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Black Friday - the tools you need in your kit to blunt the hit

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Expected to be one of the most heavily discounted on record, amidst the cost-of-living crisis and looming recession, this year’s Black Friday holds promise for those banking on a sale before Christmas.

At the same time, retailers are gearing up for one of the busiest periods of the year, whilst couriers face delivery loads of up to 100 parcels a day over the weekend.

With that in mind, WeAreTechWomen and WeAreTheCity spoke to ten industry experts to get their insights into what businesses should be aware of ahead of the busy season.

2022 - the calm before the storm

This year has been a tough one for many businesses, with cost of living concerns reducing consumer spending.

As Alex James, CTO of Ascent, explained, another part of the problem for retailers is that: “times have been unusually good for the last 13 years as the world recovered from the financial crisis of 2008. Despite its huge global impact, the pandemic has accelerated online sales for many companies – combined with governments printing money to keep consumers spending it seems like a perfect storm of conditions causing many digital retailers to have over-extended or grown a little chubby.”

Jamie Cairns, Chief Strategy Officer at Fluent Commerce, agrees. “Retailers are sitting on much more inventory than they were last year. Many have stocked up on items that they were unable to get hold of last year due to the global pandemic, border closures and supply chain disruptions. Without visibility of inventory, across stores, online or in warehouses, retailers will leave the customer disappointed and potentially never to shop with the retailer again.”

Businesses are not the only ones at risk this Black Friday. The weekend is a popular target for cybercriminals who will target unwitting consumers with phishing emails, fake websites, and various other forms of increasingly ingenious subterfuge.

Don’t let tech be your downfall

On Black Friday and Cyber Monday, falling prey to a cyber attack would be disastrous. “Some retailers may have already been exploited, with ransomware lying dormant until it can do maximum damage. By holding off, the impact of the hacker’s attack doubles: a retailer’s entire operation has been shut down on the most profitable day of the year, all while being held to ransom,” elucidated Chris Rogers, Technology Evangelist at Zerto, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company.

 

Stephane Cardot, Director Presales EMEA Quantum, concurred: “Retailers can expect cyber attacks to come in all shapes and sizes - from DDoS to Magecart, or most likely, in the form of ransomware. The effects of these attacks can result in complex malware destroying computers and computer systems.”

Alongside fending off cyber attacks, businesses need to also ensure their technology can keep up with the increase in sales.

Rob Gilbert, Managing Director for Commercial & Logistics Business at Totalmobile, elaborated: “The popularity of next-day and same-day delivery, often in narrow allocated time slots, has put increasing pressure on courier services to deliver more in a shorter space of time, often without the support of additional staff. If courier services are going to succeed this holiday season, having the right solutions at their drivers’ fingertips is non-negotiable.”

Speed, safety and service standards - not something to be treated like a new years resolution.

Another crucial element in ensuring Black Friday is a success, is having the speed, safety and service standards to keep up with the peak in sales, security risks and consumer demands.

Gregg Mearing, Chief Technology Officer at Node4, explained that it is vital that e-commerce software and content management systems are updated because “even a 1-second delay in website performance could lead to a potential 7% drop in sales on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.”

Businesses also need to assume they have the right technology, suggests Liad Bokovsky, VP of Pre-sales Consulting at Axway. For example, "APIs enable applications to exchange data and functionality easily and securely, and underpin almost everything we do in the digital world - be it comparing the best Black Friday prices, ordering through a third party app, or tracking your parcel delivery.”

It is imperative that business systems operate to the best of their ability all year round, not just as we approach the Christmas shopping season. Daniel Hudson, Director UK and Europe at FarEye, highlighted that “the retail sector is driven by loyalty - provide the right price and service and consumers will return. However, with interest rates rising and everyone having to tighten their belts, consumers will start to shop around to find the best prices. Loyalty is more important than ever – and more fickle than ever. It's imperative that businesses provide the best service possible.”

Ascent’s James concluded, “next year digital retail will need to look at strengthening the basics again, including scaling back on heady sales targets and budgets. The focus will shift to leveraging data, with organisations setting core KPIs around efficiency and unit costs, streamlined and clear user experience and targeted customer acquisition over blitz scaling. Running a smaller but more efficient and tighter digital channel might be the name of the game in 2023.”

And finally, some advice for the consumer - if it sounds too good to be true, it most certainly is!

Businesses are not the only ones at risk this Black Friday. The weekend is a popular target for cybercriminals who will target unwitting consumers with phishing emails, fake websites, and various other forms of increasingly ingenious subterfuge.

Robert Sugrue, Product Director of Cyber Security at Six Degrees, advises consumers: “Don't get carried away, do not click through links on emails, genuine emails will provide voucher or discount codes, do not hand over credit card details to people you do not know; and, most importantly, always ask yourself “Is this really a good deal? Do I really need it?””

Nick Hogg, Director of Technical Training at Fortra, added: “Trust your instincts – if an offer looks too good to be true, then it probably is. It is important to be vigilant, as you could end up paying for knockoffs, never receiving any of your purchases at all, or providing personal information and card details to scammers.”