Why tech is the real deal on Black Friday

Online shopping is expected to explode over the holiday season creating an unprecedented dependency on technology.
23 November 2018

People rush through the doors of the Herald Square Macy’s Flag ship store for the early Black Friday sales. Source: AFP

We have arrived at the time of year where everyone becomes obsessed with finding a Black Friday bargain. The National Retail Federation (NRF) revealed in their survey that retailers should expect more than 164 million consumers who are planning to shop over the five-day Thanksgiving weekend in the US alone.

TV reporters and journalists will be eager to broadcast the darker side of human nature on Black Friday to fill the sadly familiar narrative. Will we once again shake our heads in disbelief at the sight of bargain hunters queuing for hours and wrestling fellow shoppers to the ground to get their hands on a shiny new TV?

However, the annual shopping event is no longer just about buying a new tech gadget, and in many cases, it’s the technology behind the scenes that is the real deal on display. In a mobile-first digital world, many people are expected shop from home. Salesforce is predicting that, for the first time, more purchases will be made with mobile phones than any other device.

Black Friday is an exciting day in equal measure for both retailers and their customers. Whether you have a successful day buying or selling will depend entirely on how prepared you are for the big day. So, let’s take a look at the preparations being made by both parties.

How businesses are preparing for Black Friday

Behind the scenes, artificial intelligence (AI) will be proving that it is much more than just another tech buzzword by increasing the average spend with personalized recommendations. Salesforce also predicts that AI-based product recommendations could account for 35% of all retail revenues through the holiday period.

However, this is just the beginning. When searching for order updates and answers to questions, many customers will be turning to AI-driven chatbots to improve their online experience. There is no denying that technology has transformed how we shop for those items that we want but don’t necessarily need.

These new experiences combined with the dramatic rise in customer expectations is putting tech at the heart of every business. A retailer’s website is built on multiple points of failure such as web hosting, plugins, third-party applications, and personalized content. If any element fails, it’s as good as the shutters coming down on your store on the busiest day of the year.

Predictably online shopping is expected to explode over the holiday season creating an unprecedented dependency on technology. Surges in traffic mean that securing uptime and maintaining performance involves significant investment in online infrastructure. Ensuring there is a DNS failover service in place to increase availability is one item in a long checklist.

It is often said that a business has only three seconds to capture the attention of a user before they close the tab and go elsewhere. However, on Black Friday, time is quite literally to money to bargain hunters who swap to a faster loading website to get their retail fix. These are just a few reasons why businesses are turning to content delivery networks (CDN) to reduce load times.

How shoppers can avoid getting more than they bargained for

Unfortunately, cybercriminals will also be looking to exploit our weakness for a good deal by planting phishing attacks where you least expect them. It could be an email to a bargain that is too good to be true, or a link that fools you into downloading the MageCart spyware that will leak your bank card data, so you need to be on your guard.

With more than $19.6 billion in sales expected, shoppers need to be extra vigilant when shopping online. RiskIQ revealed that over 6,500 malicious apps are posing as special Black Friday or Cyber Monday downloads and feature branded terms in the title or description.

Websites, emails, texts, and even apps can all be used with malicious intent shoppers if they fail to be street smart online as well as offline. But the bad guys best weapon is not technology. It’s our weakness to grab a deal before it’s gone. So, don’t be afraid to stop and think before entering your card details.

Even the tech-savvy shoppers that brave the more traditional physical stores will be able to leave their wallets and purses at home. An increasingly cashless society means that many will skip the long lines to use mobile checkouts using contactless payments from their smartphones and even watches to complete their purchase.

Some aspects of the media will inevitably focus on the global shopping frenzy ahead. The debate between online and offline shopping will continue to rage on long after Cyber Monday. But, behind all the stats, insights and expert analysis lies the fact that for both retailers and their customers, it’s technology that is the real deal this Black Friday.