Madhav Durbha, Group VP, Llamasoft comments on the challenges presented this year:
“In a year of countless disruptions and a radical shift to online shopping, Black Friday represents a rare opportunity for retailers to cash in. However, there will be additional challenges this year.
“With the UK and other countries still in lockdown, bargains are moving online. Those that succeed come the 27th November will likely be the retailers that have prepared contingency plans for this eventuality. Those that haven’t will be at the mercy of a year which is punctuated with disruption after disruption.
“In addition to contingency planning, demand-forecasting technology will be key this Black Friday. Powered by technology such as AI and machine learning, this will allow retailers to better anticipate hikes in demand, allowing them to prepare accordingly. LLamasoft research recently found that 73% of overachieving retailers are already using the technology. These will be the businesses that triumph on Black Friday.”
Similarly, Oliver Guy, Senior Director of Industry Solutions at Software AG suggests a reliance on new technology as a method for success:
“As we edge closer to Black Friday, retailers will be hoping the digital investments made over the last six months will help them get through the Golden Quarter free of any hiccups. While interruptions to in-store shopping mean overall spending will be less this year, recent reports have suggested online spending will surge by almost £2bn. This level of strain on logistics and supply chain networks will be unprecedented, even in the context of recent developments and there are already anecdotal instances of availability issues online when inventory may well be available in stores.
“That’s why the reopening of non-essential stores from 2nd December will be a blessing for retailers, who are already stretched to capacity. But the reality is, nobody knows how long this next relaxation of the rules will last, and retailers would do well to prepare for all eventualities to limit any future disruption. With digital businesses showing themselves to be more resilient, this means ensuring online stores can handle the record-breaking levels of web traffic anticipated this year, but also digitalising back-end logistics and supply chains to help them stand up to the challenge while facilitating access to store inventories for online channels. To this end, having an accurate and real-time single view of inventory across stores, warehouses and distribution centres is a foundation for harmonised retail.
“There’s no escaping the fact that this year’s peak period will cause some retailers significant logistical and visibility headaches. That said, those with a keen focus on digital will be well-positioned to capitalise on the influx of online shoppers and drive growth as we head into the new year."
But with increased delivery traffic required, Tim Robinson, CEO of Doddle, calls on businesses and Government to promote increased use of click and collect as a greener alternative to at home deliveries:
“For years, customer reliance on at home deliveries has been unsustainable, and this festive season we are likely to hit breaking point, as evidenced by the quantity of orders forecast for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. These annual pre-Christmas online shopping events are genuinely damaging to our environment at both a local and national level.”
“Unless we change our approach, we will soon be at the stage where online shopping simply cannot arrive on time because carriers will be unable to keep up with soaring demand – unless they keep adding more and more vehicles to our already crowded roads.”
“Transport is responsible for the most greenhouse gas emissions of any sector in our economy, but rather than working to cut down on van emissions we are continuing to send delivery drivers to carry out unprecedented numbers of drop offs, in shorter spaces of time, causing congestion on local roads and guzzling fossil fuels in the process.”
“We need a change, and that is why Doddle are urging businesses and Government to promote the use of pick up drop off (PUDO) points, where customers can simply collect and return parcels from a local hub, such as a newsagent, corner shop, or locker, instead of always opting for home delivery. This will reduce the strain on our ecommerce system, and bring down pollution by reducing the number of van miles driven by parcel delivery workers.”