BLACK FRIDAY

With the growing popularity of Black Friday, this year on November 27th, and Cyber Monday, November 30th, here at A1 Retail we will be updating this news post over the next few weeks with different industry professionals’ comments on this retail trend!

Rupal Karia, managing director of retail and hospitality, UK and Ireland, Fujitsu:

“Black Friday has certainly established itself as a major event in the UK retail calendar. Together with Cyber Monday, Black Friday has morphed into an online weakened (or even week in some cases) for shoppers and retailers alike.

“Looking to the year ahead, with the changes in consumer behaviour, retailers are going to need to continue to adapt their approach if they are to see sustained success in the coming years. Last year saw vast amounts of crowding both in store and online, however what we saw this year was digitally-savvy shoppers opting to browse from the comfort of their home or using their mobiles on the move.

“Next year, instead of simply focusing on what worked the previous year, retailers will need to prepare for heightened activity across all channels, giving consumers a far better shopping experience. As the lines continue to blur between online and offline retail, the chances are we’ll see them morph into the same event. Black Friday online will enable retailers to win new customers for the coming year as well as better monitor and offer personalised services. We predict that Black Friday on the high street however will become more of a social event, with retailers working together to bring customers to the high street.

“However it is dressed, the fact remains the same. Only by putting consumers at the heart of the business, personalising the shopping experience and simplifying the buying process, retailers can hope to win the battle for consumers’ hearts – whether that’s in-store or online.”

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Matthew Robertson, Commercial Director at NetDespatch comments: “Christmas is almost upon us, but unlike previous years where the peak days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday were the busiest of the year, this year it looks like online shopping is continuing non-stop! At NetDespatch we’ve seen some big changes. On Monday 14th December, NetDespatch processed 21% more orders than on Black Friday, with orders across the platform once again peaking at almost 2000 per minute.

“From what we are seeing, these stats suggest that consumer confidence in growing in purchasing online. We already know that more UK consumers have taken to the internet to buy Christmas presents this year rather than venturing into store, and our numbers show that the retailers’ and carriers’ success over the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend is carrying on well into the holiday season. It would seem that the retail chains’ preparation this year has paid off, with many consumers having the confidence to return to place more orders from those retailers.”

The second peak – the last hurrah for retailers in 2015… and a lesson for next year

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Black Friday and Cyber Weekend broke records this year, with online sales totalling £3.5bn. However, the high street was unexpectedly quiet, with footfall on the high street down between 4 and 9.6 per cent against last year.

eBay Enterprise research shows that the 14th and 15th of December represent a ‘second peak’ for online consumer spend. Shoppers fall neatly into two categories during this period – firstly the window shoppers who are last-minute buyers who have been browsing previously, this group know what they want, but haven’t yet taken the plunge. Secondly, the impulse shoppers who are woefully unprepared for the festive season, having not researched or purchased their presents yet.

The eBay Enterprise study finds that conversion rates for online purchases are 74 per cent higher in mid-December than at any other point in the two preceding months, as last-minute shoppers hurry to make their purchases. Shoppers are looking to buy; not browsing for inspiration. Technology could be the saviour for retailers, but for those that don’t have solutions in place, it’s time to start thinking about preparing for the long-game in 2016.

With a lot of Christmas cash still unspent, Enda Breslin, Head of Sales and Business Development at eBay Enterprise shares his top tips on how retailers can capitalise on this second peak:

  • Nudge the festive window shoppers over the line – this group have browsed previously and are keen to make the purchase. Retailers should be analysing what customers have viewed and give them a reason to come back and buy. This means offering incentives to purchase and sending well-timed email reminders on abandoned baskets to draw customers back to the site, which will ultimately save the sale.
  • Help impulse-shoppers make quick decisions – this group are undecided and unprepared. So retailers should build an ecommerce experience around recommendations that will help this group come to a decision. This means providing advice on the top selling items and making recommendations around different buying groups – such as great gifts for Mums. The key is to make the process smooth from first look to purchase to avoid abandoned baskets. This group is impatient!
  • Avoid out of stock situations, or offer alternatives – ensuring customers can purchase what they want is key. When out of stocks arise retailers must ensure that they offer alternatives so that customers have an easy route to check out and don’t abandon the basket. Equally retailers should ensure that they monitor abandoned baskets and send out appropriately timed communications to any customers that previously added items to their basket which are low on stock. What’s crucial is ensuring that customers can make the purchase they want, or an easy alternative.

Once attention turns to 2016, retailers should bear in mind the shift in the balance of power between online and in store. What this year’s Cyber Weekend teaches us is that optimising stock across a retailer’s system is crucial. Connected operations spread the load and will ultimately maximise stock availability. An order management system (OMS) provides oversight of all orders and a single view of stock levels across all sales channels; whether held in stores, regional or central warehouses, or direct from suppliers. The OMS is very much the brains of ecommerce, enabling retailers to accurately track stock, stores, payments, carriers, warehouses, and customer data to ship each and every order from the optimal location. Implementing this technology helps retailers manage stock levels and track customer demand, ultimately removing the need for snap discounting. Although right now we’re in the festive season, Christmas for retailers is a year-round event in terms of preparation so learning the lessons to make Christmas 2016 a success is key.

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How retailers jingle all the way from Black Friday to Boxing Day

Figures from the British Retail Consortium released this week show that online shopping now accounts for a record proportion of all UK retail sales. Analysts have reported that this year, retailers took more than £1 billion in sales on Black Friday alone with the like of Amazon reporting over 7.4 million sales in the UK, marking it their busiest British sales day on record. Black Friday is the starting gun to the festive shopping season, not only are shoppers expected to spend a further £16.5 billion between now and Christmas, but traditional Boxing Day sales are expected to reach £656 million, 22% higher than last year.

David Maitland, General Manager, EMEA, Couchbase said: “Black Friday was a resounding business success for us and our customers. We helped major retailers, including Europe’s leading specialist electrical and telecommunications retailer, handle over seven times the customers as last year – but with none of the technical difficulties. Using disruptive non-relational technology (known as NoSQL) technology to power their e–commerce platforms, our customers can handle large volumes of shoppers on their sites which enables a great user experience and leads to high volumes of transactions.”

“No matter what the event; Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Manic Monday or Boxing Day sales, retailers cannot rest on their laurels when preparing for major shopping events. With such high volumes of customers, all looking to browse and buy as seamlessly as possible, retailers need the right infrastructure to underpin their critical e-commerce operations. The key to online success is a retail platform which is underpinned by a back-end that provides out-of-the-box in-memory high performance, disk persistence database guarantees, replication and high availability. Non-relational technology, with it’s high availability and unlimited scalability, is helping retailers such as Walmart, Tesco, Dixons and others to prepare for the next big pressure day in the retail sector.” Maitland concluded.

Online retailers choose Couchbase Server to underpin their website operations in order to reduce bottlenecks and improve the overall experience of customers. Couchbase’s open source NoSQL database provides high-performance, flexible data handling and unlimited scalability. As a result, websites are fully available, even during peak times, to ensure maximum sales potential and a great shopping experience.

About Couchbase

Couchbase delivers the world’s highest performing NoSQL distributed database platform. Developers around the world use the Couchbase platform to build enterprise web, mobile, and IoT applications that support massive data volumes in real time. The Couchbase platform includes Couchbase Server, Couchbase Lite – the first mobile NoSQL database, and Couchbase Sync Gateway. Couchbase is designed for global deployments, with configurable cross data center replication to increase data locality and availability. All Couchbase products are open source projects.

Couchbase customers include industry leaders like AOL, AT&T, Bally’s, BSkyB, Cisco, Comcast, Concur, Disney, eBay, KDDI, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Orbitz, PayPal, Rakuten / Viber, Tencent, Verizon, Wells Fargo, Willis Group, as well as hundreds of other household names.

Couchbase investors include Accel Partners, Adams Street Partners, Ignition Partners, Mayfield Fund, North Bridge Venture Partners, and West Summit.

www.couchbase.com

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Black Friday: Finding Method in the Madness

Black Friday hit the shops for the second time in the UK last month, and what a difference a year makes. Following the madness of last year’s biggest shopping day, this year saw retailers approach the chaotic day with a methodical approach that differed dramatically to 2014’s. 

In light of this, Eric Fergusson, Head of Retail Services at eCommera takes a look at what changed this year and gives his predictions for 2016.

Blanket sales

Retailers like Sweaty Betty, feelunique.com and All Saints tried to hit the ground running with a flat discount on everything. This can be a viable strategy for retailers with overstock across the board, but it is a risky strategy for most. Customers may come to expect such blanket promotions and hold back spending in anticipation; plus retailers run the risk that acquiring new customers through such tactics will result in underperformance by these cohorts in future years.

Advice for next time: Carefully consider the viability of this strategy given your current stock levels, weighing increased sales against the additional resources required to support the promotional event. Being able to fulfil orders to promise is also vital: this year some fulfilment partners are already struggling to keep up with demand, resulting in delayed deliveries and unhappy customers.

Sales on overstock and high-margin items only

This isn’t necessarily a new initiative but it is a proven one. This year saw retailers such as House of Fraser, Debenhams, Currys and Sandro all focus their sales around items that were overstocked in the warehouse or have a higher margin.

The benefits of this are obvious; retailers can clear the stock that they may not be able to sell at full price, whilst limiting the margin they are giving away. However retailers need to be sure not to focus on overstock too much as this may have a long-term impact on brand perception.

Advice for next time: Mix up your promotions. Be sure to use overstock in the sale activity but also include some current and trending products to keep consumers happy; otherwise you may run the risk of consumers who don’t know your brand feeling disappointed about the proposition and therefore not returning.

Declining to participate

Asda was the leading brand for this. Well known for the fistycuffs that happened in store in 2014, they decided to not participate at all this year. And by announcing that they were instead spreading their offers throughout the festive period, it was positioned perfectly with their overall proposition.

While the benefits of this particular strategy are clear – including less order frenzy in a short period, control over margins and better fulfilment – it may have left some customers disappointed.

Advice for next time: Actually we think Asda did a great job this year at managing expectation and offering a like-for-like, if not better, offer to consumers. However, one thing to remember is that pulling out of such a prestigious shopping day may cause consumers to shop elsewhere. But if you have a loyal customer base, as Asda does, then they will more than likely be back. Testing, testing, testing…

 

Unfortunately this was one thing that didn’t change in 2015. Many websites still saw significant downtime and errors on the website, most likely down to inadequate testing. Retailers must start the testing process by April in order to hit the ground running when peak season comes around. By finding the weak links and bottlenecks early on, retailers can avoid the disastrous “We are receiving a high volume of visitors right now, we will be back up and running as soon as possible” messages – who wants to see that when they are shopping for bargains?

 

Predictions for 2016

 

I would predict that Black Friday 2016 will see many retailers following the lead of big organisations like Asda and taking a step back from the day altogether. While the madness of Black Friday is unlikely to fizzle out in the US, I wouldn’t be surprised if over time we saw fewer and fewer UK retailers taking part as retailers begin to question the real value.

 

Some, like House of Fraser, have mastered the art of short sales, with their charity weekends and big brand discount days, and I would predict a lot more of this activity in the coming years. But one thing is for sure, the retailers who are going to take part must ensure they are prepped and ready for the huge increase in traffic and orders on that day. Test, test and test again and don’t compromise on the customer experience; on a day like Black Friday it is more important than ever.

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John Pincott, European MD, Shopatron

“Research from the British Retail Consortium-KPMG revealing November saw a decline in bricks-and-mortar sales yet strong online ones on Black Friday, further demonstrates the inextricable link between digital services and increased sales this holiday season. Thanks to services such as click-and-collect, consumers previously constrained by postal deadlines, are less reliant on days like Black Friday and more comfortable with the idea of snapping up deals later online, while resting assured they can simply collect their goods at a time that is convenient to them.

With Christmas Day also falling on a Friday this year, many people will be working right up until the start of the festive period. The convenience of collecting presents in-store could therefore drive further peaks in omnichannel sales all the way through to the final days before the 25th. In order to capture critical sales and satisfy customer expectations throughout December and long after the festive season, brands must integrate their online and offline strategies. This is particularly critical for mid-size and smaller retailers looking to compete with larger stores and the online giants like Amazon.”

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Yodel handles over five million parcels in “cyber week” 2015

Retail partnerships maintain high service levels and customer satisfaction

Independent parcel carrier Yodel handled a record breaking 5,098,559 parcels between Thursday 26th November and Wednesday 2nd December, which includes Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Service levels throughout the period were the highest on record for 2015 despite it being the busiest week the company has ever faced. As a result, customer satisfaction has remained high with 86 per cent of online shoppers saying they had a positive delivery experience*. During the same week in 2014 this figure dipped as low as 73 per cent.

One of the key factors in delivering great customer experience was Yodel’s close partnerships with clients. The carrier and retailers agreed in advance the number of parcels that would be accepted into the delivery network each day. It also placed limits on next day delivery capacity and spread handling and deliveries over the course of a week – including Sunday 29th November – between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Yodel has invested heavily in its operations in the last 12 months. £30 million has been spent to improve efficiency and capacity, which saw the company introduce a brand new website, mechanical handling systems, sorting equipment, training, a larger fleet and new sites. This was in addition to 7,000 new recruits.

Dick Stead, Yodel’s executive chairman, said; “We wanted this year’s festive peak to start smoothly and it undoubtedly has. Everyone’s worked incredibly hard to deliver for our clients and for the consumers who shopped online. Firmly agreeing volumes with retailers in advance of Black Friday and Cyber Monday was the right thing to do. We only accepted what we were equipped to deliver, which means everyone from staff to shoppers are happy.

“But we’re not complacent. We still have just over two weeks to go until Christmas and are expecting high parcel volumes to continue. We’ll be battling snow, high winds, transport disruption and more to make our deliveries. It’s down to the incredibly hard work of our teams and our preparation that we’re able to do this.”

*Customer satisfaction (CSat): measured as the number of customers who have been satisfied/very satisfied with their experience. This compares with a retail average CSat of 78 per cent.

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Jamie Merrick, head of industry insights at Demandware 

“Globally, fashion apparel beat Demandware’s global benchmark on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday for orders, visits and baskets.

“However, Cyber Monday was the ultimate success story for the UK’s fashion apparel brands. Our data shows that while orders rose 17% on Black Friday, both visits and basket creation were down. In sharp contrast, visits, basket creation and orders all spiked on Cyber Monday.

“The data also highlights some subtle differences that exist in consumer habits. Phone visit share is continuing to rise globally but the volume of order share from phones rose by nearly a third in the UK over the start of the Christmas retailing period. 

“Fashion apparel brands should take note of these latest trends as shoppers move seamlessly across devices to research and complete purchases. The peak season is set to culminate on Boxing Day and Demandware is forecasting the peak season order share could increase by up to 21 per cent (from 15 per cent last year) in the UK so there is still plenty of opportunity for savvy retailers to create personalised experiences that capture an increasingly digital audience.”

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UK RETAILERS RECORD 21 PER CENT INCREASE IN REVENUE

ON CYBER MONDAY

Year-high sales and traffic as UK retailers experience busiest shopping days of the year

New data from BT Expedite, BT’s retail specialists, shows that UK retailers recorded their busiest shopping days of the year during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, as well as an increase in order numbers and traffic compared to last year’s event.

