The Black Friday phenomenon

Black Friday is the annual discount day in the US after Thanksgiving, regarded as the first day of the Christmas shopping season. It’s widely acknowledged that retailers and brands experience significant traffic and sales increases on this day, with many retailers now extending the potential selling period to ‘Cyber Monday’ and beyond. Black Friday was only introduced to the UK in 2013 by Walmart-owned Asda, but now Black Friday and Cyber Monday have really taken off in Europe and the UK. Just 19% of UK respondents participated in Black Friday back in 2015,compared with 54% in 2017. In 2018, Black Friday online sales reached a 46% year on year increase by just 4 pm, whereas actual footfall dropped by 5.4%. This reflects not only larger discounts being offered online but also that consumers are changing their buying patterns, veering towards the convenience of shopping online from the comfort of their homes.

Advances in technology that personalise the shopping experience

While consumers are constantly bombarded with offers and sales, the retailers with the strongest technologies will be the most successful, tailoring bespoke offerings to their customers. The experience of the shopper, even at peak times like Black Friday, will impact their loyalty to a brand throughout the year. Over the last five years, many retailers have been investing in artificial intelligence (AI), with the aim of improving the customer experience and enhancing business results. The implementation of AI is a pivotal technological advancement for the in-store and online retail experience, enabling businesses to put the right product in front of the right customer, at the right time. Big data analytics and machine learning allow for greater control and visibility. Forward-thinking retailers are using predictive analytics based on mass amounts of data to hyper target users who they believe will be willing to buy certain products. A Salesforce report found that 35% of online purchases during the festive period were based on retailers’ AI-powered recommendations tools. If a retailer can predict what a consumer wants at a specific time, it’s a win-win for both the retailer and the consumer.

The rise of mobile apps and browsers

The Salesforce report also highlighted that mobile is the most disruptive force in retail since the onset of ecommerce. Consumers are buying more on their mobile phones than any other device, and making far more visits. Even in-store shoppers are mobile, with 83% of shoppers aged 18 to 44 using their phones while physically in store. Mobile apps are now an integral part of our daily life, with people spending an average of 30 hours per month in them, according to Nielsen. They're a powerful way for brands to build deeper relationships with their customers, especially with mobile app marketing, which can complement a brand's offline experience (in-store special offers, for example), drive e-commerce or simply help reinforce a brand.

Think omnichannel all the way!

We know that today’s sophisticated shoppers are leveraging every channel available, including in-store, online, on mobile devices and even mail order, to complete their purchasing journeys. They are increasingly demanding digital channels and want to be able to fully explore their Black Friday options, whether for researching deals, looking for gift inspiration or experiencing a shopping event in person. Your customers want a memorable shopping experience and retailers can meet their needs by interacting through voice, email, chat, SMS and even social media. As a retailer, you need to be able to answer consumers’ questions and queries, recommend companion products and coordinate changes in delivery, through whatever channel the consumer wishes to use. Integrating AI and a full omnichannel experience into call centre technology is hugely beneficial. For example, handling simple queries in an automated fashion frees up agents to answer more complex queries and provides a far better consumer experience. Those retailers with omnichannel capabilities see greater uplift in revenues and more sales: 54% of shoppers make purchases on multiple channels between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. So it’s critical for retailers and brands to ensure they catch their target audiences in the right channels and provide a seamless, omnichannel experience.

Improving communication and collaboration

Communication is key between supplier, manufacturer, distributor and retailer. Collaboration tools can ensure that links with manufacturers and suppliers are fully optimised and that the correct stock is in place to meet customer demand, especially at peak times likes Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Efficient order management of global inventory visibility and enablement of the store as a fulfilment centre during these consumer-centric retail events is central to a retailer’s customer experience strategy.

The future of retail

Retailers must consider every stage of the retail cycle, from purchase and transaction through to collection, delivery and returns, prior to big retail events like Black Friday. It's clear that a proactive omnichannel strategy will be a major contributor to success for retailers going forward.

To learn more and find out how you can improve the retail experience with omnichannel technology:

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