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Preparing Digital Infrastructures for Black Friday - Expert Commentary

black friday 

Black Friday marks the most prominent retail sales day in the United States. Often regarded as the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season, Black Friday provides customers with a day full of special shopping deals and discounts. 

As we emerge in a world that's learning to live with COVID, customers are eager to return to brick-and-mortar stores in a big way. Customers are anticipating a connected in-store experience that will allow them to socialize and experience instant gratification. However, consumers are still planning to spend and engage in e-commerce. 

With brick and mortar stores returning in a big way after 2020, there still no sign of slowing down for e-commerce spending. In fact, e-commerce holiday spending rose 10.4% in 2021 from 2020 to $9.03 billion nationwide, and is still expected to rise this year according to Insider Intelligence

Companies must be ready for spikes in online traffic as consumers begin their holiday shopping earlier than usual. In order to deliver a seamless digital experience, businesses must make sure their infrastructure can withstand the unpredictability of prolonged periods of high traffic.

To help prepare for this annual event, several tech leaders have gathered to discuss how organizations can be proactive in ensuring the safety and security of their systems, while still meeting customer expectations. Read below for their advice and insights.

Richard Copeland, CEO, Leaseweb USA

"Even with inflation and ongoing supply chain issues on everyone's mind, consumers are still planning to spend and engage in e-commerce this holiday season. However, surges in online traffic are no longer limited to the traditional days that follow Thanksgiving. Consumers are starting to shop earlier due to possible inventory shortages and many are comparing prices online in order to find the best deals before they buy.

This trend requires online retailers to plan ahead and ensure their infrastructure is ready to support extended and possibly unpredictable periods of higher traffic throughout the busy season. They need to deliver a seamless digital experience that holiday shoppers expect. Merchants can achieve this by doubling down on the basics of maintaining fast load times, preventing costly website downtime and keeping customer information safe and secure."

Nicola Kinsella, SVP of global marketing at Fluent Commerce

"Retailers have significantly more inventory due to stocking up amidst concerns of the pandemic, border closures and supply chain disruptions. While this means consumers will see great deals this Black Friday/Cyber Monday, it has been described as a "bloodbath" about to happen by retail industry experts. The amount of stock being warehoused in the US has risen by about 20%. Excess inventory, combined with a softening demand in the economy, is taking its toll on retailers' margins.

Since it is very difficult to ‘predict' demand in an uncertain economy, it is also difficult to know where to allocate stock as shoppers switch between shopping online and/or in brick and mortar stores. This is why it is important for retailers to have an order management system (OMS) that can provide real time inventory availability in an efficient way while helping to manage the chaos and increase brand loyalty and satisfaction among customers."

Cris Grossmann, CEO and co-founder, Beekeeper

"Black Friday and Cyber Monday dominate headlines every November with talk of the best deals and retail performance, but while consumers are cashing in on great deals, I am reminded of the overlooked frontline workers who make this possible.

From delivery teams, warehouse crews to associates, retail workers bear the brunt of Black Friday's spike in demand. While consumers enjoy a day of shopping and sales, frontliners are left with extra work, extreme pressure from customers, and staffing shortages.

This situation is made harder by the disconnect between frontline workers and the home office - making everything from shift scheduling to promotions harder than they have to be. We call this the frontline disconnect.

This frontline disconnect puts a strain on employee retention and engagement - especially in retail. Frontline workers on Black Friday have a difficult and demanding task, but they also have the passion, enthusiasm, and ingenuity to problem-solve under pressure with grace and professionalism. Putting frontline workers at the heart of the company and empowering them to do great work will uplift the entire organization in the long run.

Businesses that commit to frontline success and employee engagement are helping close the great disconnect, resulting in a more empowered staff.

During this holiday shopping season, let's all take a moment to say "thank you" to the frontline workers who make it all possible."

Richard Bird, Chief Security Officer, Traceable

"Security and business leaders in the e-commerce space need to embrace the knowledge, data and experiences they've gained over the last three to four years, instead of re-inventing the wheel. The most common methods of attack that you've experienced in prior holiday seasons is exactly the way you'll be attacked this year too. Why? Because of the success the bad guys have had in that same time period. Bad guys go with what works, which means you should be well prepared to fight their efforts. Err on the side of security with new account creations by leveraging identity proofing tools, monitor your riskiest API calls and aggressively review your highest trafficked target pages for exploitable weaknesses. Cybersecurity professionals should be thinking like the Grinch during the holidays in all the clever ways that he snuck presents away from the trusting citizens of Whoville. MFA is a great tool for everyone in the digital world, from consumers to IT workers. But it is crucial during the holiday season to acknowledge the well-known weaknesses of the authentication method. MFA is a proven target for social engineering, and with the substantial up-tick in online traffic during the holiday season e-commerce organizations must take steps to educate their consumers or provide tool-tips during the customer sign-in transaction to encourage users to be hyper aware of the risks of phishing and social engineering when it comes to their multi-factor authentication actions."

Amit Shaked, CEO and co-founder, Laminar

"In the past two years, we have seen an uptick in data breaches with well-known brands over the holiday shopping season. As consumers shop and flock to their favorite stores online, cyber adversaries see the opportunity to seize the most wanted item at the top of their wishlist: data. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday around the corner and one out of two organizations experiencing a cloud data breach in the past two years, it's important for retailers to safeguard themselves from bad actors looking to exfiltrate sensitive data from customers. Examples of the data they are looking for include home addresses, social security numbers, emails, payment information, etc.

While the cloud has powered retailers through the ebbs and flows of the pandemic, it has also unfortunately made it a lot easier for data protection teams to lose track of this important data. Our research revealed that less than half of data protection professionals have full visibility into all of the data on their network. This unknown or "shadow" data presents a significant risk because it is not copied, backed up, or housed in a data store that is governed, kept up-to-date, or under the same security structure making it easier for adversaries to access."

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Published Monday, November 21, 2022 10:00 AM by David Marshall
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