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Black Friday 2021: Tech experts explore how businesses can capitalise on the day

This Black Friday is set to be significantly more challenging than years before. With Brexit causing shortages of HGV drivers as workers across Europe struggle to gain Visas, and Covid driving these shortages even further, businesses face unprecedented supply chain challenges. Now, research by Barclaycard has shown that around a third of shoppers have changed their approach to Christmas shopping this year as a result, and over a half have brought purchases forward, meaning that this Black Friday is likely to see higher demands than ever.

Businesses need to make adequate preparations to ensure that they manage customer expectations and their supply chains remain agile, which can only be done with the right technology. With this in mind, we have insight from various tech experts on how businesses can capitalise on Black Friday this year.

Managing changed consumer expectations

Yusdi Santoso, Customer Solution Strategist, Qualtrics, says that “Changing consumer behaviours are difficult to adapt to. Online shopping was a revolution to help time-poor consumers, even more so in lockdown. Eighteen months of restrictions, however, may make a physical return to the high street very appealing. UK retailers must get the balance right this winter; Qualtrics’ research shows that companies worldwide are putting around £3.5 trillion in consumer sales at risk due to bad customer experience. On average, 34% of consumers have reported that having one or more bad experiences with a business can discourage them from spending there again.”

Helen Briggs, SVP and GM EMEA, Genesys, is a firm believer that one of the main ingredients to a successful holiday shopping season is empathy. “Our recent study found that two-thirds of respondents (69%) state it is important for brands to act with empathy when dealing with them as a customer today – rising to over four in five (82%) of those aged 18-34. When retailers are empathetic with customers across every interaction, whether in-store or online, it will lead to increased brand loyalty.”

John Crossan, General Manager, UK & Ireland, Freshworks, says that “One of the biggest deciding factors of whether brands can attract new customers, and retain them after the deals have gone, isn’t through available discounts at all, but through customer service. Recent research from Freshworks found that 61% of UK customers would be more likely to shop from a retailer again after experiencing good customer service, while 42% would recommend them to their friends and family. This means that as well as offering the right deal at the right price, it is vital retailers are communicating and supporting customers if they are to make the most of the potential shopping bonanza.”

Colin Neil, Managing Director, Adyen UK, agrees, saying, “Retailers need to be strategic as to how they build the ultimate customer experience, as there are many aspects to creating longer-lasting benefits. For example, linking offline and online channels will help retailers make the most out of their offerings, giving customers the convenience and flexibility they demand. 57% of businesses say that doing this will help make managing peak periods easier and eliminates ‘computer says no’ moments for retailers trying to create a slick experience.”

Personalisation is king

Paige O’Neill, Chief Marketing Officer, Sitecore, puts forward that “As brands are fighting to differentiate their offers, they need to ensure a bigger focus on personalised experiences if they want to excite customers and drive sales. Customer expectations have never been higher, and while there’s still a place for discounts, brands should focus on earning loyalty through better understanding customer behaviour. This, in turn, can provide valuable insights around needs so that they can offer them the right products at the right time.”

              

Monica Sullivan, CMO, Demand Science, agrees,Being able to offer personalised content, delivered through the right channel for a particular individual, whether that is email, phone or LinkedIn, and delivered at the right time can make the difference between a successful sale and a fail. This has been backed up by recent research we undertook that found 33% of business executives in the UK state a timely approach from a sales professional is more likely to trigger a move to a new provider.”

Neil Hammerton, CEO and Co-Founder, Natterbox, says the focus should be on the customer’s entire journey. He says, “Businesses must take the approach that a customer’s entire journey with the brand is the responsibility of everyone within the business. This includes everything from the customer’s first visit to the website, right the way through to any customer service they receive post-purchase. It is about the entire lifecycle of a customer journey, including every touchpoint a customer encounters.”

Providing a seamless omnichannel experience

Henry Tam, Senior Solutions Marketing Manager, Redis, says it’s also important to provide real-time views of stock levels and product availability. This is because “Delayed or inaccurate inventory information can frustrate customers, leading to shopping cart abandonment and order cancellations. Additionally, creating a personalised, omnichannel experience that seamlessly combines in-store and online shopping that provides features such as ‘buy online – pick up in store’ can go a long way to satisfying shoppers during this hectic time and allows them to choose the option that fits their schedule.”

Fortunately, retail is one of the best sectors for using data to improve customer experience outcomes, says Adam Mayer, Senior Manager, Qlik. “Research from Qlik and IDC saw a 23% increase in customer satisfaction and loyalty as a result of its use of data. Ensuring robust, high-performance data pipelines are in place, supplying real-time data for analytics across the organisation, will grant retailers the ability to become more active in their business intelligence and offer a seamless omnichannel experience to better serve empowered customers through an agile supply chain.”

Managing supply chain issues

Rohit Gupta, Head of Product and Resources, Cognizant, believes that “Success will also be dependent upon rapid optimisation in supply chains. Despite advanced planning, retailers will still have to optimise movements rapidly at the time of these shopping events. The retailers that have invested in the automation of distribution centres in recent years, to increase capacity and improve eCommerce efficiency, will also be at an advantage to handle the retail peak better than others.”

 

Nick Mitchell, UK MD, Celonis, takes a similar view in that to prepare for inefficiencies, “businesses need to examine their internal execution capacity to pinpoint the cause of any potential delays and take proactive steps to improve efficiencies and reduce waste. By maximising their execution capacity and keeping everything operating smoothly, they can keep customer experiences seamless throughout the most important retail period of the year.”

Beware of fraudsters

Rick McElroy, Principal Cybersecurity Strategist, VMware, warns, This year, the scarcity of some products predicted in the run-up to the festive season, due to the ongoing supply chain issues, is creating a more attractive playing field for fraudsters. Consumers should keep in mind that if someone is offering a shortcut to the front of the line for an in-demand product, it may be a scam.”

David Warburton, Principal Threat Research Evangelist, F5, reassures, “There are a number of measures businesses and consumers can take to combat these risks. For example, online retailers should be omitting links from email correspondence and advising customers that they have done so. Customers should instead be encouraged to visit the website via a search engine, independent of the email, and question emails that do contain links.”

Chris Huggett, SVP EMEA & India, Sungard Availability Services, says that outages must be avoided at all costs. He says, “In recent years, small and agile start-ups and digital challenger brands have proven they can steal longstanding market share from traditional companies. Now that consumers have a much wider pool of retailers to choose from, it’s simpler to cut ties and shift to a competitor if a brand fails to meet expectations. The change in consumer expectations as a result of the pandemic means consistent availability of online services is a must.”

Tackling a Black Friday with challenges like no other

Marc Zottner, Global Application Modernization Lead at VMware Tanzu, summarises the overall opinion well, saying, “Never has it been more important to offer a seamless user experience that can help drive sales during uncertain times for retailers. Once the personalised marketing and unbeatable deals get shoppers to the retailer’s site, it’s up to the technology teams to make sure things run smoothly. Every interaction matters – the first time a customer goes through the entire online checkout process, only to be told their items are out of stock, might be the last time they visit a particular site.”

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