Black Friday/Cyber Monday

Here, we bring you a selection of comments, predictions and top tips from retail industry experts on two of the biggest shopping events of the year – Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Do you have a comment on this topic? Please email abigail@a1mediamagazines.com.

Photo by Ashkan Forouzani on Unsplash.

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David Emm, Principal Security Researcher at Kaspersky:

“Sales events entice us with big discounts and this sort of temptation can be hard to resist. After a chaotic 12 months, it is understandable for consumers to do everything they can, not just to save money but also to fully enjoy the festive season. However, we are often bombarded with marketing communications, and it can be tough to recognise the fake ones. Kaspersky research shows that just a quarter (25%) of shoppers are aware scams are more prevalent during holiday and sales periods.

Online fraudsters and scammers are always trying to find ways to make us part with our personal information and cash. If we are not careful, our data, such as payment credentials and email addresses, could fall into the wrong hands. Finding out if a sender is genuine is one of the easiest ways to avoid being drawn into a sales scam. Being vigilant is key to successful sales shopping, by double checking the offers that are sent are legitimate and only making purchases with legitimate stores through secure payment methods, like credit cards.”

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Rob Cameron, CEO of Barclaycard Payments:

“We’re now able to look at a full day’s worth of Black Friday sales, and as expected the number of transactions is down compared to last year. It’s important to note that transactions are still up considerably compared to the rest of lockdown, but the real focus now will be on Wednesday 2nd December – the end of the national lockdown in England – when we predict that shoppers heading back to the high street will bring about a ‘Black Wednesday’, with transactions likely surpassing what we’ve seen today.

“In what has been a difficult year for UK Retail, I would like to congratulate businesses for the resilience and determination they have shown. Thanks to the lessons learned in the first lockdown, we have never had more businesses set up to take payments online, offsetting much of the drop in in-store sales over the past month. In fact, if businesses hadn’t taken those lessons on board and embraced e-commerce to the same degree, we believe that the overall drop in transactions could have been up to twice as large.”

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Neil Devlin, Director of Retail at Acxiom:

“On Black Friday this year we can expect to see an increase in consumers shopping around more on price. But it’s not just about offering the best deal on the market, it’s about the messaging around it. For those that have less disposable income than a year ago brands need to communicate in ways that are sensitive to that, with the awareness that their customer is more likely to shop around for a bargain. For those who have saved money on travel and going out this year, they may have an eye on luxury goods more than they did before, but they want more bang for their buck. Discounting then needs to be smarter and more personalised. It’s imperative that retailers understand their customers demographics, what their purchasing and how they’re shopping. As a starter, they need to be working with the right customer data platforms to understand where data is, in order to provide the best possible experience, and stand out in a crowded market.”

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 Yannis Larios, VP of Strategy at Viva Wallet:

“Retailers everywhere are under pressure to make the most of this ‘event’ to encourage customers back in store or online. But to be successful, it’s critical that they can cope with digital payment demands. Furthermore, they must ensure the purchasing process is streamlined and designed intuitively to capture as many customers as possible.  

“Whether it’s contactless terminals to avoid handling cash, or personalized online international shopping experiences so consumers are offered their favourite local payment method based on their individual preference and device, facilitating digital payments with international card schemes. This, along with local card schemes, is an absolute pre-requisite for any retailer all across Europe. 

“This payment challenge can be easily addressed not just by seasoned, high-volume retailers, but also by merchants of any type and size through a single, integrated bundle of payment services that includes card acceptance, an IBAN account and a business card to withdraw funds. If retailers can accept all international and local payment methods equally, through a single, seamless digital onboarding and activation process, it’s a win-win scenario from both a customer experience and a business perspective.  

“The Black Friday bonanza could prove the much-needed uplift that retailers need heading into the most important season of the year. This is the turning point for brands to capitalise on payment systems that can be as agile as they are and not miss out on a single customer.” 

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Jonathan Wright, Industry Director – Retail at Six Degrees:

“2020 continues to be a turbulent year, but the retailers who are thriving amidst the COVID storm are those who have strengthened their online operations. Online spending has soared to record highs, as increasingly consumers have shopped from their laptops and smartphones rather than venturing into town and city centres.

However, expanding retail operations online isn’t without its challenges. Today’s retailers are operating in a market where consumers are becoming increasingly savvy, increasingly sure of what they want and increasingly demanding of anyone they purchase from.

