever, this Black Friday, retailers must innovate and adapt quickly and efficiently. Optimising technology will be key for retailers looking to bolster their offerings and meet heightened demand.

For Lex Boost, CEO at Leaseweb, the priority is ensuring that organisations’ infrastructure is built for speed, security and reliability so as to not disrupt the customer experience. “One of the most important steps a retailer can take is partnering with a comprehensive cloud hosting solution that includes hybrid ready product portfolios, core uptime, iron clad security solutions and an extensive network that addresses industry-specific requirements and can be trusted in times of high traffic to deliver a quality experience for customers.”

“In a world with unprecedented pressures on logistics, brands must connect market intelligence from social media sites with supply chains to ensure last-mile services can quickly and easily get stock into customers’ hands,” adds Joel Reid, UK&I VP/General Manager at Axway. “Data intelligence and automation is crucial, with APIs centralising the necessary data while automating the process of buying the right stock and delivering it to customers.”

“Having easy to deploy, real time, inventory visibility and order orchestration solutions – which a good order management system should provide – allows retailers to have a good understanding of what is available to sell,” furthers Rob Shaw. “This minimises the chances of over promising or underdelivering, enabling them to keep selling until the very last item is gone. A good grasp of inventory also enables retailers to be flexible with their fulfillment options.”

“With time running out ahead of this year’s Black Friday shopping bonanza, retailers that have taken the time to prepare will be best placed to take advantage of this all-important period in the retail calendar,” he concludes.