The data shows there was a marginal increase in orders on Black Friday over last year and a rise in revenue of 8 per cent. Cyber Monday was 5.5 per cent up on last year’s order volume and 21 per cent more revenue was taken.

The peak traffic levels were at 8pm on Black Friday Eve and peak order flow was at 10pm on Black Friday. The average order value was up by 10 per cent across the entire weekend.

Another trend evident in this year’s event was that many retailers shifted their Cyber Weekend activity to start earlier and last longer, essentially to avoid the frenzy of last year’s event which led to logistics issues and many websites crashing under the weight of activity. The figures support this as the Black Friday Eve order volume was 16.5 per cent higher than last year and 19 per cent higher in terms of revenue.

Mike King, chief technology officer at BT Expedite, said: “The success of this year’s Black Friday event shows the undeniable appeal of a bargain for shoppers, despite the absence of some major retailers from this sales peak. The Cyber Weekend, starting with Black Friday, has cemented its position as a key feature in the UK retail calendar and as an opportunity to secure good deals ahead of Christmas.”

The data also reveals strong growth in transactions on mobile devices. The average split of transactions by device was mobile: 15 per cent (from 10 per cent in 2014), tablet: 32 per cent (from 31 per cent) and desktop: 53 per cent (from 60 per cent).

King continued: “We’re encouraged to see that retailers were very particular about making the end to end sale process of this year’s event a success. They listened to us about promotional activity and were receptive to the changes needed to support the event.”

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RETURNS OF UNWANTED ‘CYBER’ SHOPPING TO PEAK ON ‘BACK FRIDAY’

Returns expected to hit a high on Friday 4 December as online shoppers send back unwanted  purchases made in ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’ sales

  • Brits will return 31% of the items they buy online this Christmas, with a post ‘Black Friday’ surge anticipated on Friday 4 December – dubbed ‘Back Friday’
  • Almost half of the items returned will be fashion (46%), followed by electronics and technology (20%), women and younger shoppers are more likely to return their shopping
  • CollectPlus estimates an increase in returns volume of 20%

London, UK – 3 December 2015: CollectPlus, the UK’s largest independent store-based delivery and returns service, today revealed that this Friday, 4 December – dubbed ‘Back Friday’ – will see a peak in returns as shoppers send back the online bargains purchased during this year’s ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’ sales. Returns will peak as shoppers have a change of heart about their purchases and look to get a quick refund so they can find alternative gifts in time for Christmas.

During the same week in 2014, CollectPlus reported a 21% increase in parcel return volumes on ‘Back Friday’, compared to the average of the previous four Fridays. This year, indications show that growth in online sales on Black Friday exceeded those on the High Street and as the online shopping phenomenon continues to grow in popularity, CollectPlus is estimating an increase in returns volume of 20% on Friday 4 December.

In a study conducted by CollectPlus, British shoppers estimate they will return almost one in three (31%) of the items they buy online this Christmas. Almost half of purchases (46%) being returned will be fashion items, online discounts in the run up to the Christmas party season mean shoppers can grab a bargain outfit, try it on in the comfort of their own home and return anything that doesn’t fit the bill. Gadgets and technology purchases are the next most popular as 20% of people admit to splashing out on the latest electronics in the sales and then changing their mind once it arrives.

Women are more likely to take the lead in returning items in comparison to men and younger shoppers; those aged 16-24 are the most likely to make sure they get their money back when purchases aren’t quite right.

Neil Ashworth, CEO of CollectPlus, said: “Even with some retailers choosing to opt out this year, Black Friday and Cyber Monday were once again huge shopping events with early indications they resulted in the first ever £1bn spend online in a single day in the UK. As a result, we expect to see a peak in unwanted items being returned this Friday, or ‘Back Friday’ as we’re calling it.

This year retailers worked across the entire supply chain to plan effectively for the fulfilment of orders made on Black Friday. With the volume of items being sent back it’s important that they have planned a strategy to deal with returns in the same way. Shoppers expect to be quickly and easily reimbursed for online shopping and any delays in the process can lead to delays in repurchase and avoidable stress for the customer and the retailer’s staff.”

Despite this surge in returns on ‘Back Friday’ there are many online shoppers so fed up with complicated and inconvenient returns processes that they are not returning items they’ve bought online even if they are unsuitable. Just over half of online shoppers (52%) admit to returning 10% or less of the items they don’t want and just 12% said they return every single unsuitable purchase.

Fed-up shoppers cite many reasons for not returning items: 37%, say they simply can’t be bothered, while 33% don’t want to pay the return postage. More than one in ten (12%) are frustrated with busy shops and 9% have given up completely and left a queue as it was taking too long. In addition, 23% are put off ordering something online in the first place because they do not want the hassle of returning it if it is not right; if the process is not simple and convenient or quick in terms of reimbursement.

For those worried about not being able to return their parcels during traditional opening hours, the CollectPlus network of over 5,800 convenience stores, newsagents and petrol stations provides online shoppers with a more convenient alternative. All stores in the network are open seven days a week, early ‘til late.

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Comment from Marco Vergani, Vice President and General Manager of Europe and the Middle East:

“With many shoppers choosing to visit online stores instead of high street, last Friday marked the UK’s biggest online spending day ever with sales hitting £1.1bn, a huge 36 percent increase from 2014. Many online retailers benefited from bumper sales, but for some there were surprises as a number of ecommerce sites struggled to cope with the volume of traffic.

The biggest winners on Black Friday were the retailers that looked beyond offering deep discounts and flash sales and actively took steps to deliver a total customer experience. This includes managing multi-channel touch points, optimising mobile sites, localizing online payments, handling cross border compliance, ensuring site uptime and more. As consumer expectations around convenience, quality and personalization rise, “good” shopping experiences are no longer good enough. Even something as simple as page load times can impact buyers’ decisions to shop on one site versus another.

Merchants with ecommerce sites that may have missed a beat during this year’s big shopping event, need to remember that holiday preparations aren’t exclusive to Black Friday. Cyber Monday and the very next day, Tuesday are among the season’s biggest online shopping days. In fact during the past few years, the Monday following Cyber Monday also has been one of the biggest spending days for online shoppers. During this holiday season, smart ecommerce practitioners will make sure their sites are fully prepped to not only compete for shopper dollars and the short-term sale, but also convert deal seeking visitors into loyal, long-term customers.”

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Matthew Robertson, Commercial Director at NetDespatch, comments: “Year on year, parcel volumes over Black Friday and Cyber Monday continues to rise and this trend shows no signs of abating.

In addition the weekend between the two days has created a shopping ‘long weekend’. This year was the busiest the NetDespatch platform has witnessed, with 78% higher parcel volumes than the previous Saturday and Sunday and 34% higher than the same time last year.

The figures we are seeing fully support widely reported views that shoppers have now more than ever taken to buying goods online, ahead of going in-store. Cyber Monday was the busiest day in NetDespatch’s history and in fact was a massive 14% up on Black Friday. Even the days after Cyber Monday we are still seeing a peak of 1800 orders being processed per minute on the NetDespatch platform.

If we look at how those days compared to the respective days at the start of November, Black Friday was up 72.5% on the first Friday of November and Cyber Monday was 48% up on the first Monday.

But, the good news is that this year we have not seen the twin tsunami of last year’s peak days, instead retailers have spread out sales across the whole week, easing the strain on every part of the supply chain, enabling retailers to sell more, carriers to manage delivery expectations and consumers to continue to shop with confidence

With sales now extending into the first week of December, we expect not to see a dip in volume, but instead a ‘peak plateau’ carrying on towards Christmas.”

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Record breaking Cyber Monday at intu as music lovers stock up on headphones

  • 125,000 people visited intu.co.uk on Cyber Monday – a 127% uplift from an average day – with majority of them female
  • Peak online traffic reached at 11.22am, with majority of people using mobiles and tablets to hunt for special deals
  • Headphones were the most popular item purchased, followed by smart watches and Android tablets

intu, the leading developer, owner and manager of prime regional shopping centres in the UK, has enjoyed a record breaking Cyber Monday, as consumers flocked to its website, intu.co.uk, in search of special deals.

Following on from the strong footfall at intu’s shopping centres on Black Friday and the Saturday, with over 1 million customers visiting on both days, just under 125,000 unique users visited intu’s website on Cyber Monday, beating Black Friday and showing an increase of 58% on last year and 125% compared to an average day. Online traffic surged in the morning, reaching its peak at 11.22am. In terms of the profile of buyers, 34% of visitors were females aged 18-34 compared to 17% of males of the same age group. The next highest group were females of 35-44 years compared to 8% of males of the same age. Overall, females made up 65% of the total number of online visitors.

Commenting on the record visits, Trevor Pereira, commercial and digital director at intu said: “Cyber Monday lived up to the hype this year, with a record number of visits and purchases compared to last year. Customers really made the most of the multiple channels to secure products, using both our shopping centres and online website from Friday through to Monday to tick off items on their shopping list.”

The use of different platforms to access deals at intu’s site was also a prominent feature of the day, with 75% of all online traffic coming via mobiles and tablet. This rose to 84% when also accounting for the traffic to the website via email click through. In terms of transactions, almost three in five purchases were completed on a mobile and seven in 10 on mobiles and tablets.

“We’ve been discussing the growing role of digital handheld devices in the retail sector for some time and now we’ve seen it in action, “ added Trevor Pereira. “Customers were hunting for deals while on the move or at work to ensure that they didn’t lose out on their wanted items. This was combined with visits to our centres, with over a million people walking through our doors on Black Friday and the following Saturday, underlining the importance of multi-channel retailing and the growth of click and collect.”

Of the items purchased, headphones were by far the most popular item on Cyber Monday, representing 60% of all sales followed by a good spread among other products, including smart watches at 7% of sales and Android tablets at 3%.

“It seems as if the lovers of music and electronics dominated Cyber Monday, representing a significant proportion of sales on the day. Indeed, Cyber Monday was electric for us, helping us achieve record visits and sales,” said Trevor.

intu.co.uk is a highly successful affiliate content site, with nearly 300 retailers already signed up, the site has grown 40% year on year and received over 22 million visitors in its first year, placing it in the top 10 affiliate content sites in the UK according to Affiliate Window, a global performance marketing network.

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John Rakowski, head of technical strategy at website performance company AppDynamics:

“The Black Friday weekend along with Cyber Monday has proven that online has become the most important channel for retailers over this busy period. Although there were no major scenes of chaos within retail stores in the UK, many retailers were hit by online performance problems causing customers similar frustration to those experienced in store. Despite every retailer knowing that their business would be under extra strain, many are still not optimised to deliver the service that customers expect”

“Now that customers are using multiple devices, multiple operating systems and multiple platforms, companies need to evaluate their exposure to risk and invest in software to manage and optimise their sites and apps. If that doesn’t happen, the same frustration caused by queueing will be provoked by a slow performing app or website crash during checkout next year. It won’t be expensive hardware that saves the day, but a pre-emptive mind-set that looks to manage performance rather than batten down the hatches and hope for the best”

“Today, websites and mobile applications are the primary engagement channels for digital retailers, and performance is essential to their success. Cyber coping mechanisms, such as placing customers in an online queue, will not help retailers maintain customer loyalty. At a bare minimum, the whole point of online shopping is to make the experience both convenient and comfortable, meaning that replicating physical world frictions, such as queuing, will only irritate customers. For success, every touchpoint on the shopper journey – whether it’s a product search, adding an item to basket or proceeding to checkout – has to feel easy, personal and enjoyable. In times of peak traffic, poor performance and cheap tactical fixes will result in frustrated customers and happy competitors. As all eyes are on the performance of retailers on the day, any performance issues will result in significant reputational damage

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Richard Vining, Head of Performance at BT Expedite

During busy shopping periods such as Black Friday, Cyber Weekend and Cyber Monday, retailers need to have access to an accurate product inventory across every channel, at the right time and in real-time. Otherwise, they risk over-selling and over-promising, and ultimately leaving the customer very frustrated. However, purchasing the product is only one part of the customer journey. Retailers can’t ignore delivery and fulfilment otherwise they risk disappointing the customer in the long term. Especially at peak times, retailers need to constantly review their shipping options and monitor the number of orders being placed by each in real-time.

While the proliferation of delivery options has increased customer choice, retailers need to ensure that they can meet these preferences. Once the maximum orders have been accepted for express/next day delivery then the retailer should disable that option.  Over Black Friday, Cyber Weekend and Cyber Monday, consumers are likely to have taken advantage of promotions and price drops, and retailers shouldn’t have to bargain on the product arriving at an unrealistic time if they can remove this unnecessary pressure on their delivery and fulfilment services.

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£968m spent on Cyber Monday

Record breaking 4 day weekend for online retail

£3.3bn spent online from Black Friday-Cyber Monday

£763k per minute spent on Black Friday

James Miller, senior retail consultant at Experian Marketing Services, said:

“This weekend has seen record-breaking spend online in the UK, with £3.3 billion spent online across the four days from Black Friday to Cyber Monday. This year Cyber Monday saw sales growth by 34% to £968 million, continuing the trend for massively growing spend and showing that consumers have fully embraced this online shopping phenomenon.

“This year retailers have stretched Black Friday and Cyber Monday into a longer period, with many offering deals across the week running up to Black Friday and continuing to reduce more products on Saturday, Sunday and Cyber Monday. In future, this nine day period will become a key phase which very much kick-starts the Christmas shopping season for those relatively well-off families who have busy lives and want to get their purchases in early and delivered before Christmas – retailers will also appreciate the opportunity to spread out the event to maximise their campaigns via email and social media.

“Retailers still have more opportunities to reach customers in the run up to Christmas, with Manic Monday on 7th December representing the time when consumers look to order gifts to ensure they receive them before Christmas, before the traditional Boxing Day sales begin. With logistics companies working hard to fulfil orders placed over the last four days this is a crucial time, with missed deliveries costing both money and consumer patience.”

The full breakdown for spending across the weekend is as follows:

  • Black Friday: £1.1 billion (£763K per min)
  • Saturday 28th: £561 million (£389K per min)
  • Sunday 29th: £676 million (£469K per min)
  • Cyber Monday: £968 million (£672K per min)

Predicted spend for the remainder of the retail season:

  • Manic Monday (7th Dec) – £733 million up 10% yoy (£666m)
  • Christmas Day (25th Dec) – £728 million up 11% yoy (£658m)
  • Boxing Day (26th Dec) – £856 million up 22% yoy (£699m)
  • New Year’s day (1st Jan) – £638 million up 33% yoy (£478m)
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Dusan Rnic, VP UK, Oracle Retail at Oracle said: “While the jury is still out as to whether Black Friday and Cyber Monday will continue to thrive outside of the US, and with some UK retailers like Asda choosing to opt out of this month’s event, there is no doubt that Black Friday will remain an important day on this year’s retail calendar.

Those retailers that do take part must ensure they get Black Friday and Cyber Monday right. Not does a successful day provide a significant boost to revenues, it also helps shape consumers’ positive opinions of the brands they buy from.

Convenience is king for today’s shoppers, and even more so during periods when they are time-poor and highly stressed like the holidays. With people now using multiple platforms in the course of a single purchase, retailers need to ensure they deliver a consistent and seamless experience that doesn’t fall apart when the lines between smartphones, PCs, tablets, kiosks, and in-store are crossed.

