So much has changed after coronavirus – including this year’s Black Friday. We examine how retailers can respond online and in physical stores.

In the year of coronavirus, Black Friday has changed – maybe for good. It’s uncertain whether we’ll ever see the throngs of shoppers that were common previously. In the US, giant retailers Target and Walmart have taken the decision to shut their doors on Black Friday. In South Africa, many of our large retailers like Pick n Pay, Game and Makro have extended Black Friday to last weeks or even the whole of November.

Nevertheless, consumer behaviour is hard to manipulate perfectly, and past experience tells us that there may still be somewhat of a rush on Black Friday. What’s more, lockdown has many South Africans watching their spending, and many will be holding out for Black Friday specials despite assurances from retailers like Takealot that November deals won’t be beaten on the 27th of the month.

With the increase in online shopping activity since lockdown began, online and physical retail will be affected differently. Let’s see what you can expect in both environments this year.

Physical stores: no crowds, but be prepared

Retailers will be compelled to limit the number of customers in stores because of COVID-19 risks, but they are still offering Black Friday specials that run over a few days or weeks. Physical stores should be prepared for a potential uptick in numbers, with South Africans looking to save. Having a cloud-based payments switch that ensures 99.999% uptime will handle the spike in transaction volume – letting retailers rest easy that all their customers can always transact.

This year has been a great moment for QR payments. As a no-touch payment method, it’s been a valuable offering from retailers seeking to protect staff and customers from infection. What’s more, having the ability to offer QR as an alternative payment method is a huge advantage – should a traditional payment method fail, QR lets the customer complete the transaction. This becomes even more valuable to customer satisfaction when they have been queueing or targeting specific deals.

Online: every day is Black Friday

There’s been much written about online retail trends brought on by lockdown. A spike in activity at the start of the lockdown as people stocked up on essentials has been followed by a sustained increase in sales compared to previous years. An already present upward trend towards online shopping seems to have accelerated and is likely to be a permanent behavioural change in South Africa shoppers.

In recent years, online retailers have begun to spread their Black Friday specials over multiple days. It’s likely that these retailers are attempting to maximise sales while simultaneously trying to avoid the system crashes that come with high transaction volumes over short timeframes.

There are definite strategies businesses can apply to avoid system failure, which we’ve written about before. As is to be expected, these take proper planning long before Black Friday hits, and include evaluating the current system performance, developing a scaling strategy and stress testing. Cloud-based systems like Electrum’s are designed for rapid, on-demand scaling, with access to the latest high-availability, failover and disaster recovery technologies for maximum uptime.

Don’t forget the data

But there’s more to Black Friday than the day’s sales. During high volume periods, upstream systems can become stressed, leading to problems with reconciliation and settlement, like multiple exceptions. These can leave you out of pocket. Clearly it’s important to have a back-office system that’s robust and trusted.

SaaS recon systems like Electrum’s do rolling reconciliation, even during high volume periods, for more accurate settlement. Automated matching means that exception handling is much less time-consuming, freeing up your finance department during this busy time. They also provide a real-time view into Black Friday transactions, allowing a retailer to react fast to sales data. And this data is valuable in the long run, too – retailers can analyse it to fine-tune their promotion strategy for next year’s Black Friday.

If you’d like to talk about gaining the most value from next year’s Black Friday, we’d be happy to chat.

Electrum Payments

Electrum Payments

Electrum provides transaction processing solutions to banks, retailers, and MNOs, helping them to find better ways to transact. As a vibrant and innovative SaaS company, we deliver industry-leading expertise and technology to solve real problems every day.