Technology tips on how businesses can ‘sleigh the day’ in time for Christmas shopping

Black Friday attracts millions of shoppers to the internet to ‘online-shop’ for the best deals on products and services in time for Christmas. However, this onslaught of web traffic causes chaos on businesses’ websites, resulting in unhappy customers and companies kicking themselves over missed profits.

With this in mind, multiple technology executives share their tips on how businesses can make the most of the peak shopping period this year. 

Handling data

Krishna Subramanian, COO at Komprise looks into how businesses can better cope with the onslaught of data:

“With the huge spike in online traffic, retailers need to be confident that their websites can cope with the influx of users that are expected to browse the online sales to get their Christmas shopping sorted. A lot of the data served up to users is ‘unstructured’ – such as images, descriptions, and videos. Businesses don’t want the increase in data produced to clog up users’ access to their site, so having a sophisticated, cost-effective data management solution in place is crucial to efficiently manage all this unstructured data so it does not clog up the transactions.”

Below: Krishna Subramanian.

It is also vital to keep security top of mind, as Jan van Vliet, Vice President & General Manager EMEA at Digital Guardian, comments:

“When preparing for the increase in sales, ensuring the right levels of security for Point of Sale and back end payment systems should be a primary focus. However, even with the best technology solutions in place,” van Vliet explains, “it is just as important to have your staff as prepared as your technology.

“As a common form of these attacks, malicious parties will try to target administrators with spear-phishing attacks to gain control of accounts or endpoints. To mitigate this risk, retailers need to ensure regular training for employees so they can recognise a potential spear-phishing attack.”

Below: Jan van Vliet.

Understanding customers

“While complying with data privacy laws can be particularly challenging for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), the demands for SMBs are still the same as larger companies and they must take full responsibility for securing their customer data,” says Anurag Kahol, CTO at Bitglass. “There is no excuse for negligent security practices such as leaving databases of customer information exposed. The consequence of failing to protect sensitive data can result in massive fines, not to mention the resulting damage to brand reputation.

“SMBs should focus on flexible, cost-effective solutions, that can prevent data leakage; for example, cloud access security brokers (CASBs) that provide features like cloud security posture management (CSPM), data loss prevention (DLP), user and entity behaviour analytics (UEBA), and encryption of data at rest. Only with these types of capabilities can an SMB be certain that the data it is storing is truly safe.”

Below: Anurag Kahol.

Not just the techies…

Liam Butler, Area Vice President at SumTotal recommends you “spare a thought for the HR team too! The smart retailers know that employee scheduling is a science, not an art. Retailers need to understand which employees will be available well in advance of the big day – and that’s where advance scheduling comes in to play. Analysis of employee data including skill-sets, location, availability, planned absence, number of staff required and so on will help to ensure the right number of people are in the right place at the right time. When a date on the retail calendar is as important as this, simply guessing at employee availability is not an option.”

Below: Liam Butler.

And not just for consumers…

Mihir Shah, CEO of StorCentric, parent company of Drobo explains how “photographers buying new cameras, equipment and computers should also invest in the hardware, software and accessories that will extend the life of their new tech while also working to protect their data.

“As data volumes continue to rise and critical digital information increasingly lives on IT networks, SMBs and individual professionals should view end of year deals as an opportunity to focus on planning for their business’ future success by implementing storage solutions that can keep all of their precious data safe. Your business should not suffer from downtime and seasonal shopping should be used as an opportunity to invest in your business by protecting your data and preparing for the new year.”

Below: Mihir Shah.

Black clouds that are good for something

Steve Blow, Technology Evangelist at Zerto describes how cloud can help mitigate downtime:

“Managing the surge in demand over consumer holidays like Black Friday is easier if retailers have established a multi-cloud environment that ensures the ability to move freely to, from and between any combination of clouds, including Azure, AWS and the hundreds of smaller local cloud providers available. This will help retailers deal with the mammoth spike in traffic and sales, despite any challenges that third-party cloud suppliers might experience. The risk is spread across multiple platforms, minimising the possibility of vendor downtime.”

Below: Steve Blow.

Martin Taylor, Deputy CEO at Content Guru explains how cloud can help when surges in demand aren’t easy to predict.

“The retail industry could learn a lot from organisations in the utility sector that are already utilising the latest in cloud customer engagement technology, such as Natural Language Processing (NLP) and advanced customer journey analytics, to ensure they can seamlessly service each customer correctly, first time round.

“The chances of experiencing such an issue are much higher if you are relying on legacy technology to host customer interactions. In the event of a technical hiccup, using a cloud-based engagement platform can be the difference between a retailer crashing out with reputational harm and profit loss, and one with happy customers at the end of a busy day.

“Retailers, much like energy providers, need to be able to scale up and down their resources and allocate them across each component of their omni-channel environment. Without the flexibility gained by utilising cloud customer engagement technology, the channels will be overwhelmed and only serve to exacerbate the original issue.”

Below: Martin Taylor.

“These are changing times for retailers,” concludes Jonathan Wright, Industry Director for Retail at Six Degrees. “The foundation for great customer experiences in the current omni-channel retail world is the efficient collection, analysis and utilisation of data. Cloud technology enables data to be held centrally, analysed and utilised to deliver insights. This increases visibility, enables effective management and – ultimately – increases revenue and secures the future of your retail business.

“However, as retailers embark on their cloud adoption journeys they should not forget that it is imperative to maintain high levels of security at all times. Consumer confidence is everything to retailers – a breach of personally identifiable information (PII) can lead to both GDPR fines and irrevocable loss in consumer confidence.

“By hosting systems on cloud infrastructures, your business can make data easily accessible to the right people whilst maintaining high levels of security that will increase consumer and regulator confidence: all essential ingredients to a successful Black Friday, Cyber Monday, 2020 and beyond.”

Below: Jonathan Wright.


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