Once a strictly US phenomenon, Black Friday has made its way across the Atlantic (and the internet) to land firmly at our door.
UK consumers have welcomed this annual shopping day with open arms, rushing to snap up big, pre-Christmas purchases at extravagantly discounted prices.
And while the name might conjure images of lengthy queues of jostling shoppers, Black Friday is increasingly moving into the ecommerce space.
After all, why fight the crowds and the cold weather when you can find just as many bargains online?
When it goes well, Black Friday can secure a brand’s bottom line for the next year. But what happens when things go wrong?
In this article, we’re taking a closer look at the risks to your business this Black Friday. And it’s not just retailers that need to prepare: B2B businesses that may have spent previous years resting comfortably on their laurels should prepare for Black Friday’s widening impact.
When is Black Friday 2019?
This year’s Black Friday falls on Friday, 29th November 2019.
It’s worth remembering that Friday technically starts at just after midnight on Thursday, so don’t go expecting a leisurely 9am start for Black Friday shopping enthusiasts.
A study by parcel delivery service, Doddle, had shown that five million shoppers in the UK alone stay up to do their Christmas Shopping online as soon as the Black Friday sales go live.
A few days after Black Friday, you’ve got Cyber Monday. This year, it’s Monday, 2nd December 2019.
You can expect the whole weekend to be busy, filling the gap between last thing on Thursday night right up to the end of Monday night (quickly becoming known as ‘Cyber Weekend’).
Not just a retail phenomenon
Black Friday has retail written all over it, but that’s not to say that businesses in other industries can relax.
The ripples caused by this annual shopping surge can be felt in any sector with even the smallest or furthest removed link to the retail industry:
- Logistics and transportation. Planning and carrying out deliveries, including for the increasing number of brands that offer next-day delivery.
- Packaging. Supplying order fulfilment centres and replenishing stocks at short notice.
- Sales and customer service. In-store staff, online help desks and call centres all use technology to respond to customer needs, assist purchases, and make returns and exchanges.
- Banks and payment services. Accommodating the needs of customers spending, moving and borrowing money; AISPs, PISPs and other post-PSD2 entrants to the payments landscape* need to be on the ball.
- Telecomms. Dealing with the huge surge of consumers shopping via phones, tablets and other devices; ensuring that POS technology functions correctly in retail stores.
- Marketing and PR. Supporting clients in retail and ecommerce, adjusting and updating online marketing collateral, carrying out on-the-day email marketing campaigns.
- Building services and security. Looking after staff and customers in retail stores, ensuring premises comply with all relevant safety legislation.
There’s really no limit to the kinds of businesses that need to bear Black Friday in mind.
What kinds of Black Friday disasters could impact your business?
Like 73% of UK SMEs, you might be thinking that you’re doing pretty well without business continuity protection. But take a moment to consider these very plausible scenarios, and ask yourself how resilient your business really is:
Traffic jams your website
Last year’s Black Friday saw a number of major retailers struggle as web traffic surged. John Lewis, Ted Baker and Calvin Klein all lost hours of business, with customers unable to reach their websites directly or via the no-doubt costly ads the companies had invested in. Connectivity and bandwidth issues have a lot to answer for.
Mobile proves too much
Even a couple of years ago, consumers needed to be sitting at a desktop or laptop for a spot of online shopping. Now, a savvy swipe of the thumb is all that’s needed to get into retail space via mobile devices. But what if your website’s not optimised for mobile? And what if it takes too long to load? Slow load speeds are one of the most common reasons for visitors to leave your site — either immediately, or in the middle of the purchasing process.
Attack of the DDoS
DDoS attacks are a very real threat to businesses on busy ecommerce days like Black Friday, causing issues like:
- Internet disconnection
- Trouble accessing your website
- Hundreds, even thousands, of spam emails
- Slow load speeds and time-outs
Find yourself on the receiving end of a DDoS attack on Black Friday, and you can kiss goodbye to a lot of revenue.
Your money or your data
It’s not just DDoS disruption you have to watch out for. Ransomware attacks are part of a cyber-crimewave that’s predicted to cost the world economy an almost unfathomable £4.5 trillion each year by 2021. British businesses alone battle 38 ransomware attacks each day, with figures rising during busy consumer periods.
