We will be updating this page on the lead up to Black Friday 2017 with industry professionals’ comments on one of the biggest retail events of the year…. watch this space!

Monday 27th November

Patrick Munden, Global Head of Retail at Salmon comments on Black Friday:

“We’ve seen some really interesting results from Black Friday, with 8am being the busiest hour and mobile dominating proceedings – 69% of traffic between 7am – 12pm came from mobile phones which would have been unheard of only two or three years ago. What’s most fascinating, though, is the increase in number of international visitors from the East – including the likes of Hong Kong, China and Taiwan – from many of the clients we look after. In some cases, we’ve seen an increase of 40% YoY in luxury brand sales coming from international shoppers.”

Friday 24th November…Black Friday is HERE!

Steve Ager, Currys PC World Group Commercial Director, comments:

UK consumers expected to spend a combined total of 85 years browsing Black Friday deals

Black Friday, once synonymous with long queues outside shop fronts from 4am, is still as popular as ever however, online sales now lead the way when it comes to the annual event. This means the pressure is now on warehouses and distribution centres around the country to deal with the magnitude of the operation.

A large majority of the sales on Black Friday are electronic goods, meaning people will be scrolling websites in an attempt to find the best deal on a HD TV or a new Google home. Currys PC World have estimated that their customers alone will spend 220 million minutes browsing their website over their whole two week black tag event, this is equivalent to 430 years.

They also estimated that on Black Friday alone users will spend a total of 85 years browsing their websites.

Over the course of the 2‐week black tag event, their delivery Lorries will drive over 2 million kilometers (1.25 million miles) across the UK and Ireland to deliver products. This is equivalent to travelling to space and back nine times.

Steve Ager, Currys PC World Group Commercial Director, comments: “We’ve been working behind the scenes, planning for a whole year now. Black Friday is the biggest date in the retail calendar and we’re excited to finally share our amazing deals from top brands, which will make this our biggest ever Black Friday for customers.”

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Olga Kotsur, CEO & Founder, Mercaux comments: 

“Black Friday isn’t just a day, it is now potentially the biggest event in the retail calendar, which spans across nearly half of November. Shoppers have become accustomed to week-long periods of deals; the likes of Amazon, Argos and Currys put their bargains up well ahead of schedule. Industry body IMRG estimates that £7.42bn will be spent online over the peak period, but the importance of brick and mortar stores shouldn’t be underestimated, particularly as customers search for the best offers. Irrespective of the channel, shoppers will be inundated with the latest deals and retailers will fail to draw their attention without a tailored, bespoke approach.

The peak retailing period is a fantastic opportunity but it is also a lot of noise for the customer to digest at once. In order to separate from competitors, retailers must look to align off and online channels together to create a unified experience. Many customers won’t completely know what they are looking for and retailers should use this as an opportunity to build a long-standing relationship. By enabling sales people with in-store technology, they can help shoppers navigate the complex Black Friday landscape to find the best products and deals for them. What’s clear is that Black Friday is unavoidable, but in the hugely competitive industry, retaining the customer’s interest in the long-term will rely on a personalised approach first.”

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Thursday 23rd November

Dominic Allon, Europe VP and Managing Director of Intuit comments:

How small retailers can survive the bumper sales weekend 

The mammoth sales weekend of Black Friday and Cyber Monday is almost upon us. The craze, passed over from America, has led to consumers demanding steep discounts to cover their Christmas shopping.

Last year, UK shoppers set new records; with total sales on the Friday reaching £1.23 billion, a 12.2% increase on 2015. And while it has proven to be a success for some big-name retailers – last year John Lewis saw five orders placed every second, beating expectations – not all retailers are so happy to see the sales weekend roll around again.

For small retailers who don’t have their own logistics network, or the number of staff or appropriate website infrastructure to handle such high in-store or online sales volumes, the impact of this weekend can be severe.