User experience is everything – 53% of mobile users abandon websites that take more than three seconds to load. Your website’s uptime, performance and security are essential elements of the user experience you deliver.

And as you prepare your ecommerce website for the Golden Quarter, cybercriminals will be preparing to target it. Retail is one of the most targeted sectors for cyber-attacks in 2020. Data is the new currency for cybercriminals, who focus not just on money and goods but also customers’ personal data that can be stolen and sold online.

Throughout the golden quarter and into 2021, retailers should be considering long-term strategies that use the right secure cloud-based technology platforms to enable them to adapt to changing consumer demands. 

The first step on this journey is to ensure the uptime, performance and security of your ecommerce website. This will enhance user experience and maximise conversions whilst minimising the risk to your business and your consumers from cyber-attack.”

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Tjeerd Brenninkmeijer, EVP, Bloomreach, EMEA:

“This year’s Black Friday is set to look a little different. Non-essential retailers remain closed as a result of the lockdown, meaning there will be no long queues outside physical stores that we have been accustomed to each year. Just because stores are closed, this doesn’t mean consumers won’t be looking to snap up Black Friday deals this year, and many will be looking online. Retailers must lean upon the lifeline that is eCommerce, to ensure that they can maximise sales and take advantage of increased consumer activity. This increased online spend is set to continue in the run-up to the festive season, and Bloomreach predicts that online retail will increase between 36%-38% over last year’s festive season. Brands must be prepared for this and ensure they have the teams to fulfil online orders, that online shopping services are able to handle increased capacity, and home delivery services are streamlined to ensure that even the most tardy shoppers won’t end up disappointed.”

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Danny Chazonoff, Chief Operating Officer at Paysafe Group:

“Today’s first digital-only Black Friday presents a huge opportunity for online retailers to capitalise on existing customers and tap into a new consumer base. Our research revealed that 43% of UK consumers were shopping online more frequently due to COVID-19 restrictions and 21% had shopped online for the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic, opening up a whole new demographic to eCommerce.

“Today could also be the turning point for online businesses forcing them to evaluate their checkout experience and assess whether they are catering to the changing demands and expectations of consumers. Our research highlighted that 78% of UK businesses have offered consumers new ways to pay, including contactless payments. Whereas 37% had integrated at least one new payment method into their online checkout. This is largely due to (75%) seeing a change in consumer payment preferences with the most noteworthy difference (37%) being the increased use of digital wallets.

“However, while 60% of businesses see alternative payment methods as more important than ever, it isn’t the only reason online retailers must consider updating their checkout. 54% of UK online businesses noticed an increase in cart abandonment rates during COVID-19 while 60% of online businesses say COVID-19 has resulted in consumers being more concerned about being a victim of fraud.

“With 36% of UK consumers already committed to shopping online more post-pandemic, those businesses that fail to take this all into consideration and upgrade their checkout risk facing challenges throughout the festive shopping season and beyond. Ultimately, ensuring a frictionless digital experience will not only futureproof online businesses but help eCommerce appeal to all generations.”

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Dan Broom, VP EMEA at Elastic:

“In our era of one-click purchases and expectations for next day delivery, customers expect a smooth, quick, and superior experience from the second they enter a website. This means that monitoring tools, specifically application performance monitoring (APM) solutions, are no longer a nice-to-have but an essential component of an IT infrastructure supporting eCommerce systems.

By building in observability capabilities across the entire digital experience, eCommerce businesses can get ahead of issues that will impact their core web vitals before the user experience is adversely affected. This is increasingly important as Core Web Vitals will become the primary performance measurement in Google’s ranking factors in May next year.

The good news is that we’ve seen an uptick in APM enquiries since the summer, a positive sign that businesses recognise the value and importance of observability to deliver a seamless customer experience.”

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Melissa Minkow, Retail Industry Lead at CI&T: 

“Despite Black Friday falling within lockdown, there’s already been a surprising amount of variation in how retailers have decided to approach this year’s event. 

“Some retailers have been following in the footsteps of China’s Single’s Day, opening up offer windows in days prior to Black Friday weekend. With extreme reliance on delivery this year, consumers are being forced to buy online from retailers they know will get their gifts out on time. Spreading out discounts in this way is bound to have eased pressure on supply chains for retailers to meet delivery demand. But it’s also likely contributing to sporadic purchase patterns versus the consistent buying the retail industry may have been hoping for. 

