With a week to go until Black Friday, we hear from experts who discuss the value of data collection and the importance of considering a holistic approach to digital transformation.
We spoke with industry experts in the technology, IT and marketing space about how digital transformation and security came to the fore during the pandemic, with our reliance on online shopping making us targets for cybercriminals. It’s not just the consumers that have had to become savvier, but the retailers too, and with customers now expecting the seamless shopping experience they get online in store, the pressure is on our high streets to compete with the convenient digital marketplaces that have changed the way we shop.
Staying safe online
The past 18 months have been disruptive to say the least, with one of the hardest-hit industries undoubtedly being retail. The convenience of online shopping has changed the way we approach spending, which was reflected in an expected spend of £7.5bn on Black Friday weekend in 2020 just from online sales. Because of this newfound reliance, retailers have a duty to protect their customers, especially as scams increase during the holiday season by 40%.
“There are two sides to every transaction,” says Dominik Birgelen, CEO and Co-Founder of oneclick AG. “Retailers should be mindful of insider threats as remote systems not built for self-protection will suffer during Black Friday. In addition, many retailers have had to outsource parts of their business processes to third parties to survive the turbulence of COVID-19.
“Bad bots make up around 30% of all web traffic, and in the lead up to Black Friday, they’ll only increase. They enable high-speed abuse, misuse, and attacks on websites, mobile apps, and APIs. They also allow bot operators, attackers, unsavoury competitors, and even fraudsters, to perform a wide array of malicious activities.”
So what do retailers need to be aware of?
Advancements in technology, lower price points and ease of access have seen interest around Black Friday grow every year. Brands need to be wary of automation, but also have to pique consumer interest ahead of what is fast becoming an online festivity reliant on technologies. When implemented correctly, the likes of AI can improve the overall experience right from the very first interaction between a brand and its consumers in advertising.
“Seedtag data insights show us that in 2020 consumer interest and traffic increased across online publications,” says Dal Gill, VP Global Partnerships at Seedtag. “They also showed us that the overwhelming majority of this traffic (97%) was marked as brand safe, which meant that retailers were safe in the knowledge that their brand would be positioned amongst relevant and appropriate content.
“As cookies begin to be phased out, there has never been a better time to explore other solutions. The answer comes in the form of artificial intelligence (AI) – and more specifically, contextual AI. This year, contextual targeting can play a pivotal role in helping brands to maximize their returns on Black Friday. The technology allows them to track and analyze consumer interests around the event, and can even take data from previous years to help brands fully utilize Black Friday content without the need to use personal data.
“With this insight, advertising teams can then utilize AI technologies that combine Computer Vision, Natural Language Processing and Deep Learning to understand the context of the page and provide the most relevant and engaging communications,” concludes Gill. “It also allows brands to determine which will be the most effective display ads to serve to audiences.”
Quentin Paquot, CEO of Qualifio, takes this a step further, championing the use of zero-party data through activities to provide more relevant results.
“By using interactive content to attract users, brands can also utilize the zero-party data gathered from their interactions to continue to target consumers more accurately throughout the festive season,” says Paquot. “This is vital as we move toward a cookieless future, as marketing teams must start finding ways to compliantly and reliably collect data during this busy period. Not only will interactive content allow them to target specific audiences much more accurately with formats that enhance the user experience, but it also ensures the company remains completely GDPR compliant during Black Friday.
“Using content such as advent calendars, quizzes or polls, brands are a great way to engage and entertain consumers while providing a high-quality customer experience and creating long term relationships. By implementing these marketing campaigns, brands will leverage the buzz around the festive season to improve sales, create return customers and build brand loyalty.”
Preparation is key
Another of the lessons learned from last year’s disruptive holiday season is that consumers have started purchasing their gifts earlier. This year, due to the ever-growing pressure on delivery services, consumers are securing their bargains even earlier so they don’t end up empty-handed in the weeks before the big day. In addition to planning ahead, an increasing number of consumers are choosing to pick up items themselves using omnichannel services, which includes the options of curbside pick-up and BOPIS (Click & Collect), using retailers as accessible omnichannel hubs.
“One of the most important aspects for retailers when preparing for Black Friday and Christmas respectively is securing sales across all channels without overstocking or canceling orders,” says Ailen Li, Nedap Retail’s Head of Sales for North America. “Despite many consumers still believing the best deals are in-store, Black Friday mobile spending went up to 40% last year as the consumer moved online. However, a large portion of inventory still sits in stores, so securing the sale across all channels starts with knowing where items are located in retail supply chains. This requires a single view on inventory in order to prevent waste and losses through RFID technology.
“Consolidating multiple inventories into a single view on stock provides retailers with a better understanding of their sellable items and increases overall merchandise availability. This way, retailers can secure a sale without disappointing customers. Using RFID technology, a sold item is immediately assigned the correct status, preventing it from being accidentally sold again, resulting in a cancelled order.”
The analytical approach
In line with the beginning of the festive shopping season, people are starting to go out again and more importantly, they’re making purchases both online and on the high street. So retailers need to be ready. Retail is one of the fastest, most competitive, ever-changing industries out there, so retailers and eCommerce sites must understand that they can’t rely on traditional methods, they must evolve.
“During COVID-19, everyone became an online expert. Searching for the best deals, the best websites, auctioning, bargaining and waiting for the right moment to buy and pay in the most convenient ways possible,” comments Halil Aksu, CEO and co-founder of Digitopia. “This analytical approach to retail has become mainstream, and if consumers can do it, then retailers must also become more digitally savvy.
“In order to cater to the increasing demands of consumers, retailers must turn to digital transformation if they want to survive,” continues Aksu. “Digital gives businesses the speed, intelligence, and flexibility to adapt quickly to market changes and consumer expectations. It enables them to provide better experiences for consumers, employees, and business partners.
“But this can’t be done blindly. Only by accurately measuring and benchmarking progress can retailers know exactly where they were, where they currently stand – both internally and against competitors – and importantly, what steps they can take to continue to improve their digital processes.”
- Gen Zs will do their Black Friday and Christmas shopping on Pinterest and TikTok this year
- Amazon reveals Black Friday-worthy deals ahead of festive season
- Black Friday: Last chance saloon
- How to Boost Your E-Commerce Strategy in Time for Black Friday
So how can retailers implement essential digital practices?
“Digital transformation accounts for the entire business: management, product portfolios, pricing and much more,” says Aksu. “But the biggest priority is the customer. Retailers need to know, care and understand them. They need to provide the best possible service, prices and experiences across all channels at all touchpoints, at all times. Only then can they truly thrive.”