Here are the five key things that smaller retail organisations should consider when preparing their business for the Black Friday and Cyber Monday spending weekend:

  • Giving the right discount: Big retailers have the money and ability to add larger mark-ups to their products, so there is still room for them to make a profit even when an additional discount has been added, while many small retailers may not be able to afford to drive costs down further. Shop owners must be smart with the discounts they offer and make sure they are still able to make a profit whilst remaining competitive.
  • Buy first, return later: Yes, consumers are more willing to buy over this weekend, but that doesn’t mean they are willing to keep. An increase in sales does also, in many cases, mean an increase in returns. Smaller retailers must think beyond the weekend and factor in the chance of returns into their finances, otherwise they could fall short when predicting their profit and loss.
  • Buying stock is a balancing act:  Buying from suppliers may be costly, and on normal days when the shop isn’t as busy, having two of every item in stock may just be enough. Yet more shoppers are expected on the high street during this bumper sales weekend, so having enough stock in store to cover extra sales is crucial. Use data from previous years to understand what’s likely to sell, buy enough stock to keep customers happy, but bear in mind that going over board and not selling risks problems with your cash flow.
  • Having to rely on others: Unlike larger retailers, most small businesses do not benefit from having their very own logistics service that can adapt to the demand over the busy period. Instead, they must rely on external services that are already busy with multiple other suppliers. Small retailers must offer their customers a guaranteed delivery time that aligns with what their courier service can offer. Introducing a slightly longer delivery time over the busy period could help with the demand and keep your customers satisfied.
  • Plan, predict and manage: No matter how big a business is, the key to success over this weekend is preparing for every eventuality. It should not be weeks in the planning but months, and failing to have a complete overview of your finances could stop you in your tracks. Having a holistic view of your finances that monitors all money coming in and going out is crucial to surviving the weekend of extra sales and extra returns. If you play your cards right and plan for every outcome, your small retailing business can reap all the success of this long weekend of serious spending.

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David Payne, Head of Customer Success at Rotageek comments:

“In the run up to Black Friday weekend, many retailers will stock up shop floors in hope that they will satisfy the influx of keen shoppers. But in reality, much more work needs to be done below the surface. Just as online channels need to be robust enough to provide a seamless experience for thousands of visitors at once, physical shops need to deliver great customer service even on the busiest days. Compromising on staff availability and the overall shopping experience – particularly at a time when stores will see record numbers of shoppers – is not an option.

“Black Friday is one of the busiest days in the retail calendar, and having the right staff available requires months-ahead leave planning to avoid a last-minute scheduling crisis, weeks-ahead careful budgeting of matrix hours for this weekend, and cleverly optimised shift patterns to make the best use of those hours on the day. Ensuring that staff are in the best position to do a great job this weekend isn’t an easy task. This is where retailers must leverage technology, particularly intelligent software able to match staffing to meet exceptional demand – ensuring no customer is kept waiting, and no employee is left overstretched on the busy shop floor.”

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Comment from Bastian Nominacher, Co-founder and Co-CEO, Celonis:

“With British shoppers set to spend £1.74m every minute online tomorrow, retailers have been battling to get their Black Friday deals ready to take advantage of the bargain fever that’s hit the nation. But while customers scramble to find the best deals, bargains will fall flat if the retailers are unable to cope with the squeeze on their delivery and IT infrastructure and provide a level of service that consumers have come to expect as the norm.

“We find ourselves today in a culture of immediacy, where consumers are demanding more choice of product, more convenience and full visibility from the moment they place an order. They want up-to-date information on stock levels, warehouse departure timestamps and delivery confirmation. If retailers are to meet these demands, they must look at their internal processes and the way their organisations operate if they’re to compete in a marketplace that is centred on technology, mobility and social media.

“Identifying issues in core processes can be like finding a needle in a haystack. But technology has evolved to a point where the algorithms being developed are powerful enough to help retailers sift through the massive amounts of data being collected, uncover hidden patterns, correlations and customer preferences and make more informed decisions. One such approach is Process Mining, a new category of big data analytics that helps retailers bring anomalies in the data to the surface and pinpoint inefficiencies within their core operations, such as purchasing, logistics and production.

“This technology is empowering organisations to provide better visibility into the entire supply chain. Ultimately, retailers that take control of their processes are those that will be able to give their customers what they want, when they want, and compete on the global stage this Black Friday.”

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Karen Clarke, Managing Director, Northern Europe, Anaplan comments:

Black Friday is the starting bell for the Christmas shopping season. Along with Cyber Monday, it represents the single biggest flash sale spike opportunity for retailers across the world. Last year, Black Friday week (Monday 21st to Monday 28th November 2016) represented £6.5bn of online business and major brands smashing records – as much as 30-40% of their total annual sales.

The strain that this front-end demand puts on back-end operations is staggering and businesses need to be prepared for supply chain implications. Despite its publicity, retailers still all too often find themselves unable to adequately plan for the sheer scale of Black Friday. The profit margins are much finer with high volumes and big discounts, making dynamic planning and fast reactions crucial if they are to take full advantage. Modern supply networks are more complex than ever before and technology holds the key to managing this effectively. Retailers must have accurate and real-time insight of every item in their inventory across the entire supply chain if they are to provide a consistent service to their customers this year.