“While some key retailers are extending their festive shopping hours and navigating how to work around the inconvenient lockdown timing, others, like Primark, have chosen to maintain the inability to buy from them online – another reason why brands that typically reap the benefits of Black Friday could be pretty different than in years past. 

“UK shoppers are on track to spend less in the Black Friday sales compared to last year, primarily due to the pandemic and its effect on the economy. But a recessionary mindset and everyday low pricing models are also fuelling consumer expectations for ongoing deals and discounts beyond Black Friday weekend, especially with stores set to reopen next week. We can expect the pandemic to create a longer peak season for holiday shopping, with discounts blending into Christmas and the traditional Boxing Day sales.” 

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Sachin Jangam, Associate Partner for Retail at Infosys Consulting:

“With lockdown casting a shadow over Black Friday weekend, if we are to see any shine from the ‘Golden’ Quarter, brick and mortar retailers must show immense flexibility and innovation. This doesn’t only mean leveraging online as much as possible during Black Friday weekend, or even extending discount season for a ‘COVID’ Friday in December – it means thinking far beyond Black Friday. Now is the time to plan ahead.

“The High Street faces immense challenges as it braces itself for reopening next week, and a potential see-saw of lockdowns and liftings next year. Looking ahead to 2021, the only way physical stores can compete with e-commerce is a radical rethink of physical space. This means retailers working with the government to keep stores open in a ‘local delivery hub’ format – using local stores as delivery warehouses for regional orders to meet the current demand for last-mile deliveries. Retailers can then make compelling offers in collaboration with suppliers to move stock out of the supply chain and improve efficiency – and ultimately boost sales.

“To employ this model successfully, retailers need to establish a partnership with last-mile delivery partners to complete home deliveries from stores. This added logistical cost can be somewhat offset by partnering with other suppliers to add on free samples to orders – an effective way to drive up sales.

“Converting local stores into local warehouses would be a major step in supporting an already struggling High Street. This is possible for retail businesses which are omni-channel in nature and able to take on orders against local store inventory. If it’s widely adopted, the evolution of brick-and-mortar could help retailers win back their share in the sales boom for years to come.”

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David Emm, Principal Security Research at Kaspersky:

“Following a turbulent year, many consumers across Europe have had to change their shopping habits. To adhere to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions and to also save money, people are now more likely than ever to shop online. In fact, our research shows that half (52%) of European consumers plan to do Christmas shopping around holiday sales, including Black Friday, compared to previous years. This of course has great benefits, including keeping people safe, but can also carry certain risks. As more of us are expected to shop online this festive season, fraudsters and scammers will have more opportunities to take advantage of any unwitting consumers. Phishing scams and other online tactics are always a concern, but sales shopping periods often see the most attempts to steal consumers’ cash. We urge all shoppers to be especially vigilant this year and do their best to ensure any purchases are made through legitimate websites.”

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Lars Larsson, CEO of Varnish Software:

“This year has highlighted the importance of ecommerce more than any other, but yet there are still many retailers that haven’t placed enough emphasis on preparing their websites for the rush of online shoppers.

“Throughout the lockdown period we’ve seen examples of websites from high profile retailers crashing when unable to handle spikes in demand – the recent launch of the Playstation 5 being a prime example. This Black Friday will likely see record traffic online, and those that haven’t prepared their web servers to handle the rush will simply lose out as impatient shoppers look elsewhere to bag a deal.

“The trend towards online shopping isn’t slowing anytime soon, so those retailers that do fail to convert visits this Black Friday really need to prioritise their web performance for the Christmas season and into 2021.”

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Tom Homer, SVP Europe at GTT:

“Retailers are halfway through what’s often dubbed the “golden quarter” of October to December, in a year that is unlike any other in recent history. In the run up to the highly anticipated Black Friday, and as we all prepare for Christmas and New Year, many shoppers are poised and ready to make the most of online offers and causing some of the busiest days in the year for the internet. 

“Thanks to the work of large internet backbone operators, such as GTT, and our peers collaborating to resolve any internet capacity issues that initially arose in March, the internet is now in a strong position to cope seamlessly with this year’s anticipated online shopping surges. This means faster web browsing for online shoppers when they go to access retail websites as there is less likelihood of traffic congestion over the public internet. 

