How to Prepare Your Business for Black Friday and the Festive Season

In an ever-changing eCommerce landscape that is slowly moving toward a post-pandemic world, only one thing is certain: Black Friday and the festive season will produce big sales figures for online retailers. We take a look at how you can make sure your business is in the best possible shape in preparation for the next few months.

Black Friday marks one of the most significant eCommerce events of the year. During the 2020 US Black Friday, consumers spent $9 billion dollars in one day, and in 2018 the UK experienced a sales spike of an astonishing 1708%. The fact that Black Friday effectively lasts two weeks, is then immediately followed by Cyber Monday, Christmas and the January sales emphasises both the scale of the festive period and the opportunity for businesses ready to take advantage of the huge increase in eCommerce activity.

Being ready for this explosion in activity is critical for SME and large businesses owners, especially as more people than ever are shopping online. According to the Office of National Statistics, before the pandemic struck in February 2020 19.7% of UK sales were carried out online. But huge growth since then caused by altered buying habits and new audiences turning to eCommerce (such as the 50+ category) have seen that figure jump to 28.1%. It peaked in February 2021 at 36.6%.

But while it is clear new opportunities are representing themselves, increased demand also means increased pressure on any eCommerce business and its infrastructure. The sudden weight of extra traffic can cause website servers to crash and cybercriminals have been fast to exploit both system weakness and the volume of customers after a bargain. Here we take a look at what can be done to ensure a smooth, profitable few months.

Start Close to Home

Give your business the best chance of success over the festive period by ensuring your company’s processes, structure and management tools are fit for purpose and are integrated well. It is prudent to make sure the business is both efficient and effective and to be clear on the difference between the two.

  • Effectiveness is – initially – the more important as an effective business is capable of achieving company goals and targets.
  • Efficiency, essentially how quickly and concisely you can be effective, will come with experience and the fine-tuning of processes.

Ensuring the workforce has the right tools to do the job is critical but, according to work management platform Asana, most workers switch between 10 work apps up to 25 times a day (the average worker spends 60% of their time on work admin alone). A draining experience that makes finding and filing information hard. So, finding a way to integrate as many business apps under one roof (Microsoft Teams for chat and video calling, for example) will take the load off your employees as busyness levels ramp up.

You can also help by decreasing the number of unnecessary meetings so your people can focus on being effective. And, finally, trust in automation to take care of repetitive, time-intensive, manual processes. Chatbots are a good example of this i.e. how relatively simple automation can be set up to save your “real” people time in their working day.

Be Safe

The pandemic has caused a seachange in retail trends, and more people than ever are buying online through digital devices (often including work computers). This hasn’t gone unnoticed by cybercriminals, and according to Ernst and Young’s (E&Y) 2020 Global Information Security Survey (GISS) customer information is now the most valuable kind of data for attackers, so protecting your consumers here is key.

Cybercriminals launch a variety of advanced attacks, often with the use of AI and automation, to both go after customers’ information and affect services. Magecart attacks are a favourite, and involve malware infecting a checkout page to steal customers’ details. DDoS regularly targets major brands, flooding sites with traffic and causing them to crash, while bots are increasingly used in credential stuffing attacks, in which customer’s details are stolen then used to access other sites.

The pandemic hasn’t helped the situation, and 81% of executives canvassed told E&Y’s 2021 GISS that COVID-19 had forced organisations to bypass cybersecurity processes, with regulation complexity and insufficient budgets considered key challenges going forward.

The question is: how can you combat all this? The answer is both cultural and practical, and starts by building cybersecurity into every business endeavor (or product/platform) you undertake from the ground up. It must be integral to everything. Also, encourage good password hygiene with your customers, implement firewalls, multi-factor authentication and ensure your web platforms are always up to date.

What is ransomware?

Crash Test

To avoid falling at the first Black Friday hurdle your website must be able to withstand a sudden, significant increase in traffic. Website downtime will cost you money and do your business damage. Nearly 60% of traffic won’t wait past three seconds for your site to load, and 80% are unlikely to return. There are a number of tests you can run to ascertain how your website will perform under strain. These include load, stress, endurance and peak testing, so whatever your monthly visits – be that 20,000 or 86.9 billion (Google.com) – you’ll be prepared for the festive surge.

It’s important not to forget the importance of app performance, too. Google says the pandemic has seen a dramatic increase in app adoption. Consumers spent $32 billion through apps in the first part of 2021, an increase of 40% over the previous year. It is therefore increasingly critical to ensure your app is ready for a rush of consumers, with eMarketing platform Emarsys claiming 46% of Britons will stop shopping with a retailer entirely if its app crashes on Black Friday.

With an average global sales increase of 663% it is clear Black Friday offers businesses a great opportunity to engage with new customers and audiences. The question is, how to stand out in the digital crowd? If you’re a B2B business it may be unwise to invest heavily into Facebook during the festive period because costs are much higher due to competition with eCommerce brands. In more general terms digital advertising is in a period of transition, with creative, high-impact advertisements outperforming more traditional programmatic advertising such as banner ads. Be careful who you partner with, however, as in 2016 the World Federation of Advertisers warned that by 2025 ad fraud is likely to exceed $50bn globally, making it the second most profitable business for organised crime, behind the drugs trade.

Consider a partnership programme with a platform like Impact.com to grow your business and, as we’ve seen before, the possibilities apps now present cannot be ignored: Google considers them a good way to re-engage and retain your most profitable shoppers. Finally, unify your customer data so that you truly know your consumers, and therefore know how to engage with them.

According to KPMG 60% of shoppers expect to make their purchases digitally over the Black Friday. Clearly there are riches to be had here, but also great challenges for your business from a technology perspective.

Why not get in touch with Dr Logic to see how we can help ensure this extremely busy festive period is a success for you and your business.

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