It may be hard to forecast what Black Friday will look like this year, but here are 5 steps you can take to make sure you're ready for it.
Black Friday 2020 is full of uncertainty, with lockdown conditions in flux worldwide. People will be shopping in new ways, with new expectations. Customers who would have rushed to stores in previous years will now be more comfortable shopping online. See our infographic on Why Black Friday will be Different.
Trustworthy forecasting of volumes or behaviour in this type of scenario is impossible. The only certainty is that it will be full of new risks as well as new opportunities. All you can do is take steps to ensure that, whatever happens, you're ready for it.
Take these 5 steps before Black Friday to put yourself in the best place to survive these extraordinary conditions, and take full advantage of them:
Review system health
Prepare to scale
Know where you break
Prepare your playbook
Plan to manage demand
1. Review system health
Get your engineering teams to go back through their known technical debt. Are there any known issues that might reduce efficiency? Take time to look for the unknowns as well. A deeper analysis of key metrics across your platforms and systems will always highlight anomalies which are just waiting to cause issues.
2. Prepare to scale
Review the architecture of your systems. How are your systems built to scale? Review the components that can be scaled out if needed. Check that this has actually been proved to work and that any actions needed are understood.
If you're on a cloud platform look out for some of the service limits that might become "gotchas" if not dealt with in advance. If you need to request quota increases you'll want to do it beforehand.
3. Know where you break
In every system, on the cloud or in a data centre, there are components which can't scale and will break. When will this happen? At one thousand orders an hour? One million?
You'll need to test and model your systems, and think about the different types of behaviour that will go on during Black Friday. Will users do more searching? Will they stay on your site longer? Modelling these scenarios will reassure you so you don't have to depend on guesswork.
4. Prepare your playbook
Get ready to manage a successful Black Friday. How are you going to identify and respond to events and incidents during peak? Plan how you are going to get the data you need and get alerted early to problems.
Build a timeline of information that will help you put it into context. Identify what risks might emerge from it, and what interventions you will use to resolve them. Your playbook needs to be specific as to who/what/when, and founded on experience dealing with this type of extraordinary events.
5. Plan to manage demand
Collaboration across the business is key. Could marketing activities be spread across a longer period?
Use your understanding of your technology limitations to plan out what can and can't be done. In what circumstances would it be acceptable to lose customers by using an artificial queueing system? Turning away business because the technology can't handle it is always a failure.
Avoid hasty last minute decisions which will prevent the business taking full advantage of the opportunity available.
Start taking action now to ensure that Black Friday 2020 is a success. You don't need to understand it to be ready for it. We can help you prepare with our Black Friday Assurance Programme.