 “Alongside this, learnings from the initial traffic surge caused a number of businesses with online presence to rethink and upgrade their existing IT infrastructure by opting for new networking approaches, such as SD-WAN, to make their networks simpler, more direct, and more reliable. At GTT, we’re working with retailers such as KOOKAI to deploy managed SD-WAN and connectivity services, supporting their digital business strategy for enhancing in-store and online experiences. Teaming up with a partner to understand the potential benefits of software defined networks can be key for retailers seeking to deliver a frictionless customer experience.”

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Tom Williams, Industry Principal at Naveo Commerce:

“As we enter the final throes of the golden quarter, Black Friday and Cyber Monday carry more pressure than previously. Bluntly, retail as a whole needs it to be a success, as many have felt the effects of the pandemic acutely.  

“Whilst forecasts are positive, with sales expected to be up on last year, there is also more risk this year. First, consumer spending is unpredictable. September sales were up on 2019 and Amazon Prime Day broke records in terms of spend, however many consumers are in precarious financial situations thanks to furlough and job losses, meaning some will be cutting back on what they spend. Yes, many will look to grab a bargain for Christmas presents, but they may not spend as highly as previously. Plus, considering Amazon Prime Day has only just passed, three big sales events in three months may cannibalise sales opportunities, as consumers just might not have the appetite for more stuff.

“Retailers will also need to manage their supply chain operations under much stricter conditions. Social distancing can influence picking rates, and therefore how many products can be shipped daily. Some of our customers have actually seen productivity increase during the pandemic, thanks to reordering of the warehouse to align commonly picked items. However, on big sale days, retailers will see an uptick in demand across the entire stock, meaning pickers will be under intense pressure to not only be accurate, but quick too; all whilst staying in their allotted zone. 

“Finally, delivery will also be a differentiator. Whilst consumers have become more patient during the pandemic as they appreciated the strain placed on entire supply chain networks, they will expect a seamless user experience during peak sales periods. The final mile will be a significant area of competition, with retailers vying to get products out the door and into homes as quickly as possible. Obviously margins are squeezed during the discounting period, but offering free, fast delivery will help entice consumers to hit the buy button. Returns will of course be a headache thanks to the enforced quarantine period, but retailers should try and get products to consumers before they have the chance to change their mind.

“Perhaps the most important aspect of the sales season is for retailers to ensure front and back end operations work in synergy, to please customers and provide business intelligence alike. From enabling precise stock counts through to accurate picking and delivery, retailers should look to take full advantage of integration and help encourage consumers to shop with them, rather than looking elsewhere.”

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Brian Atkinson, GM and VP EMEA, Five9:

“Discounts may seem like an easy way to grab customers’ attention, but that comes with a price. Consumers can quickly become accustomed to buying from a brand only during the sales. This is not a sustainable way to run a business, certainly not in a recession.  

“The key to building customer loyalty is to provide first-class service. Every single time. One happy experience goes a long way in creating a lasting positive impression. As we move in and out of lockdown, more customers will rely on digital apps and ecommerce sites to get what they need. Contact centres become the new front door to welcome customers.  

“Black Friday deals may entice people to shop more, but return rates are also high. This is often a sticky point for customers as they struggle to return unwanted purchases or seek advice. Businesses have a prime opportunity to focus their time and energy on providing exceptional aftercare. At the same time, they can rebuild trust in the customer relationship.”  

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Paul Kirkland, Director of Retail and Hospitality, Fujitsu UK:

“Black Friday will be a somewhat muted event in the UK this year. While it is traditionally seen as an opportunity for retailers to entice shoppers with discounts, the national lockdown has left high streets empty. As the festive shopping period approaches, high street retailers that have an effective eCommerce platform or click-and-collect offerings will benefit most from Black Friday as shoppers look to get presents in early.

“With most Black Friday transactions set to take place online, retailers must ensure they are prepared for the uptick in demand. If retailers are managing their own online marketplaces, supply chains and delivery networks must be able to cope with the additional strains caused by the peak period. Effective use of data and analytics can also help retailers focus resources on the areas that will see the highest spike in demand.  

“An alternative is to partner with online marketplaces that have ready-made infrastructure built to cope with high online shopping demand. There will be a huge amount of activity on those platforms, which could help retailers expand their reach beyond their traditional customer base. This could be particularly appealing for small businesses, who may not be able to afford a large investment in online infrastructure.

“The impact of the lockdown will undoubtedly hit some high street retailers more than others this Black Friday. Given the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, retailers will need to capitalise on this year’s sales day, be it through their own online channels or working with external online marketplaces. This year’s Black Friday will not be one to miss.”

