Black Friday and Cyber Monday: High risks, higher rewards

This coming weekend is sandwiched between two of the busiest shopping days of the year. Black Friday and Cyber Monday will see hundreds of UK retailers slash their prices to compete for the contents of consumers’ Christmas wallets. Originally created by US firms to get Americans spending after Thanksgiving, the craze has become a UK phenomenon with Adobe Digital predicting that expenditure this year will reach £285 million.

Events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become increasingly important to retailers. Not only do they provide an opportunity for promotion but also offer new customers alternative experiences of how to shop. But there are also downsides.

“In the past year and a half there have been some high profile companies suffering data breaches, such as eBay and Target, due to the sophistication of today’s cyber threats," said Yo Delmar, vice-president of GRC at MetricStream.

"Indeed, with so many payment card details being registered, these events will inevitably attract cyber criminals and retailers must have processes in place to mitigate against this potential risk. For example, since spotting anomalous behaviour during a time of high activity can be incredibly difficult, companies should consider making no changes – or introducing any new processes/systems – to their existing infrastructure during these events. This would stabilise their normal background information, making it much easier to detect any suspicious activity.”

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are two of the most important shopping days of the year, both for online merchants and brick-and-mortar retailers.

The high volume of physical and virtual customer traffic have made retailers increasingly mindful of how to optimise the customer experience while maximising sales. Keri Dawson, MetricStream’s vice-president of industry solutions says in- store, how a retailer handles the increased crowds – from store layout and product placement to staffing and security – goes a long way towards meeting consumer satisfaction. “Online retailers must be even more vigilant of risks to transactional integrity – from website availability and stability to payment fraud and identity theft.

"Furthermore, social media offers unprecedented levels of information sharing, and every retailer should mind the risk of customer dissatisfaction. Disgruntled consumers’ tweets and posts can go viral almost instantly – a huge reputational risk that can directly impact a retailer’s share of the customer wallet,” she explains.

“Customer satisfaction issues that arise at any other time of the year can often be addressed without media involvement, but problems that occur during the Christmas period are often amplified and live long in the memory. One way for retailers to help mitigate these Black Friday and Cyber Monday risks is to think about the whole shopping experience from the customers’ point of view and not simply from their own.”

“Of course, it’s vital that retailers know how to respond should something negative occur,” Delmar added. “There needs to be a response plan that covers the entire spectrum of potential issues, as being able to move swiftly will enable a retailer to defend its brand.”

Employees, meanwhile, remain front-line brand ambassadors for retailers. As such they should be field trained to analyse issues quickly and consistently. A well-rehearsed response plan will help retailers to be more aware of the risks that make them vulnerable and how to react to them, empowering them to confidently compete for their share of the spending over this busy weekend to come.

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