Retailers with a transactional website are about to face their biggest test of the year: Black Friday, which takes place on November 27th. Spending is predicted to reach £1.9 billion – a 17% increase on last year – in the UK, with a third of sales taking place online, according to Visa Europe.
Already we’ve seen one casualty of a surge in online trading, as Argos’ website tripped over when it launched its ’12 days of Black Friday’ promotion. However, the good news for the brand is that it has a few days to learn lessons and put contingency plans in place before ecommerce activity peaks.
For other businesses, though, the litmus test is yet to come – so what should we expect from the digital retail community on the big day?
It’s definitely worth keeping an eye on Amazon, ASOS, Debenhams, Marks & Spencer and Next this Black Friday. A recent study by Aimia crowned these retailers the best five UK ecommerce sites for customer experience.
The survey identified personalisation as pivotal to the online journey, as although these sites are rising to the challenge, more than half of consumers feel they are still being targeted with irrelevant product suggestions.
However, tailoring promotions based on previous buying behaviour is the tip of the ecommerce iceberg – some retailers are still struggling to get their basic offering right, particularly under pressure.
During peak trading events like Black Friday, the number one priority is being present and capable of delivering on customer expectations, and the resources needed to achieve this should not be underestimated. As Schuh’s head of ecommerce, Sean McKee, remarked in a recent Black Friday video interview, “be available for the customer, because the customer is absolutely wanting to buy products from you”.
Too many retailers experienced issues with their website last Black Friday, resulting in slow loading times, long waits and costly periods of downtime. In order to avoid this in 2015, concerned businesses need to ask themselves the following questions:
- Is your hosting environment flexible enough to accommodate surges in demand?
- Do you need to increase your server capacity to cope with Black Friday traffic?
- Does your hosting company know it is Black Friday, and what the impact could be on digital activity?
- Have you got the infrastructure in place to monitor Black Friday traffic in real-time, and respond to emerging issues?
At the end of the day, come Black Friday, price trumps everything else. So while personalisation might be the long game, on 27th November ecommerce retailers need to focus on availability and efficiency to maximise market share.