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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.

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Comment Editor's pick

Comment counts: How luxury went tribal

A new luxury is emerging based on the idea of creating belonging over exclusion, says Eleni Chalmers of Leo Burnett; a world where knowledge and passion frequently trumps wealth.

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Givenchy offering up 820 seats at its spring 2016 show during New York Fashion Week to whoever got there first wasn’t just a one-off publicity exercise. It was symptomatic of a major shift in the luxury sector.

Luxury has become defined by what matters to the public rather than the traditional conventions of marketers. We at Leo Burnett call this new trend “tribal luxury” because, unlike traditional luxury, which is based on what a brand can offer you to the exclusion of others, tribal luxury is rooted in belonging.

Tribal luxury isn’t just confined to new brands. Selfridges has demonstrated a real sense of democracy and inclusiveness. The 100-year-old London store has held events and activities recently showcasing its accessibility, such as its gender-neutral pop up store Agender and Bright Old Things, an initiative celebrating older innovators & influencers.

Burberry exists in both the traditional sector selling luxury high status goods, and the tribal sector with activities such as the famous Art of the Trench initiative, which crowd-sourced photos of everyday people wearing trench coats to attract a new generation of prospective customers effectively displaying their “membership” of this tribe.

Net-a-Porter’s fashion social network The Net Set shows tribal luxury at work. The site, which launched as invitation only, is now open to the public after “insatiable” demand – further proof luxury consumers love to belong.

What these brands understand is that creating inclusive communities doesn’t dilute your exclusivity – rather it fans the flames of passion for the many, which in turn, elevates the appeal of the brand to the few who can afford these high ticket items.

Inclusiveness does not reduce the aspirational appeal of luxury brands. While the skater cool of New York’s Supreme clothing brand may be available to everyone, a pair of sweat shorts will still set you back over £100. But people will still pay because getting to express your membership of the Supreme tribe is worth it.

Kanye West’s Yeezy adidas sneaker range has caused a bidding war because of limited supply, with people offering up to £8000 for a pair that would normally cost £275. Needless to say those “in the know” probably got them at the retail price.

Luxury remains exclusive, but in the new world of tribal luxury the currency is the knowledge borne out of passion, not wealth. Tribal luxury is here to stay because old-fashioned one-upmanship has morphed into something more collaborative and arguably human. Elitism has given way to the more democratic idea that knowledge and passion can enable you to experience luxury. It’s not money, but the need to belong that is making the luxury world go round.

Eleni Chalmers is luxury and lifestyle strategy director at advertising agency Leo Burnett.

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

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Comment social media

Forget Instagram: what has happened to fashion week commentary on Twitter?

This post first appeared on Fashionista.com

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Is it just me or has Twitter become much less inspiring during fashion week season? I say that as an avid user – both personally and profesionally. I peruse posts day to day, and particularly once the shows hit London, Milan and Paris, when I’m watching via livestream from New York. I scroll through my own feed, I consume via social dashboards attached to designers’ websites, and I go back and search using hashtags and brand names afterwards, too.

What I’ve always enjoyed is the live commentary that you gather from those in the front row, but there seems to have been very little of it for the past couple of seasons, and I for one really miss it. Not the tweets that tell me what show they’re waiting for, the fact the first model has appeared/the last model has walked out, or even what color they’re seeing. Those still exist, and I can gather all that from home.

No, what I really want back, is actual commentary. I want to hear from the editors –- the experts no less — about the 1930s theme emerging at Prada and the influence Miuccia drew from film director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, or the details of the new Bloomsbury-inspired, hand-painted florals at Burberry Prorsum. I want to know what is sashaying down that runway that, from my own 13-inch screen, I can’t quite see.

The images that are posted can be nice, of course, and on occasion insightful (if not blurry, but that’s another issue). But what happened to a wonderfully descriptive annotation along with it? Or better yet a real-time opinion, a review-on-the-spot even? Here are some of the highlights from the Lanvin show Thursday:

Lots of pictures naturally, but did you gather much about the line really? Navy, white and feathers. It’s a start.

Now it’s not that everyone has put their smartphones back in their handbags to focus on the clothes as they come out of course. So what’s going on?

First up, quite obviously: Instagram. During London Fashion Week there were a total of 266,767 mentions on Twitter, and 316,359 posts on Instagram, according to Bell Pottinger, a British public relations and marketing firm. So arguably, much more time is being spent there.

It goes without saying there’s huge benefit in that space of course. But when someone is at at home watching a livestream, or has access to high-res images in near real-time — not to mention backstage ones from the brand themselves — Instagram shots from the front row don’t necessarily offer all that much. They’re a nice-to-have, and for a feel of fashion week in general, a fantastic stream to follow. But for those really wanting to know about the collections themselves, there’s still a gap — an information gap.

The skill of an editor who has worked in the industry for 10 or more years is to be able to quickly deduce what a collection is about, to analyze its importance for trends, to bring contextual knowledge of its applicability to the commercial market and to offer a clear understanding of the technical side (i.e., garment construction and fabrications).

Portraying that over Twitter is no mean feat. I attempted it as a guest Tweeter on behalf of my employer, WGSN, for the @mbfashionweek account during New York at a number of shows and it’s entirely consuming.

But I don’t think the fact few editors or publications seem to be offering anything like this anymore comes down to just not having the time. With social media now reaching maturity, there’s inevitably becoming a greater push in terms of strategy for organizations and individuals alike on what to do and what not to do to achieve audience engagement.

So here’s my question: Is this lack of Twitter commentary as simple as editors just becoming more obsessed with Instagram? Or is there actually a direct decision being made not to give away too much there and then? (The knowledge of these men and women is a valuable commodity — why hand it out on a free platform, when you can rather store it up and post it on your own site for traffic generation later?)

Then again, maybe it’s just as simple as the fact we’re also all just a little bit over it. Or overwhelmed. Or lazy. Still, I’d like it back.