Throughout the holiday peak season, it is also essential retailers make inventory transparent and accessible to both employees and customers in real-time, taking into account the latest data on returns and pending orders. A single, up-to-the-minute inventory master provides retailers with one accurate version of the truth upon which to make well-informed store picking, inventory process, warehouse management, and merchandising decisions.”

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Dan Wagner, eCommerce veteran and CEO of Powa Technologies, comments: “As the popularity of Cyber Monday and online shopping grows, retailers will need to enhance their online capabilities, in order to lessen their dependence on one-off profit boosters such as Cyber Monday. On top of that, the much anticipated Black Friday sales have been met with a ripple rather than a stampede, as consumers are migrating to the web more than ever to do their shopping. Retailers must invest in omni-channel strategies to engage consumers and ensure consistent profits.

“Consumers today are seeking greater levels of control and freedom in how and when they purchase goods. The missing link is a credible mCommerce strategy from retailers. It will be essential to successfully converge the online and offline landscapes to meet consumer needs. Retailers must have a mobile commerce strategy in place that can mirror the variety of devices that their customers are using and enable them to complete purchases any time, any where. Retailers desperately risk missing the chance to engage consumers if they continue to see Cyber Monday as an online sales booster, rather than a window into the shopping habits of the average consumer.”

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Shane Happach, Chief Commercial Officer, Global eCommerce at Worldpay said:

“With Black Friday now more than half-way gone, it’s safe to assume this year’s online sales in the UK will eclipse those of previous years despite the backlash around the event that has dominated headlines over the past few weeks.

Our data shows UK online sales this morning were already 52% higher than they were by the same point in the day during Black Friday 2014. On a global scale, we have processed 40% more online transactions than we had over the same period last year.

Non-retail businesses will be happy to know many of their employees got their Black Friday shopping in before work today, with the biggest jump in sales occurring between 8:15-9:15am. At this morning’s peak we were processing a record 320 transactions per second.

If there were any doubts Black Friday will remain a staple of the global retail calendar, today’s spending has surely quelled them. We’re on track for yet another record-breaking day of sales, sending a clear message to retailers that shoppers’ appetite for major events like this remains strong.”

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Julien Hervouët, CEO & Founder of customer engagement platform iAdvize said:

“Black Friday and Cyber Monday are now the most popular shopping days of the year in the UK.”

“With internet sales in Britain jumping 13% year-on-year, many consumers will be hunting for the best deals on the web today. As online holiday shopping growth is now outpacing in-store sales, businesses will frequently offer better deals on their websites than their shelves on days like Cyber Monday as that is where the consumer now is.”

“Our research shows that one in four (28%) of UK customers buy online at least once a week, particularly those between the ages of 25-44. Yet despite the transformation of traditional shopping habits, one thing has remained the same – the importance of customer engagement. Whether it is delivery dates, shipping methods or return policies, online shoppers have a high demand for customer care. In fact, a negative online experience results in shoppers avoiding the same store for in-store purchases.”

“Online customer care does not end at helping consumers identify the best deals, in fact the majority of UK shoppers contact a company after their purchase has been completed.  Customer help channels like Click-to-Call and Community Chat are top of the list as they allow for speedy and personal support.”

“Businesses that actually look beyond great deals and shiny websites and focus their attention on customer care will be the big winners on Cyber Monday.”

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John Pincott, European MD, Shopatron

“With more consumers shopping online than ever before, Black Friday is a timely example of why providing digital services is critical for any retailer wanting to remain competitive. In fact, recent research from Shopatron reveals more than a quarter of Brits will shop via their smartphone this festive season, suggesting that retailers or branded manufacturers that rely solely on physical retail will risk missing out on these critical sales. Now more so than ever, brands must evolve to meet changing consumer expectations – this involves uniting online and offline strategies to provide a convenient, reliable and efficient experience regardless of how and where customers choose to shop.

Further demonstrating shoppers’ digital preferences, Shopatron research reveals that more than half of Brits plan on using home delivery throughout this holiday season, while a third will use click-and-collect if it were made available. Retailers who have anticipated this shift in consumer behaviour and optimised their digital shopping services accordingly will be in the best position to capture this market not only on Cyber Monday, but throughout the holiday shopping period.

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Many retailers have learnt lessons from last year when delivery networks crippled under the unexpectedly high volumes of packages sparked by the festive sales. How to get orders fulfilled and into the hands of consumers effectively and in a way that’s most cost-efficient should be front-of-mind – not just for now, but also because of the effect it can have on their long-term reputation.”

Shoppers in 2014 were amazed by the deals but also by the chaos that ensued.  Those who did not see it in person saw it on TV.

Problems for retailers stretched into the days and weeks that followed with issues around being able to follow through on online deliveries.

In 2015 this has led to retailers and shoppers reacting to this:

  • Shoppers stayed away from stores – fearful of the chaos they had seen in the media last year – realising that they could get excellent deals online.
  • Retailers extended their deals over the weekend with themes like ‘Black Friday Week’ and ‘Black Five Days’ in order to reduce the concentration of shoppers on a single day.

One of the results was a record online shopping day and while websites may have remained stable the true test is yet to come.

The issues retailers now have fall into two areas:

  • Where stock has been allocated to stores and does not sell at the end of the promotional period is what to do with it.  Do they mark it down even further, extend the promotion period or run a separate flash sale during December?  Shipping it back to warehouses will simply cost too much.
  • More importantly, after a record online shopping day, can they deliver on the transactional promises that have been made?  Are the people, processes and technology aligned to ensure that the back-end can deliver against the marketing promise?  What worked last year may struggle this year.  Are the overall order fulfilment processes sufficiently aligned, streamlined and controlled in order to cope?  This is the key new testing ground for retailers.

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James Miller, senior retail consultant at Experian Marketing Services, said: “Black Friday has once again proven to be a major draw for British consumers, with a record breaking £1.1 billion estimated to have been spent in the 24 hour period. This is a 36% year-on-year increase in spend which clearly shows that this date is likely to continue to be a permanent fixture in the online retail calendar in the UK, despite the lower than expected footfall in bricks and mortar stores.

“Consumers now see online shopping as a leisure activity, with pre-Christmas discount retail events such as Black Friday driven by this. Retailers and delivery networks should prepare for increasing interest in the coming weeks too, with “Cyber Monday” – traditionally when consumers look for more online shopping deals – occurring today with an expected £943 million in sales likely to occur, up 31% year-on-year.

“Manic Monday – the 7th December is also coming up fast and has previously been viewed by consumers as their last chance to order goods online and ensure pre-Christmas delivery. This year we are expecting£733m to be spent on this day, up 10% year-on-year. In addition, retailers with bricks and mortar stores should also consider preparing for the post-Christmas sales rush, which Experian has found is more likely to be attractive to consumers who prefer shopping in-store.”

 

Andy Mulcahy, editor, IMRG, also commented: “Black Friday appeared to be in a state of transition this year, as many retailers extended their campaigns to run over a week or even longer to ease the pressure on their operations. Nevertheless, it seems there is still a perception that the day itself is the time to get the best deals as it drew record volumes to retail sites – most likely boosted by shoppers who stayed away from the high street in order to avoid a repeat of the scenes from last year. Having so many different ways to browse and shop on retail sites will have played a part as well, with £495m being spent on smartphones and tablets on Black Friday.”

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MARGINAL RISE IN FOOTFALL ON BLACK FRIDAY THANKS TO BROADER PARTICIPATION BY RETAILERS

UK retail footfall on Black Friday was up +0.3% on 2014, as shoppers were again out in force in search of heavily discounted items.

The rise in shopper traffic was largely felt in outlet centres and on retail parks, where traffic rose by +8.3% and +4.3% respectively. The retailers that saw the strongest increase were in the DIY, homeware and health and beauty sectors.

Ipsos Retail Performance, the global retail and footfall consultant, compiled the footfall figures for Friday 27th November, by monitoring the number of individual shoppers entering over 4,000 non-food retail stores across the UK.

Stores in the Midlands and Eastern England benefited from the biggest footfall growth, with the East Midlands topping the regional ladder, boasting a year-on-year improvement of +5.7%. This was in contrast to Wales, where footfall dropped by -3.3% and the South East, where it fell by -2.5%.

“After all the hype and speculation about Black Friday this year, our data shows that store footfall levels were marginally up on last year, thanks primarily to more stores participating in promotional events,” commented Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance.

“The uplift was nowhere near as strong as some commentators had forecast, but nonetheless indicates that the discount day was popular and is now a fixture on the shopping calendar.

“Big questions still remain though over Black Friday’s overall contribution to stimulating sales. Whilst it certainly sets tills ringing on the day, concerns remain that it may be simply pulling demand forward, detracting from the run-up to Christmas.”

For more information on Ipsos Retail Performance, visit www.ipsos-retailperformance.com.

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Dan Cohen, regional director at Tradedoubler:

“Despite hysteria, hype and high expectations, online sales in the UK on Black Friday this year only saw an uplift of 6% compared with 2014.  This is a significant drop in sales growth, when we consider that ecommerce sales on Black Friday 2014 were 74% ahead of Black Friday in 2013, according to Worldpay. There was also a European wide uplift in sales of 6.76%. Average order value was also underwhelming, with an increase of £98 compared to £91 in 2014, a 7.6% total uplift year on year.

“So what is going wrong for digital marketers? The data from our performance-based digital marketing network highlights how Black Friday fell short on the expectations of brands. Digital marketing strategies are still not harnessing and utilising critical insight from user journey data to inform digital marketing strategies.

“The key for digital marketers is to reach customers where they are – this means understanding how customers behave online, the devices they are using and their route to purchase. If marketers don’t act now and fail to apply user journey insight, which is readily available, to optimise their digital ad budgets Christmas online sales will be as disappointing as this year’s Black Friday results.”

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This coming weekend, leading up to Cyber-Monday, which this year falls on 30 November, represents an immense opportunity for online retailers to drive sales and revenue at the most competitive time of year.  Data suggests that the average retailer will benefit from – and have to cope with – a four-fold increase in sales compared to the average Festive shopping day.  And while overall sales on Cyber-Monday may be lower than on Black Friday, data from 2014 shows that individual transaction values are higher.  Unfortunately, all this makes the day irresistible to cyber-criminals.

Kaspersky Lab offers the following guidance to help retailers keep themselves and their customers secure:

First and foremost, secure all customer data and financial transactions.  Major consumer data breaches in 2015, such as those involving Sony and TalkTalk showed how damaging a data breach can be for customer trust and brand reputation.  Security needs to be built in at the deepest level, with encryption and rock-solid identity management. 

Data from Cyber-Monday 2014 reveals that the average online purchase was completed in just 48 seconds, compared to a normal November average of 62 seconds.  This suggests that consumers are either entering data at speed and not necessarily checking for security features such as ‘https://’ or padlock icons, or are relying on card data that is already stored by the retailer.  Either way, the consumer won’t be spending time worrying about data protection, so you need to do it for them. 

A secure channel for financial transactions is critical for both retailers and customers.  Once compromised, this channel can be used by attackers to steal money and perpetrate fraud against the retailer and individual customers.

Another significant threat to organisations that handle money online is malware. In 2014, Kaspersky Lab detected 22.9 million attacks using financial malware, targeting 2.7 million users worldwide.  Such malware often finds it way in through online communications or emails.  Online retailers need to educate employees, including those in customer service roles, on what to look out for and what action to take – such as never opening suspicious-looking emails or clicking on links in messages. 

Phishing is often regarded as targeted mainly at consumers, but financial phishing attacks against banks, payment systems and e-shops accounted for over a quarter (28.7%) of all phishing attacks in 2014 – as attackers attempted to infiltrate networks through unsuspecting employees and gain access to customer data and money.

And while a flood of enthusiastic and impatient shoppers is a good thing, you need to ensure your infrastructure can cope with the traffic storm. Data from 2014 revealed a surge in activity on Cyber-Monday between 19.00and 22.00. Too many people trying to do the same thing at the same time on your website will result in a denial of service (DDoS) that can immobilize your site for quite some time. Make sure your infrastructure is backed by an appropriate business continuity plan in case the worst happens.

In addition, check that all your web servers are secure to avoid compromise should an attacker gain entry. An infected server could end up being used for drive-by downloads long after cyber-Monday has passed.

Last, but not least, look out for brand abuse, including fake web sites with names and interfaces that closely resemble your own, such as ‘amaz0n’.  Shoppers in a hurry may miss the distinction and find themselves directed to malicious sites in a move that will ultimately damage your brand and customer relationships.

Kirill Slavin, General Manger for the UK and Ireland at Kaspersky Lab

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5th Year Anniversary Of Black Friday, Shows It Has Become UK’s Favourite Shopping Day Of The Year

  • Black Friday bonanza certain to surpass last year’s record spend of £810mn
  • UK consumers will break £1bn barrier this year & is now retailers most important day of the year
  • Black Friday will always be much more popular than Cyber Monday – shoppers get both online & in-store bargains

Rob Fenton, UK MD of fifty-five, a business data agency said:

“Since its introduction into the UK in 2010, Black Friday has exploded in popularity year after year. This year sales will most certainly surpass last year’s record spend of £810mn and will easily top £1bn. Without doubt today will become the biggest online retail event in UK history, with many retail records being broken including the biggest smartphone shopping day ever.”

“What really sets it apart from Cyber Monday is that it offers consumers both online and in-store bargains meaning retailers can appeal to as many UK shoppers as possible and really drive sales to kick off the Christmas rush.”

“The interesting story is high street retailers, who used their intelligence to make sure that Black Friday, doesn’t turn into Red Friday for their profit margins.”

“The winners of Black Friday will be the multi-channel retailers that invested in data to understand the attribution that online media and online store visits have on high street store sales, as they can make the right level of media, price and stock investments to profitably capitalise on this volume opportunity that kick starts Christmas trading.”

“Some big retailers have shunned the day, such as Primark avoiding discounting, while others, like Asda, have abandoned Black Friday altogether as a pre Christmas sales bonanza. However, its popularity is especially highlighted by the fact that British consumers are just as comfortable shopping from the comfort of their own home, as they are queueing up for long hours and potentially having to wrestle over a flat screen TV just to get their hands on a precious bargain.”

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Bharat Mistry, Cyber Security Consultant, Trend Micro:

Consumer Comment:

“Staying safe online can be more challenging these days as cyber criminals are becoming much more sophisticated with their activities. However, there are some simple things consumers can do to stay safe on Black Friday. One of the key tactics cyber criminals use is to send e-mails that are designed to look like they come from genuine businesses – such as retailers. These e-mails will comprise links to very damaging malware that can steal a consumer’s private data. This means it is very important that consumers do not click on links in e-mails from an uncertain origin. Check the retailers own information and confirm the contact e-mail address they will use.

Another common trick that cyber threat actors use is to create a fake website that is almost identical to that of a legitimate retailer. In order for consumers to check the legitimacy of a retailer’s website, they can check the URL through promotional materials or social media profiles. Ensure that any transactions made are safely encoded with a HTTPS link in the URL and keep your Internet security software up to date – so any viruses or malware can be captured and removed straight away”.

Business Comment:

“Black Friday is one of the busiest retail days of the year; so cyber criminals will be looking to capitalise on the extra strain, and reduced security capacity, retailers are facing. The growth in e-payments triggered by the launch of Apple Pay, combined with it being a relatively new technology, is attracting cyber criminals to target the Point of Sale (POS). The PoS is an area in which retailers must ensure security is water tight, and that their software is completely up to date, as it’s an area that cyber criminals will actively seek to hit.

