Best practices to prepare your IT environment for Black Friday
The end of the year is a very busy season for retailers. Time when the companies that did not provide satisfactory financial results bet on year-end clearance sales to sell more. On November 28th, the traditional day of discounts, Black Friday, takes place. It is awaited all year long by some consumers who want to get the best prices.
In 2013, the biggest event of the Brazilian trade recorded R$ 424 million in sales, representing a 95% increase over the previous year. About the online access, Black Friday recorded R$ 80 million simultaneous accesses on the retailers’ websites.
Although many Brazilian companies still do not respect the consumer and apply fictitious discounts, selling “all for half the double of the price”, as said by Brazilian people, many stores take the date very seriously promoting prices well below the values charged year-round. To support this demand in physical and virtual stores through the increase of visitors and buyers on the stores’ websites, IT staff needs to be aligned with the company’s business area.
After all, promoting discounts without providing the necessary infrastructure to support these changes may be a shot in the foot for all companies. And don’t think that this is not common! On the last Black Fridays, large retailers got their online store unavailable due to lack of a proper demand forecast. Below is a list of problems that can be avoided through proactive work of the IT staff.
Avoiding lines in the stores!
On Black Friday, the physical and virtual stores’ sales increase a lot. In the physical stores the biggest challenge is to avoid big lines, because there is a real risk of many of them quitting due to lack of patience to wait. The cause of this problem may often be the unavailability of POS machines as CIELO, GetNet, Redecard, Amex, among others. Even if the problem is with the supplier, it doesn’t mean that the retailers IT area should not worry about that. Getting the real-time information about the (un)availability contributes to avoid lines, because the client can be notified at the closure time, avoiding several attempts to swipe the card to no avail.
Another possible problem with great impact on the machines is the connection link that transmits information via POS machines. A good contingency planning with two or more parallel links can help minimize this problem. One of our customers, TNG Stores, performs real-time monitoring of these indicators. In addition to monitoring the availability of the machines, they also monitor the number of unavailabilities, and approved or rejected transactions. If any of the machines or flags presents unavailability, it is possible to communicate the sellers to avoid useless attempts to effect transactions. Below, the dashboard template used in TNG (read full case):
Payment Systems Availability Dashboard
Avoiding falls online
Maybe the most common mistake on Black Friday is the lack of communication between the special offers promotion schedules by email marketing or social networks with the IT staff, which delivers the resources needed to support great volumes of access to the site. The servers monitoring, internet links, database, for example, are the basics to start this job. Another relevant factor is to verify if the website hosting supports a large number of hits through the contracted plan. It’s important to have a conversation with the hosting provider about how it was treated on the previous year’s date to have more security.
Datacenter Availability Dashboard
Avoiding losses of online sales!
Achieving high availability in the online store during Black Friday isn’t enough to avoid transaction losses. Often, the IT infrastructure availability does not reflect the user perception at the end of the business when using an e-commerce application, especially with the widespread adoption of 3rd parties’ solutions for e-commerce.
One of the solutions to such problems is monitoring through application robots. The robots can simulate in real time the purchase of a user in a virtual store from the login, the cart product selection until purchase finalization with the financial data and personal information. Knowing exactly which step in the purchasing process is presenting problems can be the turning point to fix it. A solution found for our customers is the development of a solution for creating robots to monitor the purchasing process. Below, a dashboard with information collected by the robots in all the steps of an online purchase:
Monitoring in real time the root cause of the problem
To find problems in the IT infrastructure that supports sales on Black Friday, or at any time of high demand, it is important to create dependencies to map the IT structure. Knowing that the store is just the tip of the business and that underneath there are links, servers, database, connections with 3rd parties, among other equipment and applications is crucial for a mature TI team.
One of the possibilities for infrastructure design is the creation of a services catalog that represent the impact of all the infrastructure according to all configuration items (devices) available. For greater effectiveness, besides knowing which devices are necessary for a service to work correctly, it is important to configure alarms so that the designated person can take corrective measures when one of the services catalog elements presents unavailability.
Involve your staff around this event
Black Friday is not a common date and it involves a lot of planning to make it all happen without major snags. On this date, all other demands are in the background. The trick is to engage your team around this event, explaining its importance and relocating functions on this day to have a back office that works, because any problem could mean a loss of millions in sales for a large retailer. Having your best technology professionals on holiday on this date, for example, is not a recommended practice. An important tip is to study the SLAs agreed with your vendors to find out where their guarantee goes up to for the new demands required for this day’s clearance sales.
These were the tips. If you are interested, we are a Software development company for IT management and we help midsize and large companies to manage their IT environments, including large retailers. For more information about products and services, click here!!