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Jason Tavaria, CEO of InPost:

“Black Friday remains a firm highlight of the retail calendar. But this year it falls at what is already a hugely challenging time for retailers. With delivery and distribution networks already operating at near-capacity to keep essential supplies moving and supporting the greater demand for home deliveries. 

“With Black Friday sales projected to rise this year, unless retailers manage this properly, they risk landing themselves in difficulties, with the very real possibility that some may go under simply because there is not enough capacity to meet demand – we can’t let this happen. This Black Friday, shoppers will still be looking for convenience, control and safety, but it’s vital retailers actively steer them towards a variety of fulfilment options, including out-of-store click-and-collect.”

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Elliott Jacobs, EMEA Commerce Consulting Director at LiveArea:

“With research showing 88% of 18-34-year olds plan on doing their Christmas shopping during lockdown, digitally savvy retailers are set for a record-breaking Black Friday.

The next few weeks could allow retailers to make up for sales lost earlier in the year. However, they also has the potential to be a nightmare. The absence of in-store shopping will push web traffic through the roof, with consumers looking to capitalise on heavy discounting across the board – and any buying friction will undermine sales.

Malfunctioning websites (57%) have emerged as the leading turnoff for consumers this year, and the site crashes which accompanied the launch a major gaming console earlier this month will be an unwelcome reminder of what’s to come for those who aren’t prepared.

Next comes delayed deliveries (36%), and a lack of communication during delivery (34%). Add to this the increased requests for returns which come with increased eCommerce activities and the potential for systems to fail is huge.

The pandemic’s drive to digital has made retailers more reliant than ever on solid back-end operations – integrating agility across every touchpoint will be the only chance of success for those wishing to sustain growth in the new retail landscape.

Customers will expect to receive their presents in time for Christmas. A seamless online experience and hassle-free delivery process will be pivotal to long-term retail success.”

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 Asanka Abeysinghe, Chief Technology Evangelist at WSO2:

“In the run up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we can expect more holiday shoppers than ever to purchase online, especially in the wake of temporary store closures, lockdown restrictions, and general consumer fear driven by the latest COVID-19 surge. Retailers need to be prepared for what will surely be an unprecedented rate of online shopping and the huge spikes in demand on computing resources that will accompany it.  The bottom line is that retailers can’t afford any downtime. If the system is too slow, customers will pivot away to a competitor website.

“What some people might not know is that every time there is an online purchase, one or more APIs make calls to different applications and resources to ensure the transaction happens.  What this means is that some of the largest online retailerswho on average make 5-7 billion API calls per daywill see that double to anywhere between 10-14 billion on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  So how do they handle these spikes? 

“Retailers may have a core API management system, but they need to scale to handle the volume.  Notably, they may only require one API developer portal, but any components in the API management platform that manage transactions will be required to scale. For example, 10, 20 or even 30-plus API gateways may be needed to manage the quantity of API calls.  A majority of the time, they can utilise existing capabilities in their data centres and cloud platforms to handle these API calls. However, unless they are only using a small fraction of their infrastructure to manage the usual flow of API calls, they will also need to dynamically scale or automatically “cloud burst” to other cloud platforms to handle the spikes.  

“Therefore, the big question is: do retailers have the API management set up in place to handle these unprecedented spikes?  If they don’t have this capacity to scale, they should seriously consider deploying them as quickly as possible.  And as we move into 2021, more shoppers will stay digital. So, it is imperative for retailers to have an API architecture in place that supports what will be a permanent shift toward more online purchases in the coming year and beyond.”

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Oliver Guy, Senior Director of Industry Solutions at Software AG:

“As we edge closer to Black Friday, retailers will be hoping the digital investments made over the last six months will help them get through the Golden Quarter free of any hiccups. While interruptions to in-store shopping mean overall spending will be less this year, recent reports have suggested online spending will surge by almost £2bn. This level of strain on logistics and supply chain networks will be unprecedented, even in the context of recent developments and there are already anecdotal instances of availability issues online when inventory may well be available in stores.

“That’s why the reopening of non-essential stores from 2nd December will be a blessing for retailers, who are already stretched to capacity. But the reality is, nobody knows how long this next relaxation of the rules will last, and retailers would do well to prepare for all eventualities to limit any future disruption. With digital businesses showing themselves to be more resilient, this means ensuring online stores can handle the record-breaking levels of web traffic anticipated this year, but also digitalising back-end logistics and supply chains to help them stand up to the challenge while facilitating access to store inventories for online channels. To this end, having an accurate and real-time single view of inventory across stores, warehouses and distribution centres is a foundation for harmonised retail.

