Simon Wharton, managing director at eCommerce agency PushON, insists that learning from past mistakes and having robust infrastructure is key to surviving days like Black Friday.
The day – which this year fell on Friday 24th November – has become known for online shopping deals.
With online sales reaching £1.4 billion – an increase of 11.7 per cent compared to 2016 – as high street footfall decreases, it’s become clear that sites need to be able to cope with the added pressure of days like Black Friday.
Compared to last year sites seemed to experience fewer crashes and several had implemented preventative measures – such as queing systems – to help stop downtime happening said Wharton.
“Why was this year more of a success for online retailers?,” he asked.
“One reason why retailers saw better uptime with their online stores this year is that the event, which was once broadly recognised as a ‘one-day’ event, has now been drawn out over an extended period.
“Most, if not all, retailers chose to extend their sales from a one-day ‘fire sale rush’ into a one, and even two, week sale that offered shoppers the comfort to take their time to browse the items on sale.”
Less focus was also put on website countdowns announcing that sales were launching bang on 12am which also helped believes Wharton.
“Instead, we saw advanced marketing communications that informed shoppers the Black Friday sale was going to run from Friday to Monday or from Friday 17 November all the way through to Black Friday,” he said.
“Aside from just running sales for longer, it seems that many retailers learned from past mistakes when it came to scalability, robust hosting solutions and other technical tactics that would help cope with the higher demand.
“Investing in good hosting solutions with appropriate bandwidth burst capacity would have also contributed to a more stable Black Friday period.”
Delivery also seems to have improved says Wharton, with some of the larger retailers offering one or even same day delivery.
“This means the ‘buy cheap, buy now and get it delivered in time for Christmas’ panic message has been very much watered down,” he said.
“People are now much more relaxed about making purchases online before Christmas, knowing that they will be delivered quickly – there’s no need to rush in store to guarantee you’ll have the product in time.”
There seems to have been a number of contributing factors that led to the online success of this year’s Black Friday weekend believes Wharton, but the potential fall-out of getting it wrong is also not to be underestimated.
“A combination of a maturing market, extended sale periods and more relaxed shopping seem to have been at play,” he said.“But one thing is for sure, if retailers’ websites had failed to perform, their huge sales could have become almost worthless and and ultimately resulted in lost revenue.
“With online shopping growing rapidly, one moment of website unavailability may damage relationships with loyal customers, meaning they turn to a competitor instead.”