Black Friday – Optimising Peak!
For many of our retail clients, it’s a time that brings more pressure than usual for the IT team who need to ensure the tech is ready to support the influx. Peak periods are the most likely, and of course, the worst times for tech to fail, so we wanted to highlight some areas for better safeguarding.
Officially Black Friday lasts from 24th Nov for a week encompassing Cyber Monday 27th Nov, but for many retailers this begins even earlier and continues right through the Christmas season. Before we jump in here are a few interesting facts on how important this season is, and what shoppers are looking for on Black Friday.
Black Friday – Size of Sales
- The data tells us that around a whopping £8.64bn was spent in 2021 and £8.7bn in 2022, in the UK.
- Be aware that in 2022, 46% of shoppers made their purchases online only, while 10% will solely shop in-store.
- Note that 65% of shoppers will be Gen Z with millennials coming in second, and the top 3 most popular items they are buying are:
o Small kitchen appliances: 22%
o Gaming consoles, small electrical equipment or devices: 20%
o Home decor: 20%
This year we are hoping for an improvement on last year’s figures given a recovery is on the horizon, although we are sure most Brits are still conscious, they should be careful. In previous in 2022 Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales brought an average of £189.59 per person, a 31% (£85) reduction on the previous year. So, let’s see how 2023 tracks!
How To Prep for Peak Periods
Retailers absolutely must prep for Black Friday as we’ve discussed due to the influx of traffic, orders, and data volumes. We have seen how easy it is for technology and software to fail when it’s under increased stress and the subsequent business effects.
So, we wanted to give you our low-down on what measures to take either specifically in advance of these peak periods or also more broadly in how to best set up your infrastructure for confidence.
- Scalability and Performance Testing: Expect your traffic to be around 3 times heavier on Black Friday. Large retailers must assess their current technology infrastructure’s scalability and performance capabilities. Conduct thorough stress tests to simulate heavy traffic loads and ensure that systems can handle the increased demand on Black Friday.
- Load Balancing: Implement load balancing solutions to evenly distribute incoming traffic across multiple servers or data centres. This helps prevent server crashes and maintains system stability.
- Cloud Readiness: Cloud platforms of course offer scalability and flexibility to accommodate increased demand so check your cloud solution is functioning effectively.
- Website & Mobile App Optimization: Optimise the performance of your website and mobile apps. This includes minimising page load times, optimising images and content delivery, and ensuring mobile responsiveness.
- Inventory Management Systems: Update and optimise inventory management systems to accurately track product availability in real-time.
- Payment Processing: Ensure payment processing systems are capable of handling high transaction volumes securely. You’ll have a few systems to check because customers are demanding a large selection of preferred purchasing methods now – PayPal purchases for example are up by over 200%.
- Customer Support & Chatbots: If you aren’t already using chatbots and virtual assistants they do enhance customer support capabilities, so for peak periods these are an important component. Chats globally increased 57% globally in 2022. So obviously these AI-powered tools significantly reduce the strain on human customer service agents – make sure they are functioning as they should.
- Cybersecurity Measures: Black Friday will always see cyber-attacks increase – often but 200%+. So, strengthen your cybersecurity protocols. Regularly update and patch software, monitor network traffic for anomalies, and conduct security audits.
- Mobile Payment Integration: Ensure that your retail systems support mobile payment options such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, and contactless payments. Mobile payments are increasingly popular among shoppers and can streamline the checkout process.
- Supply Chain Visibility: Leverage technology to improve supply chain visibility. Real-time tracking of inventory and shipments can help ensure products are available when needed, reducing the risk of stockouts.
- Data Analytics: Ready your reporting – the team will need accurate data analytics – so make sure your systems are all pulling from the correct sources and will be well prepped!
- Testing and Backup Plans: Perform comprehensive testing of all systems and have backup plans in place in case of system failures. Develop incident response plans to minimise downtime and ensure business continuity.
How We Prepped the UK’s Leading Gift Marketplace for Peak Periods
Not On the High Street
‘Not On The High Street’ is one of Britain’s best-known online marketplace retailers, helping customers source a wide range of handmade and personalised goods. With a significant increase in sellers on their platform, peak periods have become more prevalent.
THE PEAK PERFORMANCE CHALLENGE:
- To run annual performance tests to ensure NOTHS are ready for peak trading
- To determine the optimal scale of the production environment to ensure performance during peak
- Updated the existing test pack from previous years, refactoring scripts as needed to deliver the correct workload model
- We undertook the following:
o INVEST IN A SCALABLE INFRASTRUCTURE: Dynamically scaled the Cloud-based infrastructure to support peak trading periods
o REALTIME MONITORING: Identified areas for continued performance improvements
o ONSITE TEAM SKILLS: Mentored the existing team so they could undertake further testing
“ The team were instrumental in providing the skills, support and training needed to ensure our platform’s stability during peak times.”
Not On the High Street
Head of Technology
Your Prep Checklist
We have taken the most crucial elements and created a top-line checklist. Use this as the core to focus on which will cover:
Customers’ expectations for their online shopping experience continue to rise such as the expected speed and seamless checkout processes most predominately. Effective technology management during peak seasonal periods is essential to provide this seamless shopping experience.
We would recommend a simple approach of internal collaboration to best plan for peak. By focusing on scalability, monitoring and disaster recovery you will better navigate the biggest growth opportunities.
Peak readiness is not just a one-time effort but instead, an ongoing commitment to maintain and improve technology systems to maintain your competitive edge.