“There’s no escaping the fact that this year’s peak period will cause some retailers significant logistical and visibility headaches. That said, those with a keen focus on digital will be well-positioned to capitalise on the influx of online shoppers and drive growth as we head into the new year.”

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Abi Jacks, VP of Marketing, International at Rakuten Advertising:

The potential for Black Friday success this year is bigger than ever. Consumers’ shopping behaviour has adapted to this year’s unprecedented circumstances, and the numbers highlight that the retail sector will remain a resilient area of economic activity, despite the recent physical retail closures across England, and particularly as we head into the final stretch before Black Friday and the countdown to Christmas.

Our recent research indicates that almost 60% of UK consumers plan to spend between £200 and £1000 this holiday season, and 57% plan to purchase during key shopping peaks like Black Friday. Equally, retailers should take heed of the record breaking numbers of Singles’ Day sales reported earlier this month, during which apparel and accessories outperformed other verticals in terms of orders. This corroborates once again the importance of sales events as consumers increasingly hunt for bargains, especially via loyalty & rewards schemes. This period is not only about retail’s heavy weights – our research indicates that 55% of UK consumers have increased spending with local businesses since the start of the pandemic, demonstrating huge potential for smaller retailers to excel with the right online strategy in place.

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Prabath Siriwardena, Vice President & Deputy CTO Security Architecture and IAM at WSO2:

Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2020 will look very different for most retailers.  Already in recent years, we have moved away from buyers only spending on the key dates to pursuing deals spread over the whole month of November.  And with the impact of Covid-19, we are already seeing an expansion of this trend in 2020. 

Nowhere is this shift clearer than here in the UK where major retailers’ stores will be closed due to the second lockdown now in force and stretching into December.  Therefore, now more than ever, online sales and delivery processes will be key as more consumers purchase online, and organisations have to manage a broader set of buyers.  Retailers need to ensure that they can deliver a positive experience in a safe and trusted way. This places a greater emphasis around the importance of privacy of customer data and maintaining secure customer profiles, which in turn is accelerating the adoption of customer identity and access management solutions.  With digital commerce, how companies manage customer data, identity, access and profiles will be a top priority for a successful sales period, therefore a CIAM solution ideally should include the ability to ensure a secure, intuitive customer experience that leads to deeper customer engagement.”

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Rob Saker, Retail & CPG GTM Lead at Databricks:

“Within the retail industry, uncertainty around the holiday season continues to challenge inventory levels and affect retail segments differently. For example, many apparel retailers have written off inventory, while sporting equipment, home improvement and food retailers have seen shortages.

The need for accurate forecasting and planning has never been as necessary as it is in the current climate where increasing cost savings and reducing risk are key. More than ever, retailers need to closely manage their inventory and focus on how to get the right product at the right price to the shelf at the right time. As simple as this sounds, this equation requires a tremendous amount of data from multiple sources and an agile technology stack that enables data science teams to run algorithms in real-time directly on the data in one central location. 

Black Friday will be a preview of what we can expect to see in 2021 with retailers and consumer goods companies laser focused on improving the profitability of e-commerce – where AI and data will play an integral role in reimagined commerce.”

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Rishi Lodhia, Managing Director, EMEA at Eagle Eye Networks:

“Despite Black Friday and the ensuing Christmas shopping period being a predominantly online affair this year, physical stores that are permitted to open will still attract visitors. All of these businesses will have taken a range of measures to keep their workers and customers safe from Covid-19. Some of these measures are clear to see – limiting the number of customers in a store and encouraging customers to use hand sanitizers and so on.

“In addition many retailers are now implementing video surveillance to further ensure the safety of their store by, for example, identifying the most efficient traffic flow through the aisles and altering the layout to avoid the build-up of queues. In addition by providing the retailer with a better understanding of the way customers navigate the shop floor, the store layout can be optimised to meet customers’ shopping requirements, helping to minimise the amount of time customers need to be in-store, and ensuring seasonal promotions are located in the most impactful areas.

“As the country transitions in and out of lockdown and our ability to move freely is curtailed, an added benefit is that video surveillance enables owners to monitor and manage their store locations without actually having to go anywhere near the buildings themselves.”

