Retailers taking these six steps will win on Black Friday

Black Friday has earned the dubious honour of becoming an annual trial by fire for participating retail websites.

Last year, UK e-commerce traffic leapt 220% compared to a normal trading day, according to the data analysis firm Qubit, while revenues jumped by 240%.

That kind of increase in traffic will impact your e-commerce platforms in ways unimagined during the rest of the year and it is the job of website teams to plan for the unthinkable ahead of Black Friday to ensure their systems can cope.

With £1.23bn spent online in the UK last year, there’s much at stake, not least the impact on your bottom line, and bad PR if your website goes down.

However, retailers who have taken the following six steps to optimise their websites will be best placed to succeed on Black Friday, which this year falls on November 24.

  1. Prepare for your desired outcomes. Nail exactly what you want to achieve on Black Friday and be as specific as possible. Use analytics to understand fully what happened last year and then predict how this Black Friday will be different. Your prediction should be based on a wide spectrum of factors, including your marketing plan and what products you will be promoting. Once you know where you want to go it will be easier to draw up a plan.
  2. What is your expected web traffic uplift? Quantify how much traffic you think your site will experience on Black Friday. Base your prediction on last year and then compare your predicted traffic with the levels your system can currently handle comfortably.
  3. How will you handle the expected traffic? Take steps to enhance your e-commerce platform so that it can cope with any expected increase in traffic levels. This may include adding extra server capacity and ensuring your payment processes are sufficiently scalable.
  4. Start testing. Create a test environment based on what you think Black Friday will look like. Don’t simply scale up your system based on the expected increase in traffic (e.g. doubling server capacity if you expect double the traffic) and hope for the best because your system may behave in unexpected ways. The best approach is to design and implement a test environment that will replicate the expected traffic and put your systems under the necessary strain.
  5. Decide if you need to lock down your website code. It’s inflexible and will limit your ability to change your site’s software weeks or months ahead of Black Friday, but a code freeze is necessary if you manually test your code. This is because manual testing is time consuming and introduces the possibility of human error. If, however, you carry out regular automated regression testing with each website software update, a full lockdown may not be necessary.
  6. Walk in your customers’ shoes. A clear focus on customer experience is vital as you prepare for Black Friday. More than anything else, you need to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and see the world through their eyes. For example, last year mobile traffic overtook desktop for the first time, so a customer’s mobile experience must be just as good, or better than, the desktop. Product details, including image, description, price and a buy button, need to load immediately otherwise a customer will go elsewhere. Your platform also needs to be flexible so you can add the very latest products to satisfy customer demand. There may be scores of factors that impact customer experience for your website, but you need to identify, prioritise and satisfy as many customers as possible if you are going to get the most from this Black Friday.

Black Pepper Software is a leader in retail technology innovation. Take a look at our retail expertise to see how we can move your business ahead of the competition.

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