Online retailers face bigger threat than high street stores. This is mainly due to the fact that online retailers have more systems and applications to target. Moreover, a lot of online retailers don’t sufficiently protect themselves. As the majority of online retailers also provide their services 24/7; it can be difficult to find time to patch systems and security can be lacking. In order to blunt this threat, retailers should begin by penetration testing all their systems to expose risks and then ensure that those vulnerabilities are patched. If retailers undertake this activity, they can ensure that nothing is being overlooked – such as the use of unsecure passwords for administrative accounts or relying on vulnerable software”.

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Daniel Todaro, managing director of field marketing specialist, Gekko.

“With online proving unreliable, the omnichannel experience is now affected. Most who were avoiding the expectant scuffles reverted to online as encouraged by many of the retailers, thus its perceived quietness on the shop floor.

“The strategy however has now resulted in overloaded online systems driving consumers into traditional retail later today and over the weekend which is positive for retailers and brands.

“Black Friday should be one day where if you’re lucky you can bag a bargain or two, not an elongated sale period; save that for Boxing Day.”

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Matthew Robertson, Commercial Director at parcel data management platform NetDespatch, comments “With Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping days upon us, we have been seeing a spike in online orders from the beginning of the week, with parcel volumes up 21% compared to the same period at the start of the month, and about 40% up from a ‘normal’ week.

Comparing figures from 2014, where retailers and parcel carriers focused heavily on the two days i.e. Black Friday and Cyber Monday, this year we have seen a steady increase in parcel volumes right from the beginning of the week and believe this will carry on into next week. This could suggest that retailers have more carefully planned this year and are thinking about the long term benefits of spreading out the sales over a longer period of time, instead of limiting all sales to just two days as they attempt to avoid parcel bottlenecks as a result.

“We are also generally seeing a different approach from retailers and parcel carriers this year, with most retailers seemingly more prepared for what’s to come. Many retailers are providing a more dynamic approach to the peak shopping period, putting processes in place to manage peak times and to help order fulfilment run more smoothly – for example, some of our retailers are pushing click and collect at the online checkout, to help alleviate the strain on parcel carriers to deliver to individual homes.

“Overall, we are already seeing that retailers learnt their lesson from last year’s ‘twin tsunami’, and this different approach could really improve the shopping experience for consumers and the pressure on businesses over this peak shopping weekend.”

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Dan Cohen, regional director at Tradedoubler:

“The news that Google will supply advertisers with shopping location data this Black Friday comes as no surprise. I expect consumers will browse a number of websites and shops before making their final purchase during this heavily discounted period. They are not only looking for the best price, but also recommendations from valued sources to ensure they are giving the best gift possible. According to our research, between a quarter and a third of people go online while in store to look at blogs and price comparison websites, among others, which is why it’s so important to ensure you’re reaching out to new or existing customers via all possible touch points.

“In the run up to and during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I expect that the average online purchase journey time will be shorter than the typical eight days, 19 hours and 30 minutes. Consumers are also likely to be undertaking more research, I therefore expect the number of websites visited in the average purchase journey to rise and the number of clicks involved to increase.

“User Journey technology is essential for marketers looking to get closer to their consumers. It gives them the insight they need to optimise their digital marketing budgets and improve the online shopping experience they offer to Britain’s diverse consumers, not only over the festive period, but also in the coming year.”

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TOP TIPS: HEAD INTO BLACK FRIDAY ARMED FOR SUCCESS

This year, Black Friday is set to shock the retail industry by not only focusing on in-store promotions but also by producing record-breaking online sales to become the UK’s first £1bn online shopping day. It is therefore essential for retailers to align all channels and ensure they are providing a seamless experience across every customer touch point.

But it shouldn’t stop there; retailers can also ensure better results if they take the time to fully prepare the back office functions and make sure these are ready for the surge in activity. More orders will always mean more deliveries, more returns, more queries and more admin. Now is the time for retailers make final preparations for all of this.

Craig Sears-Black, UK Managing Director at Manhattan Associates believes there are three vital actions to take in order to make the most of this year’s Black Friday.  

  1. Make use of the data available

In order to make the most of Black Friday and the Christmas period retailers should leverage all the data available to them. By making informed predictions and looking at data in real time – on what’s selling quickly, stock on hand, replenishment lead times, capacity of fulfilment partners to deliver, etc. – retailers will be able to make educated decisions about which of the products they include in the promotion and which products will be added at a later date or not at all.

  1. Turn the dial on promotions

It is really important that retailers not only focus on the promotion aspect of Black Friday, but also ensure that the service they provide is consistent.  The skill is balancing both aspects in order to make the sale and retain or gain a loyal customer. To do this, retailers can monitor the promotions and sales of products in real time and decide which products they want to offer with certain promotions. For example, they may choose to turn the promotion dial down by having a 15% discount and keeping their 24 hour delivery window for a product selling well, but turn the promotion dial up by offering a 30% discount and extending the delivery window to a maximum of 10 days for products that they know are not as popular.  Retailers that can harness the data available to do this in real time will be able to better manage and take advantage of the possibilities of Black Friday.

  1. Increase flexibility to maximise sales

Once the orders are flooding in and the promotions and delivery times have been agreed, retailers need to deploy a flexible approach to fulfilling orders.  Rather than having all ecommerce orders shipped from the main DC, retailers could allocate store inventory for click-and-collect orders where possible, as well as ship items from the store if it means a customer can receive goods quicker and it’s cheaper to dispatch those goods from the store. Extending the role of the store to become a mini DC in addition to its traditional role as a sales outlet, speeds up fulfilment and drives sales whilst also reducing total cost. Retailers just need to ensure that stores are appropriately reconfigured and staffed as the store’s role evolves or customers will be left disappointed again.

Implementing these three actions will ensure retailers will be able to handle the surge in demand on peaks such as Black Friday in a cost-effective and profitable manner whilst also delivering on their service commitment to customers.

Lets all head into the peak Christmas period this year armed with the knowledge, technology and preparation needed to not only increase sales, but also secure the loyalty of new and existing customers.

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Daniel Todaro, Managing Director of field marketing specialist, Gekko.

“Considering the chaos that occurred last year, with overcrowded stores, low stock and even scuffles breaking out amongst shoppers, brands and retailers need to be mindful of how these scenes could play out on news reports in an unseemly light; not only for brand reputation but also for customer loyalty.

“On the flipside, Black Friday presents an easy opportunity to drive stock sell-through and target shoppers ahead of Christmas. Those brands that have adopted a careful and strategic planning approach are best positioned to reap the benefits during the flash sales. For example, in utilising in-store promoters and brand ambassadors, brands can steal a march over their competitors. Their mission will be to sell up though the range and use the discounted headline models to make attachment sales thus helping to increase the average value of each sale.

“It will be interesting to see how a retailer’s decision to scale down its Black Friday operations will impact its trading figures during peak season. Positive or negative – only time will tell.”

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Hubert Da Costa, VP EMEA Cradlepoint: 

“All the attention of Black Friday tends to go on its profit making opportunities for retailers, but the forward thinking retailer will also be considering the potential costs of network downtime. Typically network downtime costs an average of £200k an hour, but that is just an average. In the retail sector, to be unable to take payments on a day such as Black Friday would be catastrophic. In addition to the financial hit, there is also the negative impact on your brand. The security risks of batch processing aren’t worth taking, but whilst queues of disgruntled customers build, so too can the pressure. When you’re looking at the true eye watering cost of network downtime, the lost opportunity and the reputational damage, it becomes clear a network failover solution does not just provide business continuity on the day, but ensures your business continues to run in the future.”

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Gabriel Gambill, Director of Product and Program Management, Quorum. 

“In terms of having a solid business continuity (BC) plan in place, there is no more of a crucial time for the retail industry than the run up to Christmas. In the UK alone, approximately £810 million was spent on Black Friday last year – this is equivalent to more than double 2014’s total. Just as people fight in the aisles to secure a bargain, websites crash: as well as buyers, retailers need to be prepared to cope with demand. This is the period in which the majority of businesses in the retail industry start to see profit, so it is imperative that everything functions without disruption or downtime.

Retail businesses should remember the 3 Rs:
1) Risk – understand your level of risk
2) Run tests – in order to work out peak capacity
3) Recovery – ensure a plan is in place for system outage or failure

The popularity of Black Friday is increasing, therefore the retail industry must ensure more than ever that its IT infrastructure can keep up with demand. During this peak time, poorly executed business continuity and disaster recovery plans place businesses and the larger retail ecosystems at risk. It is critical that organisations ensure their systems are prepared to deal with the massive traffic surge to their online sites while protecting customer data and preparing to recover if anything fails. As with any business, time is money: downtime at such an important time of year can have a potentially disastrous effects on a company’s reputation.”

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Campbell Williams, Director of Strategy and Marketing at Six Degrees Group: 

If your business is going to play the Black Friday game you have to get it right. It is vital that you can ensure your technology infrastructure will support you. Businesses need a plan to deliver scalability to their web services during these peak times.

2014’s Black Friday event was a shopping day like no other. Online sales increased by 37.5% [1] boosting them to £104bn[2] over all. This trend is set to continue in 2015, but every year websites fail under the strain. So why are some companies still making mistakes when it comes to ensuring their online infrastructure is up to the challenge?

Black Friday has become a predictable retail phenomenon, but many companies are still getting their estimates wrong. For example, last year Argos was the second most visited website on Black Friday in the UK, with 13.5 million unique web visitors. However, during the day its website crashed for two hours: time that is estimated to have cost them up to £5million in potential revenue.

Cloud technology is vital to retail success on black Friday, delivering flexible, scalable, cloud infrastructure that helps to support business critical applications during times of heightened traffic; capacity which can then be scaled down again once the event has calmed down.

Scalability is central to online retailers in order to sustain business operations during busy periods. But this cannot exist in a vacuum: IT experts and retailers need to be business-savvy and predict where the peaks are coming from, allowing extra compute to be added in time.

An MSP that understands its customer’s business needs is vital for retailers to safeguard online sales opportunities now and in the future.

For more information please visit http://www.6dg.co.uk/blog/dont-be-caught-out-this-black-friday

[1] http://business-reporter.co.uk/2014/12/09/5-amazing-stats-from-black-friday-2014-in-the-uk/

[2] http://business-reporter.co.uk/2014/12/09/5-amazing-stats-from-black-friday-2014-in-the-uk/

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Sabrina Bailey-Navalon, Director of EU Marketing, xAd, the global location marketplace, comments on the mobile opportunity for retailers this festive season:

“With people expected to flock to the high street for the seasonal sales before Christmas including Black Friday shopping, marketers should consider the massive opportunities to reach the increasingly hyper mobile consumers that are on-the-go, looking for nearby deals, store direction, and extended store hours. Shoppers’ reliance on their smartphone devices gives retailers an additional Christmas window of opportunity that they cannot afford to miss.

“For example, 38% of shoppers in the UK who researched purchases on their mobile device expect to buy within the hour, according to our new 2015 UK Mobile Path to Purchase study. Retailers must find a way to convert shoppers who are in this browse-before-you-buy mindset and mobile location targeting can provide the ‘marketing in the moment’ incentive that is essential for shoppers to convert.

“There is a huge opportunity for retailers to use location insights to point their audiences in the right direction of their store. By aligning both targeting strategies and mobile ad creative with the way in which mobile users interact with physical storefronts, retailers can use mobile to supercharge their offline Christmas campaigns. While the Black Friday and Christmas deals are not going anywhere, your consumers are. The best way to influence them is by targeting them as they move throughout their day, from focusing ad placement on the areas immediately surrounding physical stores (or competitor locations) to taking store hours into consideration or user search activity in the area.

“Only the brands that embrace mobile’s unique ability to capture location will be able to take advantage of consumer behavioural changes to boost their high street sales and capture considered shoppers this Christmas.”

Giulio Montemagno, SVP & GM International, RetailMeNot says,

“Black Friday is now a firm fixture on the UK retail calendar. With shoppers now expecting retailers to offer Black Friday promotions, we’ve found that some retailers have delayed promotions in early November so as to capitalise upon the anticipated spike in sales on Black Friday and the start of the Christmas shopping period.”

“Shoppers should expect a substantially different Black Friday this year. After underestimating demand in 2014, retailers are ‘throwing the kitchen sink’ at Black Friday to ensure that the shopping experience doesn’t falter. Retailers are pushing online sales, with dedicated Black Friday sites and greater investment in IT to ensure they can handle the hordes of shoppers.”

 “With Brits set to spend £2.2 billion online this weekend, including £966 million on Black Friday, retailers are keen to avoid over-stretching themselves at the cost of the shopping experience. We expect retailers to offer fewer time-bound deals and in-store sales, and take a more realistic approach to delivery, with longer delivery times of 4 – 5 days and a greater emphasis on click-and-collect services.”

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Preparing retailers for Black Friday Madness 

For the first time ever, UK shoppers are set to spend more than £1bn in a single day – on Black Friday. But how well prepared are retailers for this massive spike in demand?

The obvious challenge is making sure that the online experience is robust enough – which means monitoring systems so that they scale with the demands put upon them. There is also a need to monitor for security as record numbers of online customers could make spotting malicious visitors tougher than usual.

Companies such as John Lewis and Tesco use Splunk to get real time operational intelligence on every transaction passing through their system. Below is an excerpt from John Lewis on how they use operational intelligence to understand how their systems cope under added pressure.

On Black Friday in 2013, John Lewis more than doubled its previous record for a single day’s transactions on its website. The team used Splunk Enterprise to report on how core systems coped under this added pressure; this intelligence was then incorporated into capacity planning for subsequent peak days, such as Christmas Eve (the start of the huge annual clearance event). [Full story here: http://www.splunk.com/view/splunk-at-john-lewis/SP-CAAAM7C]

Over the key Christmas clearance in 2013, Splunk Enterprise made a positive contribution to John Lewis delivering the best online performance in company history. John Lewis online sales grew more than 23% over the holiday period, and Splunk Enterprise is credited with helping the organization make important operational and marketing decisions, such as when to promote certain items or campaigns. [Full story herehttp://www.splunk.com/view/splunk-drives-online-revenue-growth-at-john-lewis/SP-CAAAM7D]

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British retailers to receive £3.49bn boost over Cyber Monday weekend

UK set to outspend Europe by 21%

  • British public is expected to spend a huge £3.49bn over the course of the weekend, from Black Friday to Cyber Monday
  • Four days of sales will see 16 per cent increase in spend for online purchasing alone compared to 2014
  • UK to outspend European counterparts by £450 million (21 percent) more over the four days compared to France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands and Belgium combined
  • High street wins over online this Cyber Monday with 13.9m people planning to shop in-store compared to 10.1m online

Monday madness

Calculated consumers

Claire Davenport, Managing Director, VoucherCodes.co.uk comments: “As Black Friday and Cyber Monday become more of an established trend, retailers can capitalise on this with careful planning and targeting to get their best deals to customers. VoucherCodes.co.uk has been working with retailers throughout the year to provide the British public with a huge range of fantastic deals over the super savings weekend, and to make sure they put their best foot forward during this crucial shopping period!”