Reputations are on the line and customer expectations are at an all-time high, but there’s no excuse for being unprepared now that there are tools and technology available to capitalise on this retail bonanza.

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Steven Ledgerwood, Managing Director UK, Emarsys comments:

 Not knowing your customers well enough to target them with holiday messages, special offers, and discounts can cripple a marketing team. When you only have disparate bits of a customer’s profile, you only have pieces of the customer picture. Perhaps you can see website purchasing behaviour, but you don’t know how customers are using your mobile app, or what impact it and other online channels have on in-store purchases. You need a way to see all the channels and touchpoints through which customers come to you, and you also need to know how they prefer to interact with your brand.

Discounts and sales are synonymous with holiday shopping; Black Friday and Cyber Monday alone promote some of the deepest discounts for the entire year. However, a one-to-many approach to incentives creates a couple of problems for retailers and e-commerce, problems they might not even be able to identify without AI.

The first problem is that when you have giant sales around Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you’re encouraging your customers to pay attention only during those two days in November. You’re missing out on conversions for the rest of November and all of December. Some brands may just be trying to liquidate their merchandise with a one-off deep-discount day, but they miss a great moment to build customer loyalty, with an eye toward repeat business and customer retention.

According to data compiled by Qubit, a brand could bring in as much as 94% of their Black Friday revenue from new customers responding to discounts. However, the vast majority of these first-time buyers walk away, leaving some companies with an extremely underwhelming 6% customer retention rate.

Another problem is that enormous discounts always affect your margins, yet they’re not always necessary to persuade people to buy. Some customers only require the waiving of shipping fees, in which case anything more is bleeding yourself of profit for no reason.

Ultimately, Black Friday brings with it a whole new set of customers to be understood and marketed to – often with different reasons for shopping than the rest of the year. Understanding these customers at this time is imperative, but it will take artificial intelligence marketing technology to help determine what each customer is looking for and market to them accordingly – not just on Black Friday, but to keep their custom for the rest of the year. It will be impossible for marketers to do this successfully themselves, as human-driven personalization does not scale, so they’ll need AI to run the campaign execution, targeting consumers and prospects accordingly.

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Soothing the Black Friday headache

Paul Winsor, Director of Market Development, Retail & Services, Qlik and Rachel Lund, Head of Insight and Analytics, BRC:

Imported from the US, the Black Friday shopping weekend bonanza has become an established date in the British retail diary. Renowned for its heavy discounts, one-time deals and frenzied shoppers, the mammoth shopping event has taken over the nation.

Shaking up tradition

Unsurprisingly, consumers have welcomed this new tradition with open arms as it gives them yet another opportunity to seize great discounts just before the Christmas period. However, for retailers, it has had a fundamental impact on traditional retail patterns.

Before this phenomenon, retailers had a steady build up to the spike in demand around Christmas – one they knew was coming and could prepare for, way in advance. This enabled them to ensure enough stock was available and further logistics support was in place.

Something to embrace or stay away from?

Since making its way across the pond, the benefits of taking part in Black Friday have been up for debate.

First off, one positive is undoubtedly the impact it has on brand awareness just before the festive period. The fact that last year saw £1.23 billion being spent in one day alone, demonstrates increased demand and attention from consumers. If you get your brand strategy right, it can make a huge different to a retailer’s performance over the Christmas period.

That said, Black Friday can be seen to have a negative impact. Stock availability, maintaining excellent service at peak times, a further weakening of low profit margins, and dealing with a high volume of returns after impulse purchases could severely impede a retailer in the crucial build up towards the Christmas period.

How predictive analytics can help:

While this retail craze has caused a headache for retailers, should they choose to take part, there are solutions out there to help businesses prepare and reap the benefits of Black Friday – and one of these methods is predictive analytics. Here are just some of the ways it can help:

  • Can your website cope? A good analytics platform will allow you to see the amount of traffic that gets driven to your website during promotion seasons. This will give you a very clear indication of whether your retail site will be able to cope with a higher level of traffic.
  • Track sentiment: Social media has become the new airing ground for disgruntled customers, who love nothing more than to share when a retailer has messed up (rightly or wrongly). Being able to track the social sentiment of your selling process (and your competitors) will mean you have a more accurate view of your customers and how they feel about your brand.
  • How to spread your stock: While a lot of shopping has moved online, there is a growing trend of “click and collect” – creating an additional logistical nightmare for retailers. The worst thing a shop could do would be to accept payment only for there to be no product in their chosen store. By having an accurate overview of what is likely to be spent online, in-store and click and collect will help better plan for where you should assign your stock.
  • Timing is key: Timing is everything when it comes to maximising sales – it is vital to know when most of your customers will be online – and more specifically what they are more likely to buy. This is where your existing data can really help – look into the buying patterns from last year to help you plan which stock to push this year.
  • Plan for refunds: When there’s a sale, a huge spike in refunds and exchanges are sure to follow. This can cost a retailer if they do not factor this into their P&L! Based on your existing sales data, predictive analytics will be able to give retailers a more realistic idea of how much of their sales they are safe to count.

Perhaps most importantly, predictive analytics can help a retailer decide if they want to take part in the first place –  to whether the potential negatives to not outweigh the positives to take part.

Like it or loathe it, Black Friday is here to stay, and retailers would be a foolish not to acknowledge its impact just before Christmas. A retailer’s biggest asset during this period is the data it has collected throughout the years. By using this data effectively, retailers will be in a much better place to not only survive Black Friday, but benefit from it.

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Monica McDonnell, Director, Informatica comments:

“Retailers need to take a long-term view this Christmas to improve the shopping experience of discount-hungry shoppers. By extending the Black Friday sales period to last from November to January, they can encourage consumers to engage with them over a longer period and gain deeper insight into what they want.

“Big discounts for one weekend a year won’t necessarily drive year-round sales or increase customer loyalty. Customer behaviour should be analysed continuously so retailers will be better able to understand their customers’ requirements before, during and after the holiday sales.  This will allow them to remain relevant and engaged, increasing customer loyalty all year round.

“Serial shoppers expect relevant recommendations and personalised loyalty schemes from their favourite brands.  Data-savvy retailers can leverage Black Friday sales to win loyal new customers as well as cementing the loyalty of existing customers, by more accurately targeting discounts and loyalty benefits. In the era of retail digitisation, retailers with agile data analysis capabilities have a definite edge over their competition.

“By employing good data management, retailers can collect insightful customer data in a way that can be easily understood, and use it to improve their brand experience from website to shop floor. A strong view of customer behaviour is essential to help brands beat their rivals and make customers feel part of something that’s both personal and exclusive.”

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Shawn Nelson, Director of Product Management for Private Cloud and Security Services at Sungard Availability Services comments:

Here are some ways to plan for holiday traffic

1. Make sure your servers scale.

You might be able to handle the active sessions you predict you’ll get on a regular day. But if your content goes viral, you may not have the bandwidth you need depending on your active session capabilities, and you could fumble once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Auto-scaling elastic computing for your website’s front end can help handle unexpected surges by growing and shrinking on demand to fit your needs. This way you’ll only pay for what you need, when you need it.

2. Diversify your locations.

Consider building a content delivery network (CDN) from a provider that allows for automatic scaling services. A CDN will diversify the locations of your servers (when it’s closer to your visitors, it limits geographic hops and they’ll get your content faster), and it will cache your static content for easy access.

 3. Prepare for more concurrent sessions than you’d ever expect.

Putting too much pressure on one server can lead to crashes or slower response time. Load balancing software can help reroute lots of traffic to servers that can handle it. It acts as a hall monitor, making the flow of traffic more even. This will keep things level and won’t put too much stress on one particular server.

4. Test under pressure.

Want to see if your site can withstand a surge? There’s no better way to check than actually trying to break it. By taking the time to put real pressure on your servers and push their limits, you’ll see how your site reacts in real time without taking the risk during peak traffic times.

 Invest in peace of mind

When your site is ready to handle the traffic you’ve attracted, and when you’re ready to adjust for more growth down the road, you’ll be able to enjoy it and not live in fear of a crash. That way you can spend your time delivering your content seamlessly—and focusing on your business during the holiday season.

Sungard Availability Services specialises in business continuity, information security, IT disaster recovery and cloud systems.

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Tuesday 21st November… 3 sleeps to go

Commenting on Black Friday, Alex Marsh, Managing Director at Close Brother Retail Finance said:

“Last year we witnessed changes in consumer shopping behaviour over the black Friday weekend with many people staying up until midnight to secure the bargains as soon as the sales started. We saw a significant increase in online activity between 12am – 1am compared to average transaction levels. A repeat of this behaviour this year would be welcomed by retailers, who will be hoping to offset the lull in spending in October.

