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Black Friday cancelled? Building digital resilience

Author: Miya Knights, Head of Industry Insight, Eagle Eye Solutions Ltd

In the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic, retailers must ensure they are prepared for a very different kick-off to this year’s key festive trading season dominated by online.

Black Friday is traditionally the day after Thanksgiving in the US. It also marks the beginning of festive markdown season that runs through the following weekend to Cyber Monday and onto Christmas.

But, if shoppers continue to bypass physical stores, retailers must ensure their digital infrastructure is prepared to handle unprecedented levels of demand not seen since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Recent headlines have even questioned whether Black Friday 2020 is cancelled, given many consumers' reluctance to head back to the shops as government-imposed lockdowns are eased.

For example, Walmart last week announced it will close all of its shops across the US on Thanksgiving, 26 November this year, ending its tradition of offering Black Friday deals on that day.

Despite Walmart giving its frontline workers a well-earned day off, it is unlikely however that this will mark the end of the beginning of the annual discount season: Black Friday will likely migrate online.

Seasonal bargain-hunting moves online

As the biggest annual shopping day, retailers will be open and offering deals on Black Friday. Online marketplace Rakuten found 57% of consumers also plan to shop on such key festive discount days.

At the same time, the trend towards online shopping that has accelerated ecommerce growth as a proportion of total retail sales by four to six years during the pandemic is likely to continue.

So, online discounting will likely begin in earnest even earlier this year: ecommerce deals will be in higher demand over Black Friday weekend, and not just from the following ‘Cyber Monday’.

This means many of the digital shopping capabilities that had begun to emerge as essential for retailers around Black Friday and Cyber Monday in recent years will be even more important in 2020.

These can include performance marketing tools, such as loyalty and gift, as well as both owned and third-party discounts, which can also boost store footfall with ‘click & collect’ incentives, for example.

Although Black Friday and Cyber Monday can boost sales, shoppers’ pre-festive markdown-fuelled frenzy can also eat into margins and also cannibalise Christmas and New Year sales.

Building resilience for profitable demand

So, it is important to start Black Friday and Cyber Monday marketing early. Engage customers with relevant, consistent deal-driven communications across multiple sales and marketing channels.

Last year, Eagle Eye tracked increased e-gift transactions, spurred by its clients’ dedicated Black Friday marketing, which proves that a gift programme can mitigate the impact of markdown sales.

Eagle Eye has also seen a high level of interest in ensuring cyber resilience after many retailers’ digital infrastructures failed to hold up earlier this year under the weight of increased ecommerce demand.

Therefore, it has been working closely with clients to ensure the Eagle Eye AIR platform can handle their pre-festive marketing plans and activities to boost both their online and offline sales.

Eagle Eye stress tested the peak speeds and volumes of transactions that one national retailer with 1,000 stores, ecommerce operations and a loyalty programme would expect to generate.

Conducted over 48 hours, the test simulated traffic from its both physical point of sale (POS) and digital transactions as well as the personalised, loyalty and mass, ‘coupon at till’ offers generated.

Robust AIR platform scales to meet demand

AIR’s real-time response capabilities resulted in over 69.5 million POS application programming interface (API) calls and settled over 22.9 million transactions, with an average 220ms response time.

The platform easily handles huge transaction volumes to adjudicate what offers are applied to which customers’ baskets by carrying out item-level analysis on 687m+ products during the test.

It also processed 185m+ redemptions or an average of eight per basket, at an average speed of 400 transactions per second (tps), while transactions speeds peaked at 600tps.
The test also generated 66.6m+ digital API calls. By contrast, the retailer conducting the test would normally expect to generate 150tps during its Christmas peak.

In fact, AIR managed the kinds of speeds and volumes actually represented by the traffic that the biggest three or four grocery retailers in the UK would expect to generate at peak combined.

It also represents the end-to-end sales visibility and promotional capability retailers need to harness, at the volumes and velocity necessary to deliver the variety of offers needed to drive real profitability.

As this year’s Black Friday traffic could even supersede Cyber Monday’s, it will pay to ensure your marketing infrastructure can deliver such levels of futureproofed robustness, scale and performance. 

To find out how Eagle Eye can help you ready your performance marketing planning, execution, scale and resilience in time for Black Friday 2020, please contact us here.