With nearly £1.8m worth of savings made on VoucherCodes.co.uk across the super-saving weekend in 2014, the discount deals website will have 85 staff on hand to ensure all the best offers will be available to shoppers over the weekend to ensure that the maximum number of savings are made. The site added 24 per cent more offers to the site over the four day period last year compared to 2013. The biggest single saving made by any one customer last year racked up to a huge £839, made on Black Friday. Deal hunters are expected to be logging on earlier than ever before this year; On Black Friday last year, VoucherCodes.co.uk saw web traffic spike at 8.36am, compared to a more leisurely 9.52am in 2013. On Cyber Monday, shoppers with a taste for a bargain hunting started searching even earlier with a 500% increase in visits to VoucherCodes.co.uk at 7am, and the site at its busiest at 8.02am, compared with 9am in 2013.**

  • Growing demand for click-and-collect this Christmas as shoppers become more comfortable with in-store pick-up: 29% of Brits and 31% of Americans plan on using click-and-collect this year for festive holiday shopping

“With Black Friday looming, Shopatron research reveals 1-in-3 UK shoppers will use click-and-collect this year to do their Christmas shopping.

“Consumers, previously constrained by postal deadlines, are increasingly comfortable with the idea of snapping up deals online when they’re at the best whilst being safe in the knowledge orders will be waiting for them to collect shortly afterwards in-store.

“With Christmas Day also falling on a Friday this year, many people will be working right up until the start of the festive period. The convenience of collecting presents in-store could therefore drive further peaks in omnichannel sales all the way through to the final days before the 25th.

“Retailers embracing changing consumer demands and uniting their bricks and mortar with online will make the biggest gains in this year’s busy shopping season. This is an especially important lifeline for mid-size and smaller retailers looking to compete with larger stores and the online giants. In addition to encouraging motivated shoppers visiting local stores to make additional purchases, they can also add products to an online mix that are typically too challenging for delivery.”

  • Black Friday in the UK in 2014 was delivery chaos – smart retailers will ensure this year won’t be a repeat of the same: 57% of Brits and 56% of Americans plan on using delivery-to-home this year for festive holiday shopping

“Not only is Black Friday a showdown on who can offer the best deals, it’s also a test of who can get orders into the hands of satisfied consumers the quickest.

“Over half of UK consumers plan on using home-delivery this year for their Christmas shopping according to Shopatron research. In their preparations for Black Friday, many retailers will hopefully have learnt their lessons from last year when we saw delivery networks cripple under the unexpectedly high volumes of packages sparked by the festive sales. How to get orders made this weekend into the hands of consumers effectively and in a way that’s most cost-efficient should be front-of-mind – not just for now, but also because of the effect it can have on their long-term reputation.

“UK retailers are still very much trying to work-out how best to negotiate Black Friday’s distortion of the Christmas shopping season. As well as deals on the day itself, it seems many are also opting to spread deals throughout the preceding month and into December. Not only is this a sign they’re trying to avoid negatively skewing what should be their peak sales period, it also a sign of a more sophisticated approach to their stock control and order management.”

  • The rise in smartphone usage will once again fuel the biggest online shopping holiday period: Over a quarter of Brits (26%) and nearly a third of Americans (32%) will use their smartphones to make purchases this Christmas shopping season

“Mobile is a vital channel for commerce and getting it right for festive sales is critical. In fact, a quarter of UK shoppers plan on using their smartphones to shop for the latest deals according to Shopatron research. On Black Friday, as well as the five weeks leading up to Christmas, its likely consumers will be glued to their smartphone screens with peaks in mobile shopping during the early morning and evening commutes.

“Retailers who’ve anticipated this shift in consumer behaviour and optimised their mobile shopping services accordingly will be in the best position to capture this market over Black Friday and Cyber Monday.”

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Retailers need to be savvier and smarter to avoid feeling blue during Black Friday, says Crimson & Co

Black Friday should not just be an opportunity for retailers to follow the herd – instead, they should develop their own marketing and pricing strategies. Doing this, combined with inventive delivery practices, will allow them optimise their sales and margins over the whole Christmas period. This is according to Nick Miller, Head of FMCG at global supply chain consultancy Crimson & Co.

Industry research from the Centre for Retail Research indicates that 2015 is expected to see internet sales, as part of the Black Friday phenomenon surpass £1bn for the first time in UK history, with total sales (including in stores) reaching £1.39bn and shopping over the entire weekend nearing £3.5bn.

Fear of missing out has grown the retail bonanza of Black Friday into an event of a scale which retailers cannot ignore. However, simply applying huge discounts to maximise sales is increasingly not looking like the smartest move. With margins already tight, giving away more hits the bottom line – shareholders are increasingly focused on profitability rather than sales growth. More than ever, it appears that Black Friday is cannibalising later, higher margin sales.

Maximising sales and footfall has other side effects: leading supermarket Asda has already said that it is massively scaling back on the shopping frenzy after a number of retailers reported unsavoury incidents amongst customers during last year’s sales. It said that it didn’t want its customers to feel held hostage by the experience of one single day of sales and instead announced that more than £26m in savings would be spread across the traditional seasonal shopping period, including food and drinks, as well as electronics.

In light of this Miller believes that more savvy retailers could look to follow suit:

“Black Friday is now into its fifth year here in the UK and by all accounts it is going to be the biggest to date. Combined with Cyber Monday it is has transformed the entire Christmas shopping experience, resulting in retailers being forced to realign sales, marketing and supply chain strategies in order to capture frenzied consumer demand.

“Last year, such was the hype for Black Friday that when the doors opened for a lot of retailers, customers were falling over each other and physically fighting one another for what was perceived to be must-have bargains, leading to a number of unpleasant scenes which were widely documented in the media. For a lot of retailers, quite rightly the negative connotations surrounding this are forcing them to rethink their strategies. Asda has already acted and others are likely to follow. Firms should be looking to develop their own strategies to maximise their overall margins and profitability, through understanding their customer base and their shopping behaviours.

Another challenge facing retailers looks at delivery strategies for home shopping. Research from the Department for Transport has indicated that the public is now seeing average morning speeds drop as our roads become ever more congested. A lot of the blame for this is being pointed at the sharp rise in internet shopping with delivery drivers increasingly taking up space on the road. Amazon has added fuel to the issue with the launch of its new one-hour delivery service, leading to a number of retailers being forced to rethink their delivery protocols.

Miller continued: “Delivery strategies have always been a challenge for retailers. During last year’s Black Friday the surge in sales naïvely caught a lot of delivery firms flatfooted and they simply couldn’t cope with demand. Looking ahead to this year the expected rise in sales, increased congestion on the roads and demand from consumers for ever-quicker delivery services is going to be putting enormous pressures on retailers to not suffer a similar fate.

“To avoid this, these firms need to start thinking a lot smarter and a lot more creatively. Forming new partnerships, for example with taxi firms or even competitors, will enable them to meet customer demand quicker and more effectively. Also, further innovations in click and collect mean customer drop off points could be established at key areas such as schools, gyms and train stations, so orders can be picked up at a consumers convenience, therefore avoiding the melee caused by fragile delivery strategies.”

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Jackie Barwell, Director, Fraud Product Management at ACI Worldwide said:

“Retailers and consumers must brace and prepare themselves for higher levels of eCommerce fraud during the busier seasonal shopping days.

“Our data, based on hundreds of millions of transactions from large global retailers operating in Europe and the US, shows a significant increase in attempted fraudulent transactions in 2015 where 1 in 86 transactions was a fraudulent attempt verses 1 in 114 transactions in 2014.

“We have also seen fraudsters attempting new paths to target, mainly due to the increase in omni-channel shopping options. Attempted fraud rates for ‘buy online/pick up in-store shopping’, for example, are expected to increase by 28% this holiday season as some retailers do not require consumers to re-run cards when they pick up products in store, making this an attractive option for fraudsters.

“Consumers need to be more vigilant than ever during this holiday shopping season. No one is immune to fraudulent attacks, as some of the high profile data breaches in recent weeks have shown. Stealing and reselling data from ordinary consumers is now a highly organised criminal activity and fraudsters have been finding ever more sophisticated ways to hack databases or obtain data from individual consumers via social engineering and phishing activities.”

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Retailers must bridge the gap between in-store and online to capitalise on flash sales

As final preparations for Black Friday get underway, Damian Hanson, CEO of leading multi-channel retail technology specialist One iota, is warning that retailers risk missing out on huge sales opportunities if they fail to provide customers with a fully connected shopping journey.

An estimated £810 million was spent on Black Friday last year, 50% more than industry experts had predicted, and this year’s event is set to be bigger still. According to IMRG, retailers should be prepared for a rise of almost a third in spending on Black Friday 2015, making it the first time ever that UK retail sales exceed £1bn in a single day.

The pitfalls of the phenomenon of Black Friday are well documented. From hysteria on the high street to websites struggling to handle the increased traffic, crashing completely and leaving customers waiting for hours in virtual queues, most retailers have learnt lessons from last year and should now be better prepared for this year’s event.

Yet despite this, Damian Hanson believes that many are still making a fundamental mistake, in treating online and in-store sales as two separate entities and failing to marry the two by bringing eCommerce in-store to create a fully connected shopping journey for customers. And with footfall up 23% on the previous year, Black Friday 2014 demonstrated more than ever that shoppers still want to venture onto the High Street to touch and feel the items they wish to purchase.

With the mass adoption of modern technology has come a new, tech savvy shopper, with far higher expectations than ever before. A shopper who wants to be able to buy the product they want at the very best price there and then – even during flash sales such as Black Friday.

Retailers who are bridging the gap between online and in-store with assisted selling devices such as transactional kiosks and iPads, are able to satisfy these customers. By utilising in-store technology, the retailer is able to sell beyond what is simply “on the shelf”, and showcase their entire product range directly to the customer – ensuring they capitalise on every sales opportunity. These innovative solutions also enable customers to buy out of stock items and choose from a variety of delivery options, even on Black Friday.

However as Damian Hanson says, many retailers are still failing to utilise this technology to its full potential:

“Technology has come a long way over the past few years and is now more readily available to both retailers and consumers than ever before – but if retailers fail to capitalise on it, it’s a wasted opportunity.

There are several reasons they may be reluctant to do this. A key one is fear of the unknown, along with a feeling of “us and them” – with many still seeing online and in-store as completely separate sales channels. Retailers need to appreciate that by joining up online and in-store sales, as well as the customer benefitting from a seamless and consistent shopping journey, the retailer also benefits with improved conversion rates, increased sales and reduced basket abandonment.

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David Maitland, General Manager, EMEA at Couchbase

“Kicking off the Christmas shopping season, this year Black Friday shoppers are expected to splash out £16,087 per second – but online retailers must be prepared in the fight for the golden goose. Hoping for the same success as Alibaba Singles’ Day shopping festival, which saw Chinese consumers spend £9.4bn on the company’s internet shopping platforms in 24 hours, online and mobile retailers are ready. Or are they? With a surge in online traffic expected across mobile and smart devices across the globe, there is increased pressure for retailers to learn from last year’s failures, stay ahead of competitors and deliver the best customer experience. Buffer face and down time are simply not an option as consumers hunt for the best deals across a number of platforms. The infrastructure in place to support online stores, needs to be flexible and scalable to deal with the influx of orders as well as the increased burden to systems such as mobile applications and catalogues.”

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74% of shoppers believe in-store technology will improve Black Friday, research shows

Survey finds majority of shoppers still turn to their own smartphones for product information

Cardiff, 23rd November 2015: Almost three-quarters of in-store shoppers (74%) believe the use of technology such as smartphones, touch-screen kiosks and contactless payment terminals will make shopping on Black Friday a better experience by providing information and discounts along with quicker and more personalised service.

More than half (53%) of respondents in a survey conducted by Vista Retail Support, a retail technology support and IT services business, say going online via their smartphone is the first step they will take to access product information when they are in a store on Black Friday (November 27). For 44%, the smartphone is where they look for discounts or to compare prices.

Only 32% would go to the product on the shelf for information and just 9% would ask a sales assistant.

“Black Friday is now fixed in the retail calendar and many store operators are keen to build on the success of last year,” said James Pepper, Technical Services Director at Vista Retail Support. “Yet in a crowded store, lack of information and slow service can lead to frustration among shoppers. If store operators are to avoid bad headlines on Black Friday they need to put technology at the heart of their preparation.”

Although 71% of those surveyed said they would be going bargain-hunting on Black Friday, 72% said they would not enter a store if it was too crowded, while the majority (59%) said they would be put off by long queues. More than a third (34%) said they would quit if they could not easily find what they wanted.

Patience with queueing is very limited, with 30% saying they would wait no longer than five minutes to pay for their bargains. Only 14% were prepared to wait up to 20 minutes, although 5% were prepared to queue for more than half-an-hour.

“With increased footfall predicted for Black Friday, retailers need to adopt every method available to make sure shoppers keep coming through their doors,” added Pepper. “The smartphone is becoming an indispensable tool for many shoppers as they go online to check prices, download information or look for offers and discounts.

“This makes a slick omnichannel experience and installation of completely robust in-store connectivity a necessity for retailers, along with technology such as contactless payments that will cut queueing and ease the customer journey at a stressful time.”

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80% of premium shoppers don’t let Black Friday influence their Christmas shopping habits

80% of shoppers are not letting Black Friday influence their shopping habits this Christmas, according to new research by retail marketing agency Leapfrogg.

The study looked at 661 premium shoppers’ habits across Black Friday, Boxing Day and the festive season in general.

Leapfrogg found that many shoppers aren’t taking the flash sales event into consideration when it comes to Christmas shopping. 40% said they had no intention of waiting until Black Friday to buy gifts, while another 40% said they might make a purchase if something takes their eye on the day, but wouldn’t base their shopping plans around it.

A further 10% stated they were waiting for the arrival of Black Friday to start their Christmas shopping or buy specific items.

“We looked at whether answers differed according to household income and gender, but opinions were similar across all segments,” said Rosie Freshwater, MD of Leapfrogg. “We’ve started to see a backlash in America and the UK, where larger retailers have decided to not take part in Black Friday. The research suggests retailers would be better off focusing on customer experience throughout the entire Christmas shopping period. By all means offer a Black Friday discount, but choose a specific range of items and ensure high earning products are available consistently at good value for the whole of the shopping season.”

When it comes to how customers are approaching their shopping this year, over half (52%) already started buying presents in October.

Leapfrogg’s study also revealed a quarter of premium shoppers may decide to shop at the Boxing Day sales, with a further 13% stating that money they receive for Christmas will be spent at this time. 40% won’t be shopping in the post-Christmas sales.

Personalisation is favoured by just over half of consumers, with 53% claiming it is important brands personalise their offers based on individual preferences and previous purchases. 12% felt it was unimportant, while 35% were not concerned either way.

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Westfield Director, Myf Ryan said: “Last year, Black Friday cemented itself in the UK festive calendar for both shoppers and retailers. At Westfield, we saw nearly 300,000 people pass through our doors and we expect similar record numbers of visitors this year as shoppers take advantage of the special deals on offer.

“Black Friday is quickly becoming a marker of the start of Christmas shopping in the UK, with many people using the weekend to get ahead with their purchasing. Last year, over 800,000 shoppers came to our centres across the three days. This was an increase of 12% compared with the previous year, demonstrating the growing popularity of this weekend.” 

