Comment counts: Are you prepared for Black Friday UK’s £1bn shopping day?

With Black Friday on the horizon, retailers should have completed their final stages of preparation, ready to capitalise on the sales potential of the day and beyond. John Beechen of Salmon, outlines a final checklist.

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This year it has been predicted that Black Friday will lead to the UK’s first £1bn online shopping day. In order to ensure success, retailers need to take learnings from 2014 to prepare for the increased level of activity. While a spike on the peak trading days was anticipated last year, it was clear many were not ready. As bargain hunters searched online for deals, some websites went offline for long periods of time, while others were slower at processing orders due to customer overloads, resulting in frustration from customers.

As an annual event, everyone knows it’s coming this week, but the scale of consumer demand at any given time can be unpredictable. Retailers need to have addressed their online operations in a bid to prevent anything that could damage the customer experience and result in lost sales. Those who are as prepared as possible, from front-end to back-end, will be the ones who triumph.

Here are five key things retailers need to have done ahead of the UK’s biggest retail event of the year:

1. Staggered marketing activities

Although a surge on Black Friday is inevitable, feeding customer deals gradually in the time leading up to and beyond the big day will have kept consumers shopping throughout the peak and on Cyber Monday, while reducing strain on infrastructure and fulfilment teams.

2. Briefed the business

Retailers need to have ensured every department is au fait with the plan for peak trading on 27 November – not just in silo but across the entire business. Being aligned will ensure all online trading and operations teams can anticipate surges and be ready.

3. Run an incident test

Ideally, the majority – if not all – performance checks will have already been completed across all online platforms. Simulating a major incident to understand how watertight your contingency plan is, will enable retailers to understand how they will cope with a “dam burst” scenario if faced with an unexpected influx of traffic on the day.

4. Created a back-up plan

If you are completely unprepared it’s not too late to put some basic functionality in place. For example, adding a queuing system whereby customers are placed in a waiting line to access the website will help to control the surge and reduce the chances of the site crashing. This is also a good contingency plan for retailers on the day, should they suffer unexpected problems, implementing a queuing system can relieve strain on back end operations whilst the problem is fixed.

5. Ensured staffing plans are set

Your staffing plans and shifts should be set, with everyone involved in peak operations (including your vendors) aware of their role and responsibility during the period. Shifts should be in place for both Black Friday and the weekend, and contact details published.

John Beechen is head of managed services at global commerce service provider, Salmon.

Comment Counts is a series of opinion pieces from experts within the industry. Do you have something to say? Get in touch via info@fashionandmash.com.