In 2018, Black Friday sales pulled in a record $6.22 billion in online sales and 2019 could very well beat that number.
Regardless, between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, this year's post-Thanksgiving weekend will be one of the biggest days in American retail.
Consumer interest in these two days is massive. Therefore, a planned and well-executed effort on Black Friday or Cyber Monday can attract new customers and bring much of the year's revenue and profits in, over a short period of time. But the many transactions also demand special requirements on your online infrastructure.
Can you scale?
We always recommend our retail clients invest in scalable systems so that the load does not overwhelm the online store, checkout system, order receipt or inventory management.
When one or more central systems is off, it can cripple the online shop or physical stores. It can cost revenue and some customers get angry about missing out on a good deal.
If your infrastructure is predominantly cloud-based and built to automatically scale with your current load, you're probably in a good spot. In fact, large cloud providers such as Microsoft are working hard to deal with global phenomena such as Black Friday with methodologies such as "follow the sun", where regional capacity is turned up and down depending on the time of day or night.
On the other hand, if your infrastructure and applications are not designed to scale, it's wise to tap a partner for help. For example, a couple of years ago, when a large retail chain realized that its online shop was too static to handle the heavy pressure on Black Friday, they asked us to monitor the load and connect more servers as customers flocked to the website.
Have a Plan B in place
Inevitably, there are circumstances that are completely beyond the control of a company. If the network connection fails a contingency and information plan should be drawn up and trained. Physical stores can serve customers for a period of time without network access.
It's also wise to analyze how many customers you can expect and when. As well as prioritizing which applications are critical to keep in the air and which ones hardly matter.
Finally, give your online retail store a service check, limit the size of the images displayed on the site and make sure all non-essential batch jobs are postponed until the next day when there's more capacity to work with.
Many of these precautions rarely come into play, but can make the difference between success or failure.
Arrange readiness with your supplier well in advance
Whether the infrastructure scales smoothly or not, it is wise to talk to your supplier well in advance about readiness if problems should arise. It's always a risk with complex, interconnected systems. Even if a critical flaw doesn't lie in your system, it's important to be vigilant about cyber attacks or a partner imbalance.
Therefore, you should discuss all possible options with your supplier in advance, practicing disaster plans and getting a vendor contact address in place—just in case the system becomes unstable, such as incomprehensible error codes appearing or the storage system announcing items are sold out when you know it's available.
Anything can happen when there's pressure on systems. The only thing you can be sure of is that your IT vendors are also busy on Black Friday.