The Covid-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented, profound and lasting impact on the economy, rapidly accelerating the transition from brick and mortar to digital services, especially retail and eCommerce. Black Friday, originally known for its door-busting crowds rushing at big-box retailers, now has become a pay-by-click digital affair, with most customers choosing to shop online, some of them for the first time, this holiday season.
Some staggering facts about Black Friday, and eCommerce in general that you may have not known:
- Last year, Black Friday eCommerce sales peaked at 7.4 billion dollars in the U.S.
- This year, they’re projected to skyrocket to 10.3 billion, an unprecedented 39 percent increase – more than twice the growth rate of 2019, itself a record year for eCommerce!
- In the UK, online shopping is expected to surge 50 percent from 3.77 billion to 5.7 £, even as total sales are expected to drop double digits.
- With surveys suggesting 58 to 70 percent of customers wanting to do their holiday shopping primarily online, those estimates seem very reasonable, especially if we consider recent E-sales events: Amazon’s Prime day raked in an estimated 10.4 billion dollars this year, up 45 percent from 2019 and Alibaba’s Singles Day sales nearly doubled from last year to over 75 billion dollars.
More than that, recent Google data shows a 30 percent uptick in online retail queries; no surprise, with 73 percent of consumers saying they have been doing more online shopping since the pandemic. In fact, many retailers have turned Black Friday from a weekend to a month long event, starting it as early as late October, to beat the traffic. With 84 percent of U.S. shoppers waiting for Black Friday deals to start their holiday shopping, preparing for unprecedented demand peaks is essential.
4 Ways to Prepare Your Business for Black Friday – a 1:1 Interview with PriceRunner’s Roger Forsberg
We recently sat down with Roger Forsberg, PriceRunner’s CTO, and discussed his predictions and words of wisdom for this year’s Black Friday events. PriceRunner is a leading digital price comparison service in the U.K, Sweden, and Denmark. With over 2.3 million products from thousands of retailers on their site and millions of monthly visitors, PriceRunner is uniquely positioned to survey the digital landscape.
Let’s see what Roger had to say:
Peaks will surely increase, so make sure that your infrastructure can scale to meet the necessary performance requirements.
How has Black Friday changed for you this year? What are you doing differently?
eCommerce has been growing in Scandinavia at a steady pace of 10-20 percent for the last several years. With Covid-19, it’s growing so much faster, resulting in shopping volumes that we only expected to see years from now.
On a normal day, PriceRunner collects over 200 million prices, most of them at night. On a normal Black Friday, the first five minutes alone would involve some 30 million price changes, with deals changing throughout the day. PriceRunner’s architecture can dynamically scale while ensuring millisecond performance. During last year’s Black Friday event, we had to prepare for 10-20 times our usual user activity but this year. We are now preparing for 30-40 times that. If you cannot ensure that your platforms support peak loads and high concurrency, then your customers will simply move on to a site that can give them the experience that they expect.
Upgrade Your Software and Keep Innovating
What else do you recommend fellow CTOs to do in preparation for Black Friday?
In general, a best practice for enterprises is to keep their software updated which in most cases ensures best performance and functionality. We recently upgraded our GigaSpaces in-memory computing platform which actually doubled our performance capabilities – and that is definitely a plus for our customers!
Below you can see the difference in response times:
Build Your Inventory Knowingly
What shopping trends are you seeing this holiday season?
We anticipate, like last year, that Home Electronics would be a top category, as well as other home-related categories like DIY products, garden equipment and trampolines.
Though some of these trends have been intensified by the pandemic, many of these categories, particularly the tech-related ones, are years in the making. Here were PriceRunner’s Top 10 most popular product categories during Black Friday 2019:
- Headphones & Gaming Headsets
- Mobile Phones
- Vacuum Cleaners
- Game Consoles
- Tumble Dryers
- Washing Machines
Make Sure Your Social Contribution is Impactful and Meaningful
Black Friday normally signals the start of the giving season. With Covid, however, the social norm of helping others has become an urgent necessity.
How did PriceRunner contribute socially during the pandemic?
We wanted to do more than ever before. Therefore, our response at PriceRunner went above and beyond donating money to our local communities. We shared our proprietary, real-time data and analytics.
In the early stage of the COVID breakout the Swedish central bank Riksbank contacted us and asked if we could provide them with data around eCommerce trends such as pricing and popularity in different segments. They wanted to understand what was going on more or less in real time. We have the data since we are storing all price changes for all products from all merchants for several years, which is many billions of data points. This is our gold — but we set up a team around this and shared it for free with Riksbank.
You can read the bank’s report on the far-reaching consequences for future policy making of this project here. PriceRunner’s insights into the eCommerce space have been invaluable for Sweden’s bank, and many of the thousands of businesses that rely on their site daily. For more of its Black Friday ideas and events, check out their Newsroom.
Prepare for An Unprecedented Black Friday
This Black Friday will likely see eCommerce sales like never before. Countries around the world are expecting Holiday sales peaks that may well double last year’s, so be prepared:
- Ensure that your platforms can dynamically scale without affecting performance hits.
- Upgrade your software. Do this with adequate time to test and make sure you have the most advanced system, to make your customers’ holiday shopping experience as seamless, fast and secure as possible.
- Build your inventory carefully — many products and product categories are going to be in high demand this year. Use predictive analytics and data aggregators to estimate which ones of yours will be in highest demand.
- Make your social significance felt — more consumers than ever before are socially conscious these days, and are looking for brands with integrity and resonate with their ideals.
Be prepared for the challenges and successes that lie ahead. As volumes are expected to reach unseen levels, the many systems sustaining an eCommerce business will face unprecedented pressure. Know your bottle necks, anticipate your blind spots, lean on your IT, and enjoy it!
Learn more about how PriceRunner prepared for Black Friday peaks.