Despite Black Friday being famous for discounts, last year there was also an increase in average spend on full price items in the electrical goods sector.  It was also interesting to note that the majority of women purchased during the day whereas their male counterparts peaked later at night for some last minute shopping before sales ended.

It is crucial for the British economy that retailers perform well this Black Friday, after a string of consumer spending statistics confirmed the recent slowdown in retail sector growth. The run up to Christmas can be a challenging time for consumers when it comes to managing cash flow. By offering flexible, fixed payment methods, retailers can give consumers back their spending power and allow them to make purchases they may otherwise put off until after Christmas, missing out on the Black Friday savings.”

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Mobile shopping to be key to success this Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Akamai has analysed over 3.5bn hits on retail websites to find out what retailers can expect when the sales start this weekend. The study showed that shoppers over the last month were 47% more likely to complete their purchases on their smartphones than they were in the same period last year, showing that mobile continues to be an increasingly important sales channel for retailers.

Luca Collacciani, Senior Director of Web and Security, EMEA, Akamai said: “No time is more competitive for retailers than the run up to Christmas, and the adoption of Black Friday sales across many parts of Europe over the last five years has intensified things further. These figures show that if retailers can produce ads that grab us by the heart and have us reaching for our mobiles then a good chunk of their work is done. If they can get us to their websites, we’re more likely than ever before to be ticking off our Christmas lists at their checkout pages.”

Yet retailers face what can seem an impossible challenge: the more visitors they get to their sites, the slower the response times and the less likely people are to stick around and make a purchase.  And user shopper expectations get higher and higher. Akamai announced earlier this year that a two-second delay in webpage load time increases bounce rates by 103%.

The good news is that, retailers who get it right are driving sales in increasing volumes. In October 2016, the perfect time taken for a retail webpage to load on a smartphone was 1.7 – 1.8 seconds, where 0.81% of all visitors completed a purchase. In October 2017, the perfect time was cut to 1.4 – 1.5 seconds but 2.09% of people parted with their money as a result.

Collacciani said: “Shaving 0.3 seconds off the load time of a retail webpage on a smartphone means that a shopper is nearly two-and-a-half times as a likely to buy something. Small gains in load times really can make a massive difference to sales – imagine having 2.5 times as many paying customers.”

Arguably, price is still king though when it comes to online shopping. On Black Friday 2016, shoppers were twice as likely to complete a purchase once they visited a retailer’s page than they were on average in the month before.

Collacciani said: “Just as some people are willing to queue outside a high street shop for a bargain, many will wait for a page to load for a product that’s on offer. 3.31% of computer shoppers bought something from the page they visited on Black Friday last year, compared to 1.6% on a typical day in October. However, even when prices are slashed, good load times still make a difference. Shoppers who saw their pages loaded on their mobiles at a peak of 1.3 – 1.4 seconds on Black Friday last year were more than twice as likely to make a purchase as those enjoying peak load times on a standard day in October.”

And it’s good news for retailers in Europe who are seeing much improved conversion rates from visits to sales in 2017.

Conversion rate – Oct 2016 Conversion rate – Oct 2017 Change
United Kingdom 0.88% 0.99% 12%
Germany 1.06% 1.51% 42%
France 0.87% 0.99% 14%


Collacciani said: “Many retailers in the region have been investing in web performance optimisation solutions to improve their page load times – especially for mobiles. Steps, such as making sure that images are the best size and resolution for devices, means that data volumes can be reduced without any loss of image quality that’s perceptible to the eye. And this is paying dividends in terms of the shopper experience and propensity to buy. If the year-over-year trends for online sales are mirrored on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, this could be an incredible year for the online retailers in the pre-Christmas sales.”


Akamai analysed data for the 50 retailers that received the most web hits from the USA, UK, France, Germany and Japan in October 2016 over the Akamai Intelligent Platform, and used its mPulse performance monitoring tool to compare this information to hits for the same retailers on Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2016, and during the month of October 2017. For the purposes of this research, Akamai considered a sale ‘converted’ once the shopper had been served the sale-confirmation page. Country-level data is based on the 50 most popular retail destinations from IP addresses registered in the named country, crossing the Akamai Intelligent Platform. The total sample size is 3,653,859,573 page visits. 


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Carl Tsukahara, CMO, Optimizely comments ahead of the coming Black Friday/Cyber Monday:

“The retail industry is in flux. For many years Black Friday was an extraordinary source of revenue for retailers, however as seen in recent years, high-profile brands have started to focus on online sales both prior and throughout the Christmas period, and move away from their brick and mortar stores. This has certainly to do with difficult logistics and crowd management, but was also driven by the rise of ecommerce (as recent ONS retail figures pointed, online sales now represent 16.9% of all retail spending), leading companies to re-think their business strategy for that particular day”.

“This means that retailers need to constantly evolve their thinking to edge out the competition and drive sales. Digital innovation and customer experience superiority have moved from a nice thing to a must have; particularly in regions that are prime candidates for disruption”.

“Optimising digital experiences for specific audiences across web and mobile play a crucial role in helping retailers profit from online sales on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and throughout December. It allows them to be programmatic and anticipate consumer behaviour in specific categories, that span beyond simply promotional trends into buying models for both physical and digital — this suggests a future where multiple experiences are intelligently linked to related, similar categories of engagement and ultimately, creates a match that meets consumer preferences”.

“Creating personalised experiences and tailored offers and basket enrichment options will give retailers the perfect opportunity to leverage their sales and attract new customers. For example, looking at previous Black Friday purchasing patterns, effectiveness of product messages, or click through rates on certain web pages allow retailers to make data-driven changes which see immediate benefits.”

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Is your e-commerce site ready to take on Black Friday?

Simon Wharton, Managing Director of PushON, advises retailers on how to maximise their online sales ahead of Black Friday.

Last year, the UK experienced a surge in Black Friday activity, with more consumers than ever opting to take advantage of the generous sales via their mobile devices, rather than taking a trip to the busy high street – this accounted for a 12% rise in online spending during the November event.

PayPal detailed that a third of all its payments were made on mobile devices and it handled $15,507 payments per second. What these spikes show is that consumers are becoming more confident to shop via e-commerce platforms, rather than venturing out onto the high street.

With this year set to see more shoppers turning to their mobile devices to take advantage of the sales, how can online retailers ensure they can keep up with the sudden surges in traffic?

Be prepared early on

Black Friday can be a serious problem for e-retailers if they haven’t planned properly for it. Getting involved in the event isn’t obligatory, so you should think carefully about whether you should take part, rather than that you can take part.

People are going to be looking for extreme bargains, so if you are going to get involved, what’s in the sale? Typically it will be end of line products that you need to get rid of, so you need think about what you are prepared to commit to in order to move this stock. It’s unlikely you’ll make a huge profit margin on it, so what costs are you willing to absorb? Free delivery could be effective, with minimal losses.

And similarly, it’s important to think carefully about what might be gained from the sale that adds value. There is always the potential to build relationships with repeat customers who may sign up to the email list – and that’s valuable.

Don’t let your site crash

It may well be that your offer is extremely compelling and really resonates with your customers – if it gets talked about a lot, and perhaps shared widely in the press and on social media, then the traffic will come flooding in.

But will your mobile site or app be able to handle all these new visitors? The last thing you want is for your website to slow down drastically or crash.

But don’t worry – there are ways to ensure your site’s resilience. You should consider using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) that handles the delivery of certain elements of your site, such as rich media. The servers deliver pages to users based on their locations and the origin of the webpage to provide protection from large surges in traffic. You should also speak to your hosting company and discuss burst capacity or other facilities they may have, such as caching (which is a temporary storage area). When users return to a page saved in their cache, the browser can get those files from the cache rather than the original server, reducing the burden of additional traffic on the network.

As a matter of good general housekeeping, you should also have your ecommerce site audited for efficiency.

Monitor your efforts

It’s likely that you’ll be using some form of marketing to gather up interest in your sale – Facebook ads, Google Adwords or email marketing, perhaps. But how are you tracking your marketing efforts? You need to be using a marketing and measurement tool, such as Google Analytics, to monitor and analyse your efforts so you can spot where the peaks are coming in – this way you can see what’s working, what’s causing interest and also prepare for traffic or order surges. Without a proper monitoring tool, you’ll just be guessing the true success of your Black Friday campaign.

Preparation is the key to a successful Black Friday. It’s a great way to maximise end of line stock, while attracting new customers with your prices. But if you are going to get involved this year, it’s important to remember where a large proportion of the sales will be made, and ensure that your website and mobile sites can handle the traffic and maintain your usual quality of service.

For more information, please visit:

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Black Friday online demand to peak at 8am, up 55% on the daily average

50% of Black Friday traffic to land before 12noon on Black Friday. Surge in ecommerce traffic expected at 1am, as midnight shoppers rush online to secure early deals.

Online demand on Black Friday will peak at 8am on 24 November, up 55% on the daily average, according to Summit, specialists in online retailing, with just under 50% of Black Friday visits taking place before midday.

Insight from ecommerce specialists, Summit, using data from over ten years of peak trading, based on hundreds of millions of online searches, suggests that, as well as the number of Black Friday visitors peaking at 8am, we will also see another spike in online demand earlier in the day at 1am, four times more than the daily average, as midnight shoppers rush online to capitalise on early bargains.

This follows the move by many retailers, such as Argos and Curry’s PC World, who are increasingly starting Black Friday promotions at midnight; indeed, the period between midnight and 1am was Argos’ biggest trading hour on Black Friday last year, with 8,000 visits per minute and 15 orders per second.

Just as consumers’ online demand fluctuates throughout Black Friday, the devices used also changes as shoppers move across a retailers’ sales channels from mobile, to desktop, to tablet.  Mirroring online demand, for instance, Summit predicts that mobile searches will also peak between 8 – 9am, representing almost 10% of all visits per hour, as bargain hunters seek out discounts during their morning commutes.  Similarly, tablet based searches will peak between 9pm and 10pm.

Martin Corcoran, Head of Insight at Summit, said: “Retailers need to understand the role each device plays in the Black Friday journey.  Mobile is of increasing importance during the morning commute, as customers rush to get the best offers.  However, in the evening shoppers prefer to ‘dual screen’ and this is where paid media supports TV advertising which acts as an important buying trigger, sending people online while they watch TV.”

“If retailers hold the majority of their online advertising budget until after the working day at 5pm, they risk missing nearly 70% of Black Friday’s traffic and sales, so they need to front-load their budget phasing during the day to ensure they are top of mind during the conversion phase in the Black Friday purchase journey,” he continued.

“With Black Friday offers, retailers should be creating a sense of urgency using real-time stock level information, and ‘on the hour’ promotions, whilst adding value for customers with flexible delivery options, and bundle offers in the high demand categories.  To execute on this, it’s fundamental that retailers have an adaptive hour-by-hour media plan in place that can flex depending on trading performance throughout the day, ” he concluded.

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Monday 20th November

Alexandra Frith, Customer engagement at Retail Pro International comments on the Amazon Pop-up store and Black Friday:

“Amazon opening a pop-up store in London reflects the fact that retail customer experience is continually evolving. It would be all too easy for online pure play giants to rest on their laurels and think ‘why change a winning formula?’, especially with Black Friday and other sales holidays continuing to generate eye-watering revenues. However, customer tastes are changing; to stay on top, they are striving to create memorable experiences for customers.

“By providing a tangible store where people can grab a Black Friday bargain, Amazon is carefully sowing the seeds of a longer-term relationship. This is part of a wider trend: both traditional bricks & mortar retailers and their online cousins are treating physical stores as places to create a lasting impression on their customers, rather than just a place where transactions can happen.”

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Chris Colotti, Field CTO at Tintri comments:

“As one of the busiest shopping periods of the year, every second counts on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Retailers need their applications and services to be running at 100% efficiency 24×7. Downtime and outages must be avoided at all costs. But should an issue occur, retailers need to understand the impact to revenue and reputation. How much downtime can each application afford before it impacts the bottom line or seriously impacts customers? The agility and flexibility of the cloud model is attractive, but you cannot afford to ignore time-to-recovery as a key metric in your IT strategy. To avoid downtime and outages, retailers need to be able to scale quickly, plan out their capacity, and underpin this with a multi cloud strategy – this will ensure continuous uptime.”

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Gary Watson, CTO/Founder at Nexsan comments:

“As retailers’ IT teams prepare for the massive influx of data and sales that will come into their systems during this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping spree, they likely have security and resiliency top of mind. With Ransomware attacks on the rise, and all this new, critical data coming into their systems so quickly, it’s a necessity that companies have measures in place in case an attack does make its way through. Retailers need to be prepared to be able recover crucial data as quickly as possible, without having to pay a potential ransom; not only to keep important data safe but also to keep operations running business as usual during the most important sales week of the year. A comprehensive disaster recovery plan, above and beyond traditional security measures, needs to be put in place to prevent attacks from causing any amount of downtime; It’s imperative for retailers to take measures to arm themselves with a second line of defense that protects data from corruption and deletion, minimizing the impact of these malicious cyber attacks.”

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Jason Collier, Co-Founder at Scale Computing comments:

“As retailers ramp up their staffs and inventories for the holiday shopping season and Black Friday, they must focus on bolstering their IT infrastructures as well. The distributed nature of retail companies means the individual stores have minimal or no IT staff, but often the same IT needs as the central office. By deploying flexible virtualized systems such as hyperconverged infrastructures at the edge, retailers can quickly scale capacity and computing power at its stores while allowing their home office IT team to remotely manage them through a simple web interface. Borrowing from the immortal words of Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tifnel, hyperconvergence allows retailers to turn it to 11 when they need it to be one louder. This means store employees can handle the Black Friday onslaught without worrying about costly downtime or troubleshooting IT issues.”

Friday 17th November

One week to go until Black Friday!

Predictions, commentary and updates from global ecommerce consultancy Salmon

It’s only one week to go until Black Friday, with the most anticipated sales day of the year expected to contribute towards £20 billion spent online in November, according to ecommerce consultancy Salmon.

As retailers already start to put on their Black Friday deals – with the likes of Argos, Currys and Halfords already putting up their bargains early ahead of schedule – they should have completed their final checklists for the biggest shopping event of 2017.

November is also expected to be the first £10 billion mobile month, based on the company’s own data from last year and IMRG showing 51% of online orders were made through mobile on Black Friday.

Ahead of the sales bonanza, Salmon’s own data shows that cart abandonment since 1st November – 14thNovember 2017 has increased by 4%. This increase in ‘Basket Bandits’ shows an increasing trend in consumers adding to their baskets but waiting instead for the Black Friday sales to purchase. In this vein, conversion rate has also dropped since the 1st November signalling that a higher % of sessions are not placing orders.

Salmon, who correctly predicted the first £1 billion online Black Friday in 2015, believes Black Friday could soon become a month-long phenomenon that will overtake December as the biggest shopping month of the year, as retailers compete for a slice of the new ‘peak’ trading season.

James Webster, Head of Managed Services at Salmon, said: “Retailers should by now have put in place the proper planning, due diligence and system testing on their websites to cope with the Black Friday rush. The bargains are no longer confined to just one day though, or even one week necessarily. As companies such as Amazon stretch their deals further back to a fortnight, retailers should be preparing early to create an ongoing experience and grow that invaluable customer base and loyalty, pipping their competitors to the post.”

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Friday 17th November

Craig Summers, UK Managing Director at Manhattan Associates shares his top tips for surviving Black Friday and beyond…

Top tips for surviving Black Friday 

With only a few weeks until Black Friday, many retailers will have been planning their strategies for months. And with consumers last year spending £1.23 billion you can see why this one day has such an impact on a retailer’s calendar.

But as consumers become ever more digitally savvy and the influx of Generation Z consumers only set to boom, are retailers ready to provide a seamless, joined up service across every touch point. And we aren’t just talking look and feel, we are talking empowering the store associate with the same, if not more, information than the consumers themselves, preparing for a surge in click and collect orders and of course a flurry of returns that run all the way into January. But are retailers ready and what can they do to make sure they survive and thrive this Black Friday?

Craig Summers, UK Managing Director at Manhattan Associates shares his vital top tips for retailers this peak season.

Don’t compromise on customer experience

Busy or not, associates still need to embark upon meaningful customer engagement. And every Store Associate needs to be armed with at least as much information as the customer – the days of leaving the customer alone, while the beleaguered associate goes back to the point of sale to painstakingly search for additional information, are long gone. Instead, mobile devices that provide fast access to key information including an up-to-date picture of available inventory, delivery options, latest offers, product reviews and comparisons, are all a minimum requirement, even on Black Friday. It is still more important than ever to embark upon a truly personal interaction.

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.

Embrace social

Facebook revealed that there were 13.6 million interactions related to Black Friday on Facebook and Instagram last year, showing that social media is becoming an increasingly important channel for consumers to shop and find the best deals. And with the Gen Z and millennial audience ever present on social media, it is the perfect opportunity for retailers to tailor Black Friday deals for this digitally enabled audience.

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.

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.

Thinking about these additional things can ensure retailers will be able to handle the surge in demand during Black Friday and into peak without compromising on the customer experience. And as it is fast becoming one of the most important dates in the retail calendar, retailers must be prepared and ready to match their competition, not only on price but also on experience.

    2018 A1 Buyers Guide right-hand Skyscraper
    2018 A1 Buyers Guide
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