DID YOU KNOW? During 2018’s Black Friday weekend, US firms reported a massive spike in ransomware attacks: a total of 396,939 over four days.
How much could a Black Friday disaster cost you?
IT blackouts can cost businesses big time — and not just in terms of sales lost during the downtime. Let’s take a quick look at some of the basic facts:
In the case of website outages, time really is money. IT management company Gartner estimates that the average cost of business downtime is around £4,400 per minute. That’s an average £264,000 per hour.
A study by the American Management Association showing that it takes on average nine to 12 hours to restore critical IT systems. Is a Black Friday connectivity failure something your business can afford, or even survive?
Find out how much an outage could cost your business, using our FREE Downtime Calculator powered by Zerto
IT outages don’t occur in a vacuum, and it’s surprising how far the financial implications of a Black Friday crash can reach:
- Refunds and compensation payments
- Loss of future revenue
- Overtime costs for staff
- Wasted staff hours: employees x hours out x hourly rate
- Reputation management costs
- Emergency IT assistance
- Investment losses
It’s not a situation you want to find your business in — trust us.
With consumers increasingly shopping online, you’d think that ecommerce brands would be on top of a vital little thing like connectivity.
Not so. Research by Radware shows that the top 500 American retail sites actually are 16% slower than they were last year, taking a positively tortoise-like 8.56 seconds to load on a standard traffic day.
Pretty shocking when you consider that a business loses around 25% of its online visitors if its website takes more than four seconds to load. More than five seconds, and almost half of UK consumers will click away, according to another study. And don’t think customers will stick around if they’ve already added something to cart: another survey shows that 27% of online shoppers will abandon a purchase is the site’s taking too long.
Likewise, if you’re a B2B player (or a B2B2C brand, for that matter) and you’re supporting clients during the Black Friday boom, don’t expect them to forget if you let them down.
If your operations falter or fail, and it costs them dear, they’re unlikely to let it happen next year. Lose a customer to a competitor, and there’s little you can do to win them back.
DID YOU KNOW? It’s estimated that every second of web latency results in a seven per cent loss of conversion2.
As a business, your brand is arguably the most valuable asset you own. Once damaged, it’s very hard to repair.
If customers have a bad Black Friday experience on your website, in one of your stores, or when they’re relying on you as a core part of their supply chain, they’re unlikely to give you another chance. Why? Well, here’s just a handful of reasons:
- A poorly performing website with an unreliable connection isn’t just irritating; it’s anxiety-inducing when you’re entering sensitive data like card details. It can lead to customers being charged twice or missing out on deals they’re desperate to get their hands on.
- Black Friday in bricks-and-mortar stores gets seriously ugly. Add any hiccoughs to that, such as connectivity issues as the point of sale, or a lag on stock level data, and you’re throwing petrol on a fire.
- B2B brands are effectively the foundation of the retail industry: manufacturing, supply, logistics, technology, payment processing solutions — you name it, the retail industry relies on it. If any one of these building blocks fails at the crucial moment, it’s going to cost retail brands a lot of money. And you can guarantee they’ll vote with their wallets before letting it happen again.
And with communication between consumers on the failings of businesses being easier and more public than ever (hello, social media!), you can guarantee other potential customers will get to hear about your shortcomings.
How can you protect your business?
If you know you’re expecting a boom in traffic on the Black Friday weekend — and, let’s face it: who isn’t? — give your website the capacity it needs to handle those visitors.
Prevent your site from crashing and deliver results at speed with high quality hosting that will keep your internet speeds up.
You know your business best, but it’s worth getting advice from reputable providers about whether managed, dedicated or cloud-based servers are the right solution for your business during its busiest online periods.
Find out about M247’s enterprise-class, low-carbon dedicated servers
Ask yourself the right questions
How do you know if you need to up your disaster recovery game ahead of Black Friday? By asking the right questions:
- Have you ever tested your current DR plan? Did it work?
- Are your business-critical systems protected?
- What will you do if your primary systems fail?
If you’re not 100% confident in the answers to any one of those questions, urgent action is required.
