The 24th November is Black Friday, which marks the largest online retail event of the year and sees discounted items available across major high street outlets and at online retailers. According to data prepared by price comparison site GoCompare, which surveyed approximately 2 000 individuals, the projected UK consumer spend this Black Friday will be around the £3 billion mark, with 49 per cent expecting to shop online. So with Black Friday consumers poised to spend, how prepared are the ‘e-sellers’?
For retailers a natural focus area is the offer itself, and related stock availability. This is of course crucial, but from an ecommerce point of view, infrastructure is the glue that holds the process together. A robust IT infrastructure, whether onsite or outsourced, is fundamental to delivering a stable platform that is suitably powerful to enable the processing of extreme peak loads and avoiding expensive and embarrassing website crashes, which can result in lost sales and customers.
Jon Lucas, Director at Hyve Managed Hosting, highlights web hosting as one such key component that needs to be scalable in order to cope with increased traffic during events like Black Friday. He says; "So you’ve got in your new stock, you’ve worked out your discounted pricing, your loss leaders, you’ve bought a massive ad campaign and you’re set for Black Friday. But, what about your hosting? If your website can’t cope with the influx of traffic, all that effort and money is wasted. You need to have a scalable solution that manages traffic spikes with ease. You need to have redundancy in case one of your drives fails. You need to make sure that ‘worrying about your hosting’ isn’t on your to do list this Black Friday.”
Senior Business Development Director at Six Degrees, Philip Barden, considers ecommerce IT infrastructure from an outsourced perspective as a solution that can help a business achieve its sales goals by giving the “IT worry” to someone else: “As with most other industries, retail has been completely revolutionised by technology, and online shopping records are being broken year-on-year. Customers no longer want to leave the comfort and convenience of their own homes to get the best deals, so retailers are going to them instead. This shift in focus to online shopping puts additional pressure on IT departments to provide reliable, secure platforms and infrastructure to support business goals, and this is greatly magnified during the holiday shopping season that kicks off with Black Friday. In a recent survey, conducted by Martec International, more than 90% of retailers stated that loss of sales or inability to trade are the biggest business risks in the event of critical application failure.”
He continues: “Retailers can minimise the risk of this impacting their year ending sales by leaning on managed service providers to deliver the flexibility, scalability and agility that online sales platforms require to manage sudden bursts of activity. A service provider can also be on hand to provide expert support to prevent downtime or glitches from impacting business revenues, which could prove to be crippling during the busiest time of the year.”
Outsourcing IT infrastructure and operations to a MSP is a great option, however for some businesses it may not be the best solution, whether for cost reasons or the need or preference to have everything on premises.
Jason Collier, Co-Founder at Scale Computing explains: “As retailers ramp up their staff and inventories for the holiday shopping season and Black Friday, they must focus on bolstering their IT infrastructure as well. The distributed nature of retail companies means the individual stores have minimal or no IT staff, but often the same IT needs as the central office. By deploying flexible virtualised systems such as hyperconverged infrastructures at the edge, retailers can quickly scale capacity and computing power at its stores while allowing their home office IT team to remotely manage them through a simple web interface. Borrowing from the immortal words of Spinal Tap's Nigel Tifnel, hyperconvergence allows retailers to turn it to 11 when they need it to be one louder. This means store employees can handle the Black Friday onslaught without worrying about costly downtime or troubleshooting IT issues.”
Make the 24th November count. Power up your ecommerce offering so that it’s stable and your business is ready to reap the financial benefits from the onslaught of online consumers ready to spend approximately £3 billion this Black Friday.