After a turbulent 2020, this year’s sales extravaganza could make or break many retailers…
By Tom Summerfield, retail director, Peak
Black Friday is without a doubt one of the biggest dates in the retail calendar, and this year will be no exception. As the industry continues to try and react and adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020’s Black Friday weekend has the potential to be the most important one yet. Put simply, it could be make or break for many retail businesses.
The events of the past few months have transformed the retail sector as we know it, most likely forever. Some of the stats around e-commerce sum this up; in the UK, it took 10 years for e-commerce as a proportion of all retail sales to grow from 10% to 20%. During the course of the pandemic, this figure has grown from 20% to 30% in approximately eight weeks (Source: eConsultancy).
As businesses continue to shift towards online, we’ve seen an increasing number of retailers place further importance on their data and the advantages it offers when leveraged correctly. At Peak, we use artificial intelligence (AI) to help our retail customers drive value from their data – enabling them to make better decisions, plan more strategically and, above all, drive profitability.
AI gives retailers the ability to truly capitalise on the power of your data. It gives you the speed, consistency, always-on availability and the ability to deal with huge amounts of data at scale. When you combine this with a human’s strength of creativity, context and empathy, it’s easy to see why it’s a winning combination. As we approach what will be one of the most competitive Black Friday weekends ever, the companies who win the battle will be the ones who are using their data to its full potential.
Using AI to win on Black Friday
In my previous role as Head of Commerce at Footasylum, Black Friday was always a huge weekend for us. We more or less started planning for it a year in advance, and data and AI played a huge role in our approach.
This year’s Black Friday will be like no other. COVID-19 has drastically impacted sales, forecasts and stock levels – not to mention customer income and general confidence. The pressure will be enormous, and retailers will face a constant battle to ensure that they’re maximising their margins and powering profitability in this crucial period. For me, the key to doing this is by providing an exceptional customer experience across the entire value chain, from order through to delivery.
Competition will be fierce this year. Budgets will be bigger, costs will be higher and there’s a lot more at stake than ever before. In order to cut through the noise, a better understanding of your customers is crucial. To achieve this, you need better segmentation, and amazing personalisation across your digital channels to ensure you’re providing customers with the right message at the right time, via the right channel. AI makes this possible, enabling you to react quickly to changes and make those crucial, dynamic decisions to help maximise things like paid ad spend to ensure every penny spent counts.
However, there’s more to a great customer experience than just smarter acquisition. At Footasylum, a key focus of ours was on getting orders out of the door as quickly and efficiently as possible to fulfil customers’ needs. This is, of course, easier said than done. Siloed data sources and business systems scattered across the retail value chain cause miscommunication between departments, which ultimately cause delays which disrupt the customer journey. On the most important weekend of the year, you simply can’t afford this to happen.
Take the recommendation engine on your website, for example. This should automatically know if there’s a stock issue in your warehouse before it serves onsite recommendations – but it doesn’t. With AI, though, you can simultaneously leverage WMS data, ERP data, online and in-store transaction data and non-transactional data to better inform those recommendations. Not only does this mean smarter, tailored recommendations for your customers, but also offers a more seamless user journey without any ‘out-of-stock’ disruptions.
These are just a couple of examples of how AI and a data-driven approach can stand retailers in better stead not just on Black Friday, but throughout the rest of the year, too.
To delve into a bit more detail on this topic, we’ve curated a free webinar to help retailers better understand the potential of AI, and how it can help inform your Black Friday plans for 2020, 2021 and beyond.
I’m joined by Matt Holmes, head of Digital Marketing at Pretty Little Thing and Scott Robertson, founder of consultancy Sqwyz and ex-Head of Central Merchandising at Superdry. On the agenda are the ways retailers can prepare for the Black Friday Battle, and how you can use technology to deliver an exceptional customer experience from acquisition through to delivery. Register at www.bit.ly/PeakBlackFriday to check it out.