Black Friday 2015: Advice and analysis from those in the know

Ahead of this year's Black Friday shopping bonanza, various it professionals have offered their thoughts on what is expected to be a record-breaking day for UK retailers.

Rashmi Knowles, Chief Security Architect EMEA at RSA:

"The Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend puts increasing strain on online retail channels to cope with consumer demand. With the popularity of online shopping on the rise and new technology being introduced, such as Apple Pay, retailers need to understand the responsibility they have to ensure their customers are protected online when buying their goods.

"However, more online transactions means more opportunity for fraudulent behaviour. One way to be ahead of the game is to use behavioural analytics to help distinguish legitimate user behaviour from suspicious activity within online transactions. Risk based authentication assigns a unique risk score to each transaction and based on the score, you be made to ask for additional authentication.

"The festive season should be an enjoyable time for both businesses and consumers so it’s important we don’t let fraudsters and malicious online behaviour ruin it this year."

Dan Wagner, Founder and CEO of Powa Technologies:

"Retailers have taken a minor hit in sales this month, but this is not surprising given the timing of Black Friday, and shoppers saving their money in anticipation of this sales period. The US imported sales event has influenced British shopping habits, including how they do their shopping during the Christmas period. The heavy discounts retailers make on Black Friday, may attract shoppers in large numbers, but will still come as a double-edged sword and may not benefit them in the long run.

"Retailers cannot wholly depend on Black Friday to make a profit. To ensure financial security, while meeting the increasing demand from consumers, retailers must invest in stronger infrastructures around mCommerce and develop a solid omni-channel sales strategy, in order to better engage with consumers.

"The power of data and understanding shoppers’ habits would help retailers to cater their services to consumer needs. Shopping habits are changing - consumers want to be able to buy anything at anytime. So retailers need to converge their online and offline strategies to match demand."

Rick Vanover, Senior Product Strategy Manager, Veeam:

"Big shopping days such as Black Friday illustrate the importance of the data centre and availability. Downtime could have a damaging effect on revenue and repeat custom. For many retailers everything ties back to the data centre including the point of sale and website, so if an incident does occur then it is multiplied because of the rush associated to this buying pattern.

"To reduce the risk and reap the benefits of the day, retailers should leverage the data they have to determine a number of factors such as how many transactions can be made in one day to ensure the back-end infrastructure can handle the surge.

"For the Always-On retailer to work during this busy shopping period, they should consider implementing an availability solution that offers five key capabilities. These are: high-speed recovery, recovering services in 15 minutes or less; data loss avoidance, with backups made at least every 15 minutes; verified protection, meaning failing to recover backups will no longer be an issue; leveraging backups to provide a production-like test environment, so that any potential issues are spotted. Implementing these capabilities would mean real savings and more improved revenue opportunities.

"The final capability is to have complete visibility, which is absolutely critical to know how the data centre is operating on day like Black Friday or Cyber Monday; as workloads like these days are not the norm."

Hubert Da Costa, VP EMEA, Cradlepoint:

"All the attention of Black Friday tends to go on its profit making opportunities for retailers, but the forward thinking retailer will also be considering the potential costs of network downtime. Typically network downtime costs an average of £200k an hour, but that is just an average.

"In the retail sector, to be unable to take payments on a day such as Black Friday would be catastrophic. In addition to the financial hit, there is also the negative impact on your brand. The security risks of batch processing aren’t worth taking, but whilst queues of disgruntled customers build, so too can the pressure. When you’re looking at the true eye watering cost of network downtime, the lost opportunity and the reputational damage, it becomes clear a network failover solution does not just provide business continuity on the day, but ensures your business continues to run in the future."

Gabriