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Opinion and Insight
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How Brands Can Avoid Hand-to-Hand Combat in the Black Friday Sales

Isobar, 10 months ago

eCommera's Eric Fergusson & Paul Lewis lend their thoughts on the mad dash of Black Friday

How Brands Can Avoid Hand-to-Hand Combat in the Black Friday Sales

Black Friday, the day that has become synonymous with frenzied people fighting over plasma TVs in department stores across the country, is upon us. Originally from the US, the day immediately follows Thanksgiving, and (along with the sight of the Coca-Cola and John Lewis adverts) is regarded as marking the beginning of the Christmas season. 

For savvy shoppers, the day can bring surprise savings. But for brands it can bring PR, marketing and financial headaches, with traffic volumes placing a strain on both their in-store and online operations.

To avoid the ugly in-store scenes, retailers and their customers have abandoned in-store bargains, preferring sales online instead. Black Friday in 2014 proved that this isn’t the solution to all problems, with 180 million visitors to retail sites in the UK forcing many to close their virtual doors as systems struggled to handle the volume.

John Lewis, who offered website deals from midnight, reported a 307% increase in website traffic from midnight to 6am; however at the start of day, around 7% of its customers were unable to access the site on their first attempt. Similarly, the websites of other well-known retailers such as Argos and Tesco Direct crashed, as they also struggled to handle the increased traffic volumes. Some retailers, such as Curry’s, were even forced to implement a queuing system, with waiting times exceeding an hour for some visitors.

Needless to say, this is bad for business. We live in a brand commerce era, where rapidly changing consumer expectations are transforming how we use, experience, select (and de-select) brands and services. Increasingly, people expect their functional and emotional interactions with brands to be an effortless and borderless journey-from point of engagement to point of purchase, via multiple platforms and devices. With Black Friday becoming an increasingly important date in the annual retail calendar, brands need to get to grips with Black Friday best practice – before it results in hand-to-hand combat between customers.

In response to this development, agencies need to become ‘one-stop-shops’ for expertise, technology, operational support, and branding, for retail clients.

Paul Lewis, VP, Global Support & IT at eCommera Linked by Isobar, the specialist commerce arm of Isobar said, “Ensuring Black Friday or any other peak period runs successfully requires careful analysis and planning. Our tried and tested process, which involves proactively analysing and mapping the use of client websites, ensures the integrity of our clients’ sites every hour of every day.” 

And the eCommera approach to Black Friday has proven to work. Last year, the eCommera Linked by Isobar team worked with House of Fraser and Asda to help handle those increased traffic volumes with ease, with each company declaring Black Friday to be a huge success. House of Fraser saw a huge increase on its previous biggest online sales day, hitting its predicted sales number for the day as early as 11am. 

As this year’s big event draws ever closer, Eric Fergusson, Head of Retail Services, eCommera Linked By Isobar, predicts that Black Friday will be even bigger than 2014. “I think there will be a lot more site visitors, but retailers will have more plans in place as they learn from the successes - AND failures - that last year brought.”

Despite this, Eric predicts that there will be less emergency discounting on existing lines, which in some instances could mean that retailers introduce strategic sales on some lines before Black Friday even begins. Many sites started to prepare and advertise their discounts well in advance of Black Friday itself; for example, Very.co.uk set up a landing page weeks in advance, therefore causing more purposeful buying of dedicated stock.

“In terms of the types of products we will see fly off the shelves, electricals will remain the key category, although furniture and home-wares will see more of a peak this year,” continues Eric. “Mainstream fashion will be much more interesting as it is intrinsically harder to buy a consignment of dedicated stock. I would also expect depth and breadth of discounting in cost and freight to be determined much closer to Black Friday, pending each retailer’s given stock position.” 


The aftermath

When it comes to delivery, retailers are hiring seasonal drivers in preparation for Black Friday; however with the weatherman forecasting snow, who knows what will happen!

Nevertheless, retailers have put recovery plans of extended delivery day promises in place more successfully than last year, and customer expectations will be more qualified.

“Retailers need to listen to their operations,” advises Eric Fergusson. “They need to understand their delivery partners’ capacity and also monitor stock sell through for cost and freight with Black Friday quickly approaching, the time for retailers to act is now. Preparation is key if retailers are going to be ready for what Black Friday has to offer or risk losing out on one of the most anticipated days of the year.”    

Category: Retail and restaurants , Retail stores