Prepare for the worst
We all know the saying: “Fail to prepare and you’re preparing to fail.” But with adequate planning and protection, Black Friday system outages and downtime — and the disastrous consequences that follow — are something you’ll rarely have to deal with.
Whatever your business and budget, there’s a disaster recovery solution out there to safeguard your business. A reputable DRaaS provider will be able to offer you a customised and competitively priced mix of services that are suited to the way your business works:
- Full system and application replication (IaaS)
- System failover – multiple/single workload failover and failback ability
- Workload recovery
- Data back-up
- Managed firewalls
- Cloud mobility (public/private)
- Resilient connectivity
Now’s the time to identify what could go wrong with your business on Black Friday, what it would cost you and your customers, and what’s needed to prevent the situation — or to minimize its impact if it does occur. Take a look at M247’s flexible and scalable Disaster Recovery Services.
Attack-proof your network/services/cloud/draas/
As spikes in cybercrime continue to show, busy periods like the Black Friday weekend put businesses at increased risk of DDoS, malware and ransomware attacks.
Invest in a scalable solution to fortify your business against this kind of interference, which can not only bring your Black Friday business to a halt, but can jeopardise your infrastructure, applications, network and data.
Look for an anti-DDoS solution that:
- Mitigates both advanced and hit-and-run attacks
- Absorbs unexpected traffic spikes
- Can scrub data to pass on only ’in profile’ data
- Mitigates multiple vector attacks
- Gives you round-the-clock access to experienced support
Find out more about M247’s flexible DDoS mitigation services.
Have a (decent) back-up plan
We still come across companies every day that think back-up tapes are an adequate data recovery method for their business. But consider some of the biggest problems with tape back-up, and ask yourself whether you want to deal with any of the following:
- Slow access speeds with no random access to data
- High set-up costs, with ongoing costs for media, storage and management
- Limited scalability: tape is always a temporary storage measure
- Degradation of media and potential loss of data over time
In 2018, almost 70% of UK businesses experienced a cyberattack3, and these attacks are becoming ever more frequent and sophisticated. Protect your sensitive data by switching to digital or cloud-based back-up doesn’t have to be a headache.
Opt for a provider with secure, dedicated data centres, continuous data backup, and a responsive team to ensure you get the best protection against data loss.
DID YOU KNOW: Data loss cost the global economy $1.7 trillion in 2014 — that’s $154 for every item lost4
Get outside help
When things do go wrong, you need a team on-hand to help repair the damage — and fast. Enlisting the help of experts outside of your organisation gives you the best chance of getting back up and running as quickly as possible, with minimum disruption to you, your staff, and your customers.
M247 partners with a huge range of brands, from big name brands to growing SMEs. We’re industry leaders in business continuity, with:
- More than 15 years’ experience
- Global reach and 24/7 support
- A team of experts at your disposal
Whatever Black Friday throws at you, we’re ready to protect your infrastructures, network, systems and data.
Black Friday: it’s the heart of the golden period and retail’s biggest discount day every year. And while it’s coming up fast, there’s still time to prepare.
Today’s consumer expects a fast, frictionless experience from the moment they land on your website. And if they don’t get that? They vote with their wallet.
Whether your business operates at the heart of the ecommerce industry or on the periphery, a Black Friday tech disaster risks your revenue and your reputation.
With shoppers favouring ecommerce, and almost all sales and communication technology using an internet connection, connectivity is arguably the single most important factor for meeting customer demands this Black Friday.
Give your business the best chance of success with a reliable, high performance online infrastructure, a robust disaster recovery procedure, and an expert team available for 24-7 support.
*AISPs, PISPs and PSD2 in a nutshell…
Since the roll-out of the updated European Payment Services Directive (known as PSD2 for short), banks have lost the monopoly on customer data. New services are appearing on the money management landscape, and these generally fall into two categories: AISPs and PISPs.
- AISPs — or Account Information Service Providers — work by gathering customer account data in one place and offering advice and information services using that data.
- PISPs — Payment Initiation Service Providers — are payment apps. They go a step further and can withdraw money directly from your bank account if you’ve given consent.
There’s no telling how these new services will stand up to Black Friday business, or how customers will use them to manage their activity.