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Rob Shaw, MD EMEA at Fluent Commerce:

“Black Friday ranks as one of the busiest times of the year for retail, meaning even thoroughly-prepared retailers can become overwhelmed with the volume of shoppers. Websites crashing due to heavy traffic, stock selling out early, and disgruntled customers: it happens every year, and 2020 will be no different.

“However, this Black Friday represents a seismic shift in the retail landscape, so the retailers that are best prepared to opportunise this, will be the ones that thrive. Due to the UK’s second lockdown, this year’s event will be an online-only affair – putting more pressure on retailers to deliver this year than ever before. With customers no longer able to flock to bricks-and-mortar stores in their thousands, retailers must accommodate the influx of site traffic.

“Preparation is key and retailers must deliver an unblemished e-Commerce experience. This means ensuring they have enough stock and can sell stock across all locations. Wherever stock might be located, it’s important not to stop selling online before the last piece is gone. With a complete view of inventory and a good handle on stock available to sell, retailers can ensure they don’t overpromise and underdeliver. Ultimately, selling from warehouses, stores and involving drop ship vendors, will ensure that every order can be fulfilled.

“To avoid delays for customers and keep down costs for the business, stores that are unable to open could be reconfigured into dark stores to help retailers continue trading during this busy period. Furthermore, retailers should make sure that all staff in stores participating in click & collect programmes are trained on how to pick, pace and fulfil orders.This will ensure retailers are able to take best advantage of the Black Friday period.”

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Animesh Chowdhury, Co-Founder & CTO at Goodtill:

“The importance of this year’s event cannot be understated, with online retail expecting a huge boost in sales as we enter the Christmas period. But while ecommerce has gained a huge amount of momentum in recent years, some retailers still only have a limited online presence, or don’t have one at all.

“By Introducing a modern Point of Sale (POS) system that leverages stock management, reporting and business analytic functionality, retailers can seamlessly transition away from the high street into an online platform without compromising sales. A seemingly small adjustment to strategy can open up a whole new online world for retailers that don’t yet have a comprehensive ecommerce platform.

“It’s also critical that merchants prepare for increased orders appropriately – ensuring that they can successfully fulfil online orders. This doesn’t only mean preparing high stock levels, but having the processes in place to enable seamless delivery and collection for high volumes of traffic. With the pandemic – and the health concerns that have come with it – still firmly in focus, customer experience and peace of mind is a top priority right now.

“For a great experience, customers need options that allow them to receive orders in the most convenient manner, whether from direct delivery, in-store pick up or click and collect. The most successful businesses will create customer loyalty off the back of a seamless shopping experience that helps shoppers feel safe and comfortable. For those without a strong ecommerce platform, it’s a case of acting now, or risk being left behind as the industry becomes permanently online-first”

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Carl Wearn, Head of E-crime at Mimecast:

“Black Friday and Cyber Monday always represent an opportunity for cybercriminals to scam unsuspecting consumers that are looking to score a great deal. This year is likely to see more of this activity than ever before, with shops and Black Friday taking place completely online and over an extended period. At Mimecast, our monitoring shows that retail & wholesale has remained the top targeted sector over much of this year, due to the pandemic, and recently, with 1.85 million total malicious detections in October alone. We have also been monitoring 20 global retail brands since the end of October, finding 13,924 suspicious domains in that time alone. This really highlights the scale of the threat facing retailers at this time of year, with cybercriminals spoofing their websites and threatening their reputation.

It is absolutely vital that consumers are on their toes and alert to this increased threat, or they face the risk of losing money or sharing data with cybercriminals that can then be used it for future fraud. Some of the main things to look out for include phishing emails and brand spoofing, as we are likely to see an increase in both. Consumers should also beware of any messaging pressuring them into making quick purchasing decisions such as flash sales or prize offers by clicking on a link for example, as these are quite often scams. Sales and offers are usually well-advertised, and it is always worth navigating to a retailer’s main website via your browser to check that an offer is legitimate. Please be aware that a bewildering array of frauds can be undertaken at this time, and please consider the security of any devices if you’re purchasing any connectable devices this season. When buying online ensure you use a credit card if at all possible, as you’re likely to find it easier to replace and gain a refund if it is subsequently misused. Many also offer purchase protection insurance for extra peace of mind. As always, but particularly at this time of year where we are after the must-have items for family and friends, If something seems to good to be true, then it often is.”

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