As expected, Black Friday was a whirlwind of activity for the retail sector – however it wasn’t all plain sailing. Scenes of in-store chaos were few and far between, with the majority of shoppers choosing to head online in search of a bargain.

The knock-on effect for ecommerce was a tremendous pressure on digital infrastructure. A number of websites were plagued by slow load times in parts of the day, while some fell down altogether.

As the dust settles on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we take a look at some of the key learnings that retailers can apply to the rest of the holiday shopping season.

Lesson 1 – expect the unexpected

For many bricks-and-mortar retailers, Black Friday will have been a wake-up call. When analysts started forecasting record sales, there was comparatively little talk of the split between online and offline, and a number of businesses were caught out by the lack of impact Black Friday had on bricks-and-mortar footfall as a result.

Therefore, retailers need to be aware that even strategically planned promotions don’t always have the desired effect – and perhaps ‘plan B’ should be waiting in the wings. Right now, there’s an opportunity to win back revenue not generated on Black Friday by creating some pre-Christmas offers unique to the store.

Lesson 2 – prepare for the toughest scenarios

Particularly in Europe, Black Friday 2014 caught a lot of multichannel and ecommerce retailers out in terms of website traffic, which caused many ecommerce platforms to crash under the strain of activity. While there weren’t nearly as many issues in 2015, online shopping was not a seamless experience for many customers, and this will taint their impression of a brand’s capabilities.

Even huge international retailers aren’t immune from the online trading pressures of Black Friday, and therefore businesses of all sizes need to continually invest in their ecommerce platform, to ensure they have the capacity and functionality to cope with sudden peaks in demand.

Lesson 3 – make every customer count

Undoubtedly, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have brought the festive shopping period forward, and that’s good in a sense, as it gives retailers the opportunity to put right any ‘glitches’ in the run-up to Christmas.

However, it also means that the cost of a bad customer experience can be much more damaging. Getting a good deal doesn’t necessarily mean that consumers are willing to lower their standards; they won’t queue or wait for a page to load any longer than at other times of the year. In fact, given the stresses of the holiday season, their tolerance levels are likely even lower.

Now that Black Friday is an international phenomenon, pretty much every retailer is participating in it – so purchase abandonment is quite literally only a minute away. The store needs to optimise its customer experience – perhaps adding mobile POS technology to queue bust during times of peak activity – in order to convert more sales.

While most retailers have successfully negotiated Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2015, the trading challenge has only just begun. For bricks-and-mortar retailers, it’s a case of playing catch up to drive sales in the run up to Christmas. For ecommerce, it’s delivering on the promises made on Black Friday, and continuing to provide a faultless online shopping experience.

Black Friday has put a magnifying glass over challenges that retailers must fix, quickly, or risk profits leaking out.

For more information on overcoming peak trading challenges read our CEO’s blog: Remember, remember, it’s almost December.

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