Black Friday will never be the same again
by Nompumelelo Mokou. Black Friday might be gone forever, replaced by ‘Black November’.
by Nompumelelo Mokou. Black Friday, a day of shopping chaos as crowds hunt for pre-Christmas bargains, will never be the same again. Indeed, it might be gone forever. We’ve all heard of Black Friday, and we’ve all probably snagged at least one great deal through this shopping tradition that became popular in the USA in the early 1960s. Over the years, Black Friday has become a global retail event and reached our shores about five years ago. But COVID-19 has meant that Cyber Monday (a drive to shop online), will set the tone for 2020 and maybe beyond.
A report from Google back in June stated that, “more than a third of US shoppers who normally shop in-store for Black Friday say they won’t this year. And half of US shoppers say the pandemic will affect how they’ll shop for the holidays this year.” According to one study, 91% of customers in the United Kingdom will not be shopping in high street stores this Black Friday. I expect this trend to be replicated in South Africa. Social distancing restrictions, coupled with a reduced economy will mean only the hardcore will be out and about.
Black Friday has, for all intents and purposes, become ‘Black November’ with a shift to online sales. This has two major implications. The first is the rapid normalisation of the online shopping experience; and the second is a need for retailers to reassess the role of the physical store. In essence we are talking about a shift to omnichannel retail. This requires a focus on both the online and offline customer experience, and the need to offer a seamless journey to the customer between store and device. This has implications for data infrastructure, logistics and employees. It was quite impressive to see how South Africans adapted to shopping online, particularly for food. The whole discussion about essential and non-essential has become moot, since everything is “essential” when the shopping experience is online.
While Black Friday may never be the same again, the pandemic has certainly accelerated any omnichannel shopping trends into the mainstream. All retailers, whatever their size and reach, will have to develop a seamless and well-structured online shopping experience. There are a number of steps that retailers, particularly those making their first inroads into the online space, need to be aware of when taking the plunge.
Preparation is key
If we look at the data infrastructure requirements to cope with the expected demands on any online shopping infrastructure, preparation is key. This means having enough stock available, especially if it aligns with any campaigns being run; a clear delivery date; a clear returns policy; and easy to use payment options. Make sure you test and troubleshoot the process on multiple devices. The design must be simple, logical and where relevant, reflect the brand. Then there is the network infrastructure to consider. While the scale and scope of the data infrastructure will differ between large companies and smaller home-based operations, the issues are in many cases the same. In particular, cart, account and checkout pages must transition quickly. Any delays at this end of the process will damage the experience and your reputation.
In an omnichannel world we must consider the role of the bricks and mortar store. For retailers aimed at the youth, the store will become a part of the brand experience. A shop will be an intimate space to meet friends, interact with staff and get a touch and feel for the apparel on sale. The buying will be done online. This will not be a model that fits everyone, but all retailers will have to do some serious thinking about the role of their stores in an omnichannel world. Staff will become an important cog in the shopping journey. They will need to be well-trained and up to date on all aspects of the products on sale.
COVID-19 has cast a wide shadow over the world but also accelerated a trend that offers opportunities to retailers of all sizes. In an omnichannel world, the in-store experience lives alongside the online experience. The two worlds enhance the shoppers experience and complement each other to create a single end-to-end brand experience.
Nompumelelo Mokou, Executive: Intelligent Customer Experience, Dimension Data. Mokou is a Chartered Accountant by profession but has always been known for her love for business. She joined Dimension Data in 2016 and is constantly inspired and challenged by imminent change. She believes that greatness is not achieved alone but through multi-faceted people, expertise, contributions and opinions. This is what makes teams work. Her core philosophies by which she lives her life are to have faith and courage in all seasons and to never be afraid of challenges, no matter the size or complexity.
– Receive the Retailing Africa newsletter every Monday and Thursday • Subscribe here