Retailers need to start infrastructure preparations now to strike gold this Golden Quarter, says Claranet

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Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become a fixture in the British retail calendar, and a much-needed boost to sales. As we pass the halfway point of 2019, Claranet has urged retailers to start preparing, stress-testing, and optimising their infrastructure now to ensure that they can withstand sudden surges in traffic in this year’s Golden Quarter.

Consumer spending on Black Friday and Cyber Monday continues to grow year on year; growth that is driven in large part by online spending, with many consumers opting to grab their bargains from the comfort of their own homes. Last year, UK consumers spent £1.49bn on online retail sites during Black Friday, a 7.3 percent increase from the previous year.

However, despite numerous high profile examples of Black Friday-related website outages in recent years, last year a number of retailers found that ecommerce platforms were straining under the pressure even before the main shopping event had begun. For some, this meant employing queuing technologies to cope with demand, which restricted access,  hit sales and had a negative impact on customer satisfaction.

John Hayes-Warren, head of retail at Claranet, said: “Events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday play a huge role in increasing sales for retailers. They give an opportunity for smaller retailers to attract new customers, while allowing larger retailers to shift stock they have been sitting on. However, this rise in sales activity requires businesses to have the right back end systems to cope with large amounts of consumers accessing their eCommerce platforms. Despite this, we’re still seeing a number of problems being experienced by retailers.

“These are the sorts of issues retailers can ill afford, so now is the time for businesses to start capacity planning to gauge if their channels will cope with rapid surges in traffic, maintain page load times, and avoid web crashes. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are firm dates in the calendar, but flash sales on the back of social media influencer marketing are also a potential stress-point for retail websites.”

For Hayes-Warren, hybrid cloud is a natural solution to these challenges. However, cloud migration can be a complex process and not simply a case of lifting and shifting existing IT infrastructure. With this in mind, he suggests retailers need to move now if they are to make it in time for the 2019 Golden Quarter: 

“Cloud enables retailers to rapidly add more capacity and scale up as the amount of web traffic increases, which strengthens overall IT resilience and means businesses are adequately prepared for sudden bursts in activity. If this is coupled with a flat pricing structure that stays the same even in periods of peak demand, retailers have a predictable and cost-effective way to guarantee zero downtime.

“The most forward-thinking retailers are those who understand the need to reengineer their digital estates so that they can take advantage of these scalable technologies. ” 

Hayes-Warren concluded: “We now live in an age where customers expect a faultless online experience. When many wake up in the early hours of the morning on Black Friday, the last thing they want to experience is an error message pop up on their screen or the frustration of a painfully slow website. Preparation is key to getting the best out of the Golden Quarter:  retailers who take the time to enhance their infrastructure and carry out all the necessary testing well before this period will be the ones that emerge as the big winners.”