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John Pincott, SVP, Europe and Global Marketing, Shopatron

Visa’s research suggesting UK shoppers will spend £721m online this Black Friday is a clear indication that providing digital services is a must for brands looking to stay competitive this holiday shopping season.

This year, a quarter of UK shoppers (26 percent) expect to purchase Christmas presents on their smartphones according to Shopatron research. Peak time for this will be the morning and evening commutes with consumers snapping up new deals as they emerge.

Furthermore, 57 percent of British shoppers will opt for home-delivery this holiday season and a third will use click-and-collect. UK shoppers today demand optimum convenience, and for many this involves avoiding in-store queues and hassle with the ease of delivery, mCommerce and click-and-collect.

This Black Friday, regardless of the channel used, retailers must optimise all available inventory, dealer networks and local shop-fronts, so as to efficiently manage and fulfil orders wherever the customer is located. Not doing so, is a sure fire way of missing out on critical sales and customer loyalty, not just this weekend, but long after the busy holiday season.

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FoMO: Retailers’ fear of missing out leads them into Black Friday trap

Markus Juhr-De Benedetti, Chief Revenue Officer, Blue Yonder warns retailers of the long-term negative impact of Black Friday

With Christmas around the corner, we’ve seen reports that Britons are gearing up to spend £1.9bn on Black Friday sales. It has become the biggest shopping day of the year since it hit the shores of the UK from the US and while the frenzy might be seen to be a good thing to kick-start the golden Christmas shopping period, Markus Juhr-de Benedetti warns that without careful planning, retailers with Fear of Missing Out (FoMO) could end up harming their brands.

Markus Juhr-de Benedetti, chief revenue officer at retail predictive analytics firm Blue Yonder says: “While some of the retail giants such as Asda have removed themselves from the frenzy, other retailers with FoMO, Fear of Missing Out must take note that heavy discounting may come at a cost to their brand: Black Friday has the potential to harm brand perception by providing inadequate customer service and by selling out of stock too quickly leaving shoppers disappointed.

“In addition, pricing on heavy discount days also requires a careful balancing act to ensure it doesn’t come at a cost throughout the rest of the year. Official figures tell us that retail sales have fallen by 0.6 per cent between September and October and Blue Yonder research found that those set to brave the Black Friday sales have been waiting on average 2 months and 5 days to make their big purchases, with a dedicated 7 per cent stating they have been waiting longer than 7 months.

“But the potential negative impact goes beyond September and October. Our research found that 1 in 5 (1 in 3 in London) shoppers bought items to be sold on and a further fifth of shoppers bought an item that they either did not need, wish they hadn’t bought or felt guilty about and returned afterwards. We are likely to see a flood of cheap goods being sold on by individuals from next week, which will have an impact on sales beyond Black Friday. In addition, it is likely that there will be a huge period of returns, which comes at a cost to the retailers.

“Retailers need to take a step back, review their internal data, such as past years’ sales and the external data from official figures and get a better grasp on the real impact Black Friday has, not just in the two months leading up to it, but the full calendar year.”

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Oliver Jaeger, Vice President Global Marketing & Communications at e-Spirit

“Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become two of the biggest days in the UK retail calendar, even outshining Boxing Day. In 2014, UK consumers spent over £1.4bn on these two days alone and this year many retailers obviously want a piece of the pie with some already kicking off Black Friday sales three weeks in advance. However, while many resort to special offers, heavy discounts and exclusive products to attract customers, most retailers will actually reap the greatest rewards by integrating Black Friday and Cyber Monday into their long term sales and content strategies.

“With many retailers now operating on a global scale, particularly on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it is essential that their customer experience isn’t just tailored to each country but specifically to each consumer visiting an online store across multiple channels. Offering tailored discounts and an engaging customer journey will ensure repeated business and keep sales strong and consistent all year around.”

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“Many retailers lack the technology to meet the huge increase in demand both online and in-store on Black Friday,” says Oliver Guy, Retail Industry Director at Software AG. “We have seen enforced queueing for website access, retailers failing to make good on delivery promises last year and already in 2015 the withdrawal of a major supermarket chain because of the disruption caused by the day’s growing hype.

“But there is another approach to planning for the peaks which can be implemented in a few days and which ensures hugely improved fulfilment and bigger margins.”

“Through the deployment of in-memory technology and process orchestration, retailers can boost online orders and achieve complete control over supply and fulfilment. The first will dramatically increase website capacity, while the second will harmonise disparate supply chain, POS, sales and e-commerce systems – quickly paving the way to seamless retail  operations while protecting margins.”

“Failures on Black Friday and beyond are avoidable and preventative technology can be implemented very quickly,” adds Guy.

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Adrian James, UK Managing Director at Walkbase:

“We are seeing many more retailers embrace Black Friday this year, with brands now looking to implement campaigns and bring sales forward by two weeks in order to take advantage of it. Black Friday is traditionally about impulse buying with the need of instant gratification, such as delivery. However, it is all happening online this year with a clear focus around click-and-collect as consumers continue to shift towards the most convenient way of shopping.

“The key here is looking at how to convert additional sales in-store when customers collect their purchases. With some retailers now charging for services like click-and-collect, many consumers do not see this as a shopping experience, but more of a collection of goods.

“Because of this, it’s important for retailers to change this perception and take advantage of in-store space to help create an inclusive shopping experience that seamlessly combines online and offline. Black Friday will be producing a huge spike in sales for many stores so it is also vital that retailers plan, hire additional staff and find extra ways for driving revenues. By preparing and understanding their data, retailers will be able to make their in-store experience as smart of their online.”

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Markus Polleichtner and Liza Mirelman, co-founders of Postboxed.co.uk, said: “When you buy items online over Black Friday and Cyber Monday, remember they need to be delivered to your door. The majority of parcels will not fit through your postbox/ letterbox and, even if the item is small enough, the packaging is almost always too large. The likelihood is you may not be in to receive the item, so you will receive a ‘Sorry we missed you’ card from Royal Mail – requiring you to travel to your local collection depot.

“Due to record sales, over 10m parcels are due to be ‘carded’ in December. The situation is complicated by the fact that all Royal Mail depots will be closed over the festive break, putting shoppers in an Online Shopping Squeeze. Caught between a rock and a hard place, they will have bought items they won’t be able to collect. Keep in mind there is a unique, hassle-free solution to receiving your gifts which solves this nationwide dilemma – such as making sure your purchases and packaging are small enough to fit through your postbox/ letterbox.”

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MAKING BLACK FRIDAY A RED LETTER DAY FOR DARLINGTON SHOPPERS

RETAILERS in a North East town centre are tempting Black Friday bargain hunters with in-store, as well as on-line, offers.

Originally an American tradition, Black Friday, held on the first Friday following Thanksgiving, has become an international event, kick-starting present buying with huge savings and discounts.

And as businesses across the globe prepare for this year’s event, on Friday 27 November, one town hopes to boost business even further.

Retailers in Darlington town centre are hoping to persuade shoppers to turn up to the store in person – rather than shop solely on line – and have lined up plenty of bargains to persuade them to do just that.

Throughout the course of the day, high street giants, such as BHS, along with smaller independent stores such as Chestnut Clothing, at Grange Road and Footprints at Skinnergate, will be slashing prices on everything from homeware to clothing and electrical goods.

Alex Hirst, manager of Distinct Darlington, which was set up to promote business in the town centre, said: “Nationally it is expected that Black Friday sales could hit the £1billion figure and Darlington’s shops are naturally keen to attract a slice of that.

“Many have been increasing their stock considerably in order to meet projected demand and a great deal of thought has gone into the offers and discounts they will be offering.

“They are also keen to attract people into the stores and have come up with some great bargains which won’t be available on-line.

Last year Black Friday resulted in a national online spend of £810m with discounts averaging 37 per cent.

To help shoppers identify bargains and track down discounts, Distinct Darlington will be highlighting special offers on its facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/DistinctDarlington

For further information about Distinct Darlington visit www.distinctdarlington.co.uk.

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BLACK FRIDAY RESEARCH FROM INTU

  • Majority of shoppers looking to shop on Black Friday, with three in five respondents (58%) stating that they will shop on the day either online, in store, or both. In 2014, intu saw a 30% increase in footfall in its shopping centres on Black Friday; a similar increase is expected this time round.
  • Online shopping will play a prominent role with almost a third (31%) saying they would shop using this channel, whilst 17% of respondent will use both stores and online to get the items they want.
  • Cautious expenditure: Of those that will be shopping on Black Friday, a fifth (21%) plan to spend more than £200 followed by 16% who expect to spend between £50 and £99. 12% will spend between £100 and £199. But this doesn’t account for impulse buys, which is reportedly a big factor on the day.
  • Home electronics is the most popular product category for Black Friday shoppers with 28%, followed be 16% and 14% who plan to spend their  money on homeware and computers respectively. Unless people plan to gift toasters and kettles for Christmas, it could suggest that Black Friday is more an opportunity to buy presents for oneself to spruce up the home than gifts for others.

Gordon McKinnon, operations director of intu, commented: “Due to the infancy of Black Friday in the UK, there is some degree of caution, from both retailers and shoppers, as well as uncertainty about what will happen. Black Friday is like Marmite – you either love it or hate it – so while the majority of our shoppers plan to spend their money on attractive deals, there are others who are not planning to shop on the day at all. With the genie now out of the bottle, participating retailers must meticulously prepare for the day to attract customers and deliver the best shopping experience possible. We’re doing our part by extending opening hours on the day across all our centres.”

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 Dr Tim Denison’s Director of Retail Intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance

“My model predicts that store footfall for the w/c 22/11/15, the Sunday start week that includes Black Friday, will be 0.5% higher than last year.

“For Black Friday itself, I am predicting a FALL of 3.7% on Black Friday 2014, when store traffic increased by 24% on the year before. I am also predicting that traffic on the Saturday will increase by 2.9% on last year and that this will be the driver behind the rise in the week’s traffic.

“My reasoning: memories die slowly and last year’s scenes will put off some shoppers physically visiting stores on the day, though they might be more prepared over the weekend when the promotions will still be running. Others will restrict their shopping to on-line only. The main factor that could lead to a rise in footfall on the day is whether the number of retailers participating in the event climbs from last year. This is still an unknown, as is whether they will be generating compelling and genuine bargains or simply shipping “stuff” in to shift. My gut feeling is that there will be a lot of the latter, because retailers can afford to sacrifice margin at the end of another tough year.

There is no logical reason why the event should be restricted to one day, as it has been historically in the US, other than to fashion a buying frenzy, built around once-only offers. This caused mayhem last year both in stores and in the logistics channels. So my feeling is that retailers and shoppers will look to spread the load over a long weekend. Interestingly I see that Target is adopting a similar tactic in the US this year, having announced a “10 days of deals” promotional campaign sandwiched around Black Friday.

My quote from my earlier monthly RTI release is still relevant: “I’m not expecting to see a repeat of last year’s antics, when magpies squabbling over road-kill acted with more dignity than shoppers did.””

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Emarsys Releases its UK Black Friday 2015 Data Indicating UK Shoppers Will Almost Double their Spend on Clothing and Accessories this Black Friday

Upcoming Shopping Day to Yield an Increased Average Order Value of £122

London, UK – November 17, 2015 – Emarsys, a leading global provider of cloud marketing software for B2C companies, today released its Black Friday 2015 UK data shoppers will almost double their spend on clothing and accessories with an average order value for online retailers increasing to £122.

Emarsys’ data is based on the online sales habits of eight million UK consumers from last year’s Black Friday against the daily average of shopping figures from September 2014 to September 2015. This year’s Black Friday is estimated to be the UK’s first online shopping day to break £1billion, according to digital commerce consultancy, Salmon[i].

Key findings of the data include:

  • The total number of UK consumers who will make a purchase will increase by more than 400 per cent, with an average order value rising by 118 per cent;
  • There will be nearly a 500 per cent increase in clothing, accessories, sports and outdoor goods purchases, with average order value increasing by £20; and
  • An increase in health and beauty product purchases, with average order value increasing by £15.

Steven Ledgerwood, Managing Director, UK at Emarsys comments: “Black Friday is the opportunity to increase revenue and conversion rates from new and existing customers. By combining big data and technology with a creative human touch, retailers e-commerce sites and brands can reinforce their current customer relationships and start new ones — using a more personalised approach to communications ensuring their Black Friday investment creates long-term ROI.”

To take full advantage of the opportunities of Black Friday, Emarsys believes retailers, e-commerce sites and brands must make use of the big data provided by their customers throughout the year — to ensure they are targeting shoppers with relevant offers through large-scale automation. This will help increase revenue, conversions and ultimately, ROI.

“If retailers ignore their customers on Black Friday, they could miss out on the opportunity to increase their sales on the most significant shopping day of the year,” added Ledgerwood.

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Adrian James, UK Managing Director at Walkbase:

“We are seeing many more retailers embrace Black Friday this year, with brands now looking to implement campaigns and bring sales forward by two weeks in order to take advantage of it. Black Friday is traditionally about impulse buying with the need of instant gratification, such as delivery. However, it is all happening online this year with a clear focus around click-and-collect as consumers continue to shift towards the most convenient way of shopping.

“The key here is looking at how to convert additional sales in-store when customers collect their purchases. With some retailers now charging for services like click-and-collect, many consumers do not see this as a shopping experience, but more of a collection of goods.

“Because of this, it’s important for retailers to change this perception and take advantage of in-store space to help create an inclusive shopping experience that seamlessly combines online and offline. Black Friday will be producing a huge spike in sales for many stores so it is also vital that retailers plan, hire additional staff and find extra ways for driving revenues. By preparing and understanding their data, retailers will be able to make their in-store experience as smart of their online.”

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Black Friday: Are You Prepared for what is predicted to be the UK’s first ever £1bn shopping day?

By: Marco Vergani

This year’s Black Friday, a growing UK shopping phenomenon imported from the US, is less than two months away and is predicted to be the biggest one yet; with retail analysts suggesting that online UK sales could hit £1bn on that day alone. UK sellers should get ready for consumer spending like they’ve not seen before.

Last year in the UK, online spending hit an estimated £810m on Black Friday as consumers were successfully lured in by retailers that significantly discounted their products. According to Getty, last year’s Black Friday “threw traditional British pre-Christmas shopping habits into disarray”. This unexpected purchasing shift caught many retailers off-guard and exposed those that were unprepared.

The event highlighted nationally that online retailers should devote just as much time to optimising their digital commerce experience as they do with their brick-and-mortar stores.

Armed with past experience, what should smart brands be doing to ensure they’re ready for this holiday season? The companies most likely to win the sales race started planning many months ago. If you’re just beginning to prepare, here is a simple check-list you can apply this year:

Be mobile. You know this already: optimising the shopping experience for mobile users is essential. According to Monetate, desktop-based traffic to retail sites dropped from 52.0 percent in Q1 2014 to 47.4 percent by Q4 2014, with nearly 31 percent of traffic now coming from tablets and 25.0 percent coming from smartphones during the final quarter of the year. Smart branded manufacturers need to provide online retail experiences that work seamlessly across all screen sizes or devices. Responsive design principles are effective and continuous from smartphone to tablet to desktop and back again.

Go global. The single biggest online shopping day in 2014 was 11th November, when Chinese shoppers spent a staggering $9.3 billion on Singles Day. This new world record put a spotlight on the global online shopping opportunity and the importance of cross-border commerce. As the retail world becomes more connected, digital marketers’ promotional schedules are now a melting pot of global holidays that once were defined by physical borders. Today, European shoppers expect promotions during the U.S.’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday while American shoppers seek deals on China’s Singles Day. We fully expect this trend – the blurring of the boundaries between international online holidays – to accelerate with each passing season. Smart manufacturers should begin expanding their promotional schedules as soon as this year.

Compete on price. Under pressure from discounters and marketplaces, branded manufacturers—even those with strict pricing policies—are competing more aggressively on price. This trend is continuing in 2015, as customers come to expect compelling “flash sales”, deeper markdowns and other limited-time offers more often, and earlier than ever before. Branded manufacturers need to weigh whether it’s more important to earn new customers through great promotions, which can fuel their business for the long-term, than it is to protect their margins in the short term.

Win on value. Still, in 2015, price alone can’t guarantee a sale. In an environment saturated with special offers and limited-time deals, customers can never feel completely sure that they’re getting the very best price – which is why delivering value is more important than ever. In response, some branded manufacturers are using attribution analytics to prioritise the few channel partners who deliver the most value—and pulling back from other relationships to focus on building and growing their own direct-to-consumer online businesses. By carefully curating customers’ experiences of their products, these manufacturers are offering a holistic experience of brand quality that most channel partners can’t match.

Build relationships. Once you’ve converted a customer with a spectacular deal, how do you build a relationship that delivers rewarding lifetime value? Turning Black Friday bargain-seekers into loyal year-round customers is a challenge—especially online, where competition is fierce and attention is scarce. Building lasting relationships with customers is a matter of listening and learning. The most thoughtful manufacturers are listening not just through their own channels, but everywhere else shoppers are talking, including review sites, forums and social networks. And they learn by investing in analytics that give them deeper insights into shopper preferences and help them even anticipate their customers’ desires.

Respect the experience. As consumer expectations around convenience, quality and personalization rise, “good” shopping experiences are no longer good enough. Even something as simple as page load times can impact buyers’ decisions to shop on one site versus another. Research by Akamai notes that half of shoppers will go to another site to accomplish their task and nearly a quarter won’t return to a “problem” site when a page loads slowly or stalls altogether.

On 27th November, ecommerce sites must provide rich, satisfying customer experiences across devices, browsers, platforms and networks, or risk jeopardizing both its Black Friday sale and future revenue sources.

Marco Vergani is Vice President and General Manager of Europe and the Middle East at Digital River, the leading global provider of Commerce-as-a-Service solutions. Based in Digital River’s London office, has led customer-focused international sales operations for more than 25 years

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Jamie Merrick, head of industry insights at Demandware comments:

“The retail fight for the Christmas share of wallet is more complex than ever this year. Black Friday spend is going to be big, but a change in marketing strategy could help supermarkets avoid the one-day bargain tussle. Big ticket sales items lure customers into stores, and help supermarkets secure their sales of turkeys and groceries over the entire festive period. So, spreading the shopping experience makes sense from this perspective.

“If retailers are to make the most out of this busy shopping period, offering the right deals, at the right time, across all channels – will be key to Christmas success. Catering for an increasingly digital audience is critical. The Christmas sparkle will come from a shift towards a seamless customer experience that spans across every retail touch point therefore online shopping and m-commerce needs to increase in sophistication as consumers seek a more personalised experience.”

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Online-only Discount Retailer Agrees With Asda Stance Over Black Friday

Approved Food, a year-round discount retailer is welcoming the move by Asda, the first of the big four supermarkets to turn their back on the ‘darkest day’ in the retail calendar.

For discount retailers, offering value for money and low prices is an everyday occurrence – not just one day of ‘price-slashed madness’, according to the founder of Approved Food, Dan Cluderay.

“Today’s consumers are more cost savvy than ever before, so businesses need to ensure that they are appropriately managing their marketing offers to meet that trend,” comments Dan, who ships over 2,500 Approved Food orders a week to shoppers across the UK snapping up to 70% off.

“The Black Friday approach is a flawed marketing approach in many ways” continues Dan, “as retailers have to buy in stock to manage the demand, defeating the original point of Black Friday and only adding to the issue of waste. It is refreshing that various retailers have recognised that and as a result are not partaking this year.

“Asda’s move to offer value for money over a longer period of time is a much better way of listening to customer demand and supplying accordingly.”

Last year, Dan Cluderay and business partner Andy Needham called for the ‘false economy practice’ that is Black Friday to be put under the spotlight; highlighting the need for fairer pricing all year round for families across the UK. Despite many large retailers claiming huge discounts, families were let down with small price changes with as little as 10% knocked off items with a value in excess of £100 or more.

Dan added: “Last year there was chaos in the shops and chaos on the internet as a result of Black Friday.

“Shoppers want the deals all year round, so that’s how we operate. As retailers, we should collectively offer working people value all year round and avoid a one day rush that knocks out the internet for the rest of the working world!”

Approved Food works directly with food manufacturers and suppliers who have excess stock, or stock nearing its best before date. As well as offering discount to shoppers this business model dramatically reduces the amount of waste produced throughout the UK and so far, has saved over 32 million items from landfill.

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Daniel Todaro, managing director of field marketing specialist, Gekko.

“Considering the chaos that occurred last year, with overcrowded stores, low stock and even scuffles breaking out amongst shoppers, brands and retailers need to be mindful of how these scenes could play out on news reports in an unseemly light; not only for brand reputation but also for customer loyalty.

“On the flipside, Black Friday presents an easy opportunity to drive stock sell-through and target shoppers ahead of Christmas. Those brands that have adopted a careful and strategic planning approach are best positioned to reap the benefits during the flash sales. For example, in utilising in-store promoters and brand ambassadors, brands can steal a march over their competitors. Their mission will be to sell up though the range and use the discounted headline models to make attachment sales thus helping to increase the average value of each sale.

“It will be interesting to see how a retailer’s decision to scale down its Black Friday operations will impact its trading figures during peak season. Positive or negative – only time will tell.”

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Britons could lose over half a million pounds to scams this Black Friday

Black Friday 2015 is set to be the biggest single online shopping day in UK history, but British shoppers are being warned to be on their guard for an increased risk of online fraud on the day.

With a predicted first ever online spend of £1.07bn in one day alone in the UK on 27th November, Black Friday is an opportunity for consumers to get major discounts in the run up to Christmas, though the increased online activity also provides opportunities for fraudsters to take advantage of those caught up in the spending frenzy of good deals.

From the overall spend prediction of more than £1bn in one day, research from Voucherbox.co.uk reveals that up to £614,259.26 could be scammed from eager Brits shopping online.

Research has shown that of the total £21.6bn spent over the 2014 Christmas shopping period, 0.0574% was spent on scams totalling a £12.4 million loss.Applying this rate to the predicted £1.07bn figure for Black Friday would see scams reach in excess of half a million pounds.

The £12.4 million conned out of Britons over the Christmas 2014 period was a 31% rise from 2013 when UK consumers were duped out of £9.5 million over the same time frame.

A specific operation used by professional scammers around holidays such as Black Friday and Boxing Day is the creation of fake retailer websites using replicated brand logos, offering ‘must-have’ tech items such as smartphones and video game consoles at “unbelievable” prices. Fraudsters monitor the most sought after goods and entice consumers to pay for products which will never arrive.

Other types of online fraud include the creation of fake listings on genuine sites, the implementation of fake or insecure payment systems, email and SMS scams related to fake retail offers, enticement to transfer money online for purchases and the theft of personal banking details through official retail sites specifically targeting busy shopping days.

Originating from the US, Black Friday has an increasing relevance to UK retailers and consumers, with huge temporary discounts offered at the start of the Christmas period.

Data from Google UK trends saw a 300% increase in searches for the term Black Friday from 2013 and 2014.

Global digital commerce consultancy Salmon have said that 30% of Brits, almost four times as many as the 8% in 2014, are planning to shop online this Black Friday, making it the biggest Black Friday in the UK to date.

Shane Forster, UK Country Manager at Voucherbox.co.uk said, “Online security is a huge topic at the moment, and with the rise of scams that are focusing on big shopping days such as Black Friday, bargain hunters need to be switched on to deals that look too good to be true when they are shopping online. If not, they are at risk of losing money, rather than saving money.”

“On Black Friday this year more online shopping than ever is expected and less experienced internet users are often targeted by fraudsters. We advise shoppers to always double check a website if they have not used it before to ensure that it is a valid site. If they are in doubt, consumers should avoid purchasing from the site at all costs.”

Online security consultant Stuart Spice of spicenewmedia.co.uk, commented: “Scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated and are using very genuine looking websites to entice shoppers. These websites will be online for barely a day or two, leaving victims high and dry. Even certain sponsored advertising links on popular search engines should be treated with caution as fraudsters commonly use this technique to quickly get to the top of the search results list. Because these websites are so new, it’s likely that anti-virus software will not be aware of them, leaving shoppers further exposed.”

Online safety tips for Black Friday shopping are as follows:

  • Purchase on credit cards not debit cards
  • Look out for spelling mistakes or poor images which may indicate a hastily created website
  • Check that the URL is legitimately from the recognized retailer’s website, make sure it is www.ebay.co.uk and not www.ebay1.co.uk, for example
  • Use payment verifications systems such as Verified by Visa
  • Choose passwords that are secure and change them often
  • Beware of clicking links in emails that could lead to a scam site
  • Avoid money transfers to unknown people, instead use online secure payment systems such as PayPal
  • Make sure there is a firewall installed on your computer and that it is kept up to date
  • Be aware of shared Wi-Fi zones that may not be secure
  • Ensure the payment page starts with HTTPS not HTTP, as this indicates a secure page
  • If you have been scammed, report the crime here http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/report_fraud

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Uwe Hennig, CEO of Detego comments

“All retailers know that great service drives sales but despite this, most fashion retailers in the UK are lagging behind their international counterparts in terms of using the latest technologies to enable better service. Other European nations, such as Germany and Austria are leading the way in adopting methods for smart merchandise management at an item level. Using new business intelligence tools enables their leading fashion retailers to track every single clothing item individually in order to improve the entire in-store experience for their consumers.

“On days like Black Friday and during the Christmas shopping season, offering the best customer service is one of the best ways for retailers to stand out from the competition. One key element is having a perfect grasp of what is inside the store and where it is. We’ve all had the experience when a store assistant disappears to the backroom in search of a desired item and by the time they return, we’d lost all interest in purchasing that particular item.

“Fashion retailers around Europe have already adopted tools that can give shop assistants real time overview of what is available in the store, in the backroom, in the warehouse or even in the shop corner as well as the ability to find and reserve that item instantly. This is the kind of experience customers would love in the UK and what could become a competitive advantage for retailers adopting such technologies early.”

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James Miller, senior retail consultant at Experian Marketing Services, said:

“The 2015 Christmas period is on track to be another record year for online retail in the UK. We expect that Black Friday will continue to break new ground for online shopping, passing the billion pound mark for the first time. With consumers now expecting great bargains and trouble free service, retailers must ensure that they have planned their marketing strategies and logistics around these key dates, with carefully prepared cross-channel campaigns, engaging the right customers, via the right media.

“The different types of customer driving the pre- and post- Christmas sales rush must also be taken into account. Retailers should be aware of the strain that will be placed on delivery networks in the run up to Christmas, and also provide a good level of in-store support for the Boxing Day and New Year’s Day rush.”

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Justin Opie, managing director at IMRG said:

“The size and scale of Black Friday 2014 took everyone by surprise, overwhelming some carrier and retailer operations, as order volumes came in at a full 30% higher than expectation. All the indicators point to a much larger Black Friday this year – both in terms of greater numbers of retailers taking part and growing shopper interest – so the opportunity is vast, but there are many things to consider if it is to be managed efficiently and effectively.

“The first is that we expect Black Friday to become the ‘Black Friday period’ for some retailers, who will run campaigns over several days or even weeks. Also last year anticipation of Black Friday led to a slow start to the Christmas shopping season and panic-discounting by some, which impacted on profit margins. So the availability and rate of discounts will need to be rationalised this year for it to be sustainable.

“Finally it’s important to ensure that customers get the delivery experience they have been promised. Retailers should remember that many shoppers will be happy to wait longer than normal to have their orders delivered if it’s still several weeks until Christmas Day. This will help to ease the strain on fulfilment operations, should bottlenecks occur, but the most important thing is that customers know when to expect their delivery to arrive.”

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Dan Wagner, Founder and CEO of Powa Technologies, says: “We can expect sales to ramp up ahead of Black Friday, Cyber Monday and of course, Christmas. However, retail sales figures have fluctuated this past year, so retailers must take steps to avoid being lulled into complacency. Retailers need to embrace creative technology and apps as a way of better connecting with their customers. Shoppers today want to be able to buy products from their digital devices in a matter of seconds, no matter where they are in the world.

“If businesses want to see continuous growth it is essential to develop a strong multi-channel approach, where the online and offline worlds are seamlessly integrated and shoppers can purchase products quickly and efficiently. Failure to do so will see more negative figures across the sector.”

Dan adds: “Shoppers want more than an online offering, especially when mobile technology allows us to turn any medium, from billboards to TV adverts, into virtual shop fronts. What they really want is a ubiquitous solution which allows them to purchase items quickly, whether they are walking home from work, browsing in a shop, or watching TV at home.”

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eBay’s new Click & Collect options just in time for Black Friday and Christmas, says ParcelHero

With just 25 working days until the Black Friday-Cyber Monday weekend, ParcelHero says eBay’s new Argos Click & Collect delivery options are ideally timed.

There are only 25 working days until the Black Friday weekend and eight weeks until Christmas, and the countdown is on to the year’s peak retail season. Marketplace delivery expert ParcelHero says eBay’s latest Argos Click & Collect options will arrive at the perfect time for eBay traders and shoppers.

ParcelHero’s Head of Public Relations, David Jinks MILT, says: ‘Traders will welcome the new eBay T&Cs (terms and conditions) that allow items with paid-for delivery to use the popular Argos Click & Collect collection points. Until now only sellers’ free-delivery items qualified for Click & Collect from Argos stores. eBay traders need to be able to offer a range of quality delivery options into Argos Click & Collect points. There are some items for which free delivery services are simply not appropriate.’

Explains David: ‘From November 23 all eligible eBay items can be offered for delivery into Argos Click & Collect points around the UK, whether they are free delivery or paid for. Providing the item is listed for delivery within 5 days, weighs no more than 20kg and doesn’t exceed 120cm, then most paid-for delivery items should qualify for delivery into the Argos Click & Collect system.’

David adds: ‘This is good news for eBay traders, widely increasing their delivery options and coming just in time for the peak Black Friday though to Christmas period. It’s also good news for customers, who can now pick up a wider range of eBay items at Argos Click & Collect collection points. Of course it’s also good for Argos, who get increased footfall into their stores, and will be hoping to convert some of these eBay buyers into Argos buyers as well!’

David concludes: ‘Argos continues to be a delivery trend-setter. As well as pioneering click and collect, this month it introduced same-day delivery on its Home Delivery items, 7 days a week with a choice of time slots. This Christmas will see delivery become one of the key factors in winning sales, and Argos has shown considerable creativity in developing new options and attracting new customers.’

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Black Friday: Fanning the flames on poor retail execution

Tristan Rogers, CEO of Concrete “To completely misquote the late Douglas Adams, “retail is big, really, really big.” And what that translates to in monetary terms is an expensive disaster waiting to happen.

Retail seems like a pretty crazy business model, when you think about it. Designing, manufacturing, shipping, stocking, presenting, marketing and selling consumer goods in a high footfall environment, paying rent, business rates, wages and utilities, all in the hope that at 09:00 in the morning, someone might wander by, enter your store and possibly buy something.. And yet retail is really, really big, so we know it works. Sort of.

Black Friday, like any other promotional event, is designed to woo consumers into stores for a deal that’s too good to miss. And the increased footfall, having been driven by either a specific promotion or just the general promise of discounted product, is seen as the first step towards selling more stuff to even more people. But of course by discounting, the gross margin of that product is now reduced and, proportionately, the net margin could well disappear when faced with the huge overhead that retailers carry in their business models.

So what can be done?

The store environment is where the battle for survival is won or lost. McKinsey’s recent report shows that in a maturing retail environment, luxury ecommerce could be topping out at between 15-18% of total revenues. This means that up to 85% of retail revenue will still be coming from the store environment, so it is critical that in-store execution of a brand’s proposition is done to the best of its ability. Yet today, it is still common practice for retail brands to communicate with a store through a mish-mash of manual processes. This one-way approach to communication ignores the needs and circumstances of a store’s individual requirements. It is common for a retail head office to have no idea on whether specific communications and tasks have actually been carried out, let alone how well they have been executed. When you then think of the number of stores being communicated with in this way, the problem is huge. If the store is a battlefield, the troops are seriously ill-equipped.

Are discounts necessary?

Think of it another way. If a retail brand could deliver 100% operational control and visibility into its store network, could it generate a 1% uplift in store revenue? I’ve yet to meet a retail executive who doesn’t think so. When you think that many retail brands are struggling to make more than 5% margin, that 1% is meaningful.

So Black Friday can’t just be about discounts. It needs to be underpinned by brilliant operational execution, from planning through to task management and education delivery into store, which in turn drives brilliant customer service and increased basket value. A retail brand should never be reliant on discounts. It should only use them tactically to clear old stock or draw footfall to lead to other full price purchases. Black Friday is no exception.

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Rupal Karia, managing director of retail and hospitality, UK and I, Fujitsu:

“Last year’s Black Friday saw vast amounts of crowding both in store and online – and this year it is pipped to be even bigger, with predictions that it will be the UK’s first £1bn online shopping day. This poses both an enormous sales opportunity for retailers, but also a high volume of traffic retailers are set to face.

“With a month left to prepare, retailers need to look at how the different channels can play their part in ensuring success and delivering a true customer experience even at this time of heightened activity.

“With an ever-increasing amount of channels, it is imperative that retailers take an integrated approach and deliver the same experience for customers, regardless of whether they will be making purchases on a device or in-store. This is also a chance to attract new customers for the rest of the year as most consumers look to shop with retailers who can provide the best experience possible. Only by putting consumers at the heart of the business, personalising the shopping experience and simplifying the buying process, retailers can hope to win the battle for consumers’ hearts – whether that’s in-store or online and Black Friday is a chance to show this to new customers.”

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Retailers must have an omni-channel strategy in place if they are to make the most of this record breaking Black Friday

Black Friday online sales are predicted to break the £1 billion barrier this year

With Black Friday drawing closer, new research has revealed that online sales are set to reach a record breaking £1 billion. However, retailers must make sure their online and in-store operations are in-sync and up to scratch when bargain hunters descend on shops and websites this Black Friday. If not, retailers risk losing out on huge sums of money, mobile commerce expert Dan Wagner warns.

A study by ecommerce consultancy Salmon predicts that online orders on Black Friday are expected to grow by 17.6 per cent in comparison to the previous year, which will result in a rise of £150m to reach the record breaking £1 billion online sales barrier for the first time.[1] In a survey by consumer insight company eDigital, 30 per cent of respondents also said they planned to buy online on Black Friday, compared to eight per cent of shoppers last year.[2] The growing interest in online shopping on Black Friday has been attributed to its increased media attention as well as changes in consumer habits.

Retailers will need to anticipate the peak times of purchasing on Black Friday, to avoid straining their online operations and ensure the best experience for customers. They will also need to provide the very best omni-channel experience to their customers, to ensure that shoppers have as many options as possible to purchase items. Some of the issues that occurred on Black Friday last year included multiple national retailer sites going down, slow browse navigation and online queues – something that online shoppers sought to avoid in the first place.[3]

Dan Wagner CEO and founder of Powa Technologies, comments: “The peaked interest in Black Friday comes at a time where consumers are increasingly prioritising ease of purchasing over all other aspects of shopping. It makes sense that more consumers are turning online for their shopping experience. Retailers need to put an ear to the ground, especially on Black Friday, and work on maximising the ease of access for shoppers, along with responding promptly to any customer enquires. They must have contingency plans in place to meet any potential problems.”

He adds: “Nowadays consumers no longer want their high-street shop to start at the actual high-street, they want the full experience of interacting with their items of interest, anywhere, anytime, at the touch of a button. In order for retailers to deliver this experience, firms should invest in the omni-channel experience and look to mobile and tablet devices to improve how customers interact with brands when shopping. Retailers with strong omni-channel strategies will be the ones to watch in future, as they will deliver a seamless experience – integrating the online and offline worlds and enabling shoppers to purchase products quickly and efficiently via any platform.”

A mobile commerce platform such as PowaTag enables retailers to adapt to such situations and consumer demands by transforming any point of contact into an opportunity for instant transaction. After downloading the free app, customers can complete transactions in seconds with pre-stored payment information. PowaTag gives shoppers the power to complete purchases using an array of triggers, including scanning print material, Bluetooth beacons, audio tags and social media.

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Bloated retail web pages could spell Black Friday disaster

The UK’s top retailers could be storing up trouble for Black Friday and risking their customers going elsewhere by delivering oversized home pages, according to new insight from global information assurance specialist NCC Group.

Analysis of the UK’s top 50 retail sites revealed that the average home page size has increased in every quarter in 2015, from 1.77MB in Q1 to 2.02MB in Q3. This is likely to be one reason why total load time also slowed, going up from an average of 11.43 seconds in Q1 to 13.93 seconds in Q3 (measured at 2Mbps). This is far in excess of the recommended standard of 3 seconds and therefore may deter customers from using the site.

This analysis also found that a number of sites were increasingly bloated by very large images, often in the form of banner ads. According to Ben Daniel, head of the professional services team at NCC Group’s Web Performance division, this should ring alarm bells for retailers as they head into the busy pre-Christmas period:

“Retailers often find themselves incredibly hard-pressed as they prepare their Black Friday promotions. They manage to produce beautifully designed and carefully crafted ads, but all too often forget the critical step of ensuring these images are optimised for the web.”

The result can be that websites slow down at the worst possible time, driving customers away. The problem is exacerbated when retail sites are already under tremendous pressure thanks to increased traffic on and around Black Friday.

Daniel continued: “By increasing the size of your home page at your busiest time of year, you’re not only going to slow the page down and put customers off – you’re also increasing the chances that your site will go down altogether. It’s a bit like blocking the entrance to your high street store with a big ‘sale’ sign: you’re attracting more customers and, at the same time, making it harder for them to buy your products and services.

“Instead, retailers should be looking at creating lighter web pages as Black Friday approaches, protecting both their revenue and their brand by delivering a better experience for their customers. One way to minimise page weight is to ensure that banner ad images are optimised for the web. Alternatively, it’s often possible to create such ads without resorting to imagery at all, just by using cleverly styled HTML. As well as bringing down page size, ads created in this way are likely to be displayed earlier than images. This kind of approach, combined with load testing and capacity planning, can go a long way towards mitigating the risk that things will go wrong on the big day.”

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73% of Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers have a strategy in place to bag the best bargains

Strategies include going to the shops in advance to work out where the product is located on the shelves (21%), working in a team to hunt down the items (17%), getting there as early as possible to queue (21%) and, for Cyber Monday in particular, 40 per cent of people check their internet connection to the retailer in advance.

Research conducted by predictive analytics firm Blue Yonder also found that only one in four people who shopped on Black Friday / Cyber Monday last year had a good retail experience and that one fifth of items purchased were sold on.

The nationwide survey of 2000 individuals uncovered some interesting statistics.  Three quarters of respondents that had shopped on Black Friday and Cyber Monday last year had a bad experience, with reasons ranging from ‘the shops were too busy’, ‘there was not enough of a discount’, to ‘it was traumatic and not worth the hassle’ and ‘products were out of stock’. This increases with Cyber Monday as 84% stated they had a bad experience: Nearly half found websites too slow or found them crashing, and a number felt the discount did not warrant the hassle.

It is unsurprising then to see that the research suggests even fewer people will get their shopping done on these two days this year. Last year 46% of the nation hit the shops on Black Friday and 44% surfed the internet for deals on Cyber Monday. This year only 38% of respondents say they will be shopping on these discount days. The reasons for this:

  • A third don’t like the queues and found the shops too busy
  • A quarter prefer to find other ways to get the best price
  • A fifth saw footage from last year
  • A quarter feel there is either not enough of a discount or they can get a better deal in the January sales.

Markus Juhr-de Benedetti, Chief Revenue Officer at Blue Yonder, says: “It is clear that a careful approach to Black Friday and Cyber Monday by retailers is needed. Bad experiences can put customers off brands, especially if they leave empty handed due to a product selling out too quickly. We all remember the scenes from last year’s shops. With individuals planning their purchases so far in advance, Black Friday and Cyber Monday can also impact sales over the rest of the year. Using predictive analytics, retailers strike the right balance between discount, stock availability and profitability, ensuring it’s win-win for consumer and retailer.”

Cyber Monday was taken advantage of most by the younger generations. The survey showed that millenials were more than twice as likely to shop on Cyber Monday than over 55s. In addition, the findings show that those set to brave the sales have been waiting on average 2 months and 5 days to make their big purchases, with a dedicated 7  per cent stating they have been waiting longer than 7 months. The items most waited for are tablets, laptops and smartphones (16%), followed by games consoles (15%) and televisions (13%).

The research also revealed that a fifth cent of purchases were bought to be sold on and a further fifth of shoppers bought an item that they either did not need, wish they hadn’t bought or felt guilty about and returned afterwards.  This demonstrates that some consumers get swept up in the hype of these days, rather than shopping for items that are actually needed.

The Blue Yonder research additionally found that, with Christmas starting to weigh on shoppers’ minds, only a small percentage of around 8 per cent use Black Friday and Cyber Monday as part of their Christmas shopping plans. With their eyes on bagging bargains on bigger ticket items such as tablets or laptops shoppers continue to stick to their usual Christmas shopping habits and the last minute dash on Christmas Eve sees no signs of abating.

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With just less than one month to go until what global ecommerce consultancy Salmon predicts will be the UK’s first £1bn online shopping day, retailers should be in the final stages of preparations for Black Friday 2015.

To help in final preparation and ensure they capitalise on the sales potential of the days, Salmon’s  CTO Glen Burson and Head of Managed Services John Beechen, ‎offer advice to businesses on what to achieve over the next four weeks in order to be truly ready.

Five critical objectives include:

  1. Stagger your marketing activities. Although a surge on Black Friday is inevitable, feeding customer deals gradually in the weeks leading up to and beyond the big day will keep consumers shopping throughout the peak and on Cyber Monday, whilst reducing strain on infrastructure and fulfilment teams.
  1. Brief the business. Now is the time to ensure every department is au fait with the plan for peak trading on 27 November – not just in silo but across the entire business. Being aligned will ensure all online trading and operations teams can anticipate surges and be ready.
  1. Run an incident test. Ideally, the majority – if not all – performance checks will have already been completed across all online platforms. Simulating a major incident to understand how watertight your contingency plan is will enable retailers to understand how they will cope with a “dam burst” scenario if faced with an unexpected influx of traffic on the day.
  1. Have a back-up plan. If you are completely unprepared it’s not too late to put some basic functionality in place. For example, adding a queuing system whereby customers are placed in a waiting line to access the website will help to control the surge and reduce the chances of the site crashing. This is also a good contingency plan for retailers on the day, should they suffer unexpected problems, implementing a queuing system can relieve strain on back end operations whilst the problem is fixed.
  1. Ensure your staffing plans are set.  Your staffing plans and shifts should be set, with everyone involved in peak operations (including your vendors) aware of their role and responsibility during the period.  Shifts should be in place for both Black Friday and the weekend, and contact details published.

Glen Burson commented: “Retailers should be putting the final touches to their peak operations strategy. Black Friday is an annual event – everyone knows it’s coming but the scale of consumer demand at any given minute can be unpredictable and this causes issues such as websites crashing, orders not processing or delivery delays. But the retailers who are as prepared as possible, from front-end to back-end, will be the ones who triumph.”

Salmon has created ‘The Black Friday and Peak Trading Ecommerce Operations Playbook’, a guide based on Salmon’s experience in supporting the peak operations of several leading UK retailers. Salmon will also be continuing the ‘Peak operations service’ this year, which was successfully run for retailers in 2014 which included performance testing, readiness planning and a 24 hour operations centre to monitor and detect site issues before they impact the customer: https://www.salmon.com/en/black-friday

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Annual shopping event Black Friday, a huge hit in America for years, is a phenomenon rapidly gaining in popularity in the UK. Digital consultancy Salmon has predicted this year’s will be the UK’s first £1bn online shopping day, with four times the amount of shoppers planning to buy online compared to last year.*

However, as the 27th of November approaches, Kurt Cavano, chief strategy officer at GT Nexus, has made the following comments about the pressure this event will put on the supply chain:

“Retailers and manufacturers typically work way in advance to predict sales volumes – often forecasting on the success of a product that is going to be the ‘in’ thing that year. However, a retailer’s planning efforts and preparedness for the on-coming seasonal demand, which already places a considerable strain on the global supply chain network, will be put to the test when Black Friday comes around on November 27th.

“To date, some retailers have won – reaping the many rewards of this shopping bonanza as it grows in popularity among the nation’s shoppers – but many others have lost out. Lacking the essential backend capabilities to keep pace with demand and fulfil the orders flooding in, their performance has suffered and so too has their reputation. Sadly, it seems that even outside of holiday season UK retailers are already failing to deliver the basics to their customers; a recent survey by YouGov revealed that in the past year 83 per cent of UK consumers were unable to buy the product they wanted in-store, while 70 per cent have found the same online. Unsurprisingly, retailers can pay a heavy price for stock-outs – disappointed shoppers simply buy from elsewhere or abandon their intention to buy entirely.**

“Stocking the right goods, at the right time, at the right place, in the right quantities is an enormous coordination effort – but that is what today’s shoppers have come to rightly expect. Success hinges on the success of a retailer’s supporting supply chain infrastructure. While retailers continue to invest in the front-end of their business – the customer facing web sites and in-store promotions – they are failing to collaborate effectively with their trading partners and are lagging in their ability to execute the movement of goods through the supply chain network at ease. With events like Black Friday growing in popularity, the age of ‘fast fashion’ and the quick turnaround of product lines, planning can only take companies so far. Being able to rapidly adapt to demand and circumstance is key. For that – to both cope and to thrive – having a transparent, nimble and collaborative supply chain platform is essential.”

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