It’s that time of the year again.

Shoppers are getting ready to snap up the deals and retailers are preparing to cash in on the hype.

In the following months, online shopping will see a surge worldwide.
Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, China’s Singles day, boxing day sales, this is the season to be spending.

Last year, the UK saw an estimated £1.23bn being spent on Black Friday alone, with £6.45bn spent over the Black Friday Peak period.

In the US, Adobe reports $3.39 bn on Cyber Monday, whilst Black Friday pulled in $3.39bn online.

In China, Singles day (11th November) reported $17.8 USD on the Alibaba Shopping Network alone.

Ecommerce is growing, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon. More and more businesses are trading online than ever, and each year, there is a growing emphasis to ensure that systems can cope with the surge in activity.

Events like these puts every retail business to the test once a year and it isn’t just the case of having the best deal out there.

Systems must keep up with the demand. It’s no good having a one day flash sale without the hardware keeping up with the surge in traffic. Unfortunately, several high profile retailers have fallen victim of this. Argos, Currys PC World, and even Amazon have once experienced blackouts or a lapse in response on their sites online.

Identifying these blackouts seems to have become a sport in itself for news outlets; publicising a list of sites that couldn’t handle the pressure on that fateful day.

This doesn’t go to say that the technical teams haven’t done their job. On the contrary, they probably have planned for this for a while. But one thing that isn’t easy to gauge is the actual demand and provisions that needs to be put in place – you can only be prepared for so much.

 

Colocation - Server Racks at a Data Centre

Colocation

 

Aside from the potential embarrassment it casts on the business, the bigger issue here is the lost revenue at stake here.

When a reported £1.23bn was passing through the checkouts on Black Friday 2016 on UK alone, you can bet that everyone was wanting that slice of that spend. Losing out there would not only lose out on revenue, but competitors are winning new businesses that could’ve been your new loyal customer. This is a great time for brands to be discovered.

The deals forms the hook to the brand, and discounted items only sweetens the deal for people to give the less dominant brands a chance. Assuming that everything else goes well of course.

It seems then, that the marketing team has work cut out for them too.

There are numerous channels to drive awareness of these sales events. Affiliate Marketing, Social Media, Paid, Traditional Media and Print all play their part in creating this uplift in sales and awareness.

Internal teams, agencies and third parties will be working overdrive to make sure this shopping period is a success. Deals sites like Hotukdeals, vouchercloud and topcashback will be working on overdrive to drive deals in front of their readership.

However, this isn’t the only part that faces scrutiny during such a time. The website experience and general business operations must be a well oiled machine too.

Nobody likes a website that is frustrating to navigate, nor a checkout experience that is less than desired. In an increasingly noisy world, we just want things to work, and effortlessly too.
A user should never need to find what they’re looking for, and they certainly should not need to be confused by the checkout process – this is why User Experience and Conversion Rate Optimisation teams exists – to look at elements that affects areas such as dropout rates and basket abandonment.

Web dashboard

Website experience

 

From an operational point of view, inventory control, fulfillment and delivery is under the test too, especially for an ecommerce only business.

Aside from the physical on site staff, such as picking and packing, there is a whole network of computer systems in the background making this process easier to manage and all of this is floated by software run on servers. The shopping season will only test these processes to breaking point and stretch the demand of the servers to their limits.

Masses of data will run through companies in the last few months of the year, and all this equates to is a learning experience to help develop better processes and systems. One may even use this to prepare themselves better for the next year… it’s a win-win situation really, businesses makes money, gains a new customer, develops better processes. The customers get’s a good deal, delivered on time, minus the headaches of fighting through the crowd on the Eve before Christmas – all this through the comfort of their own sofa.

Let all the servers do the hard work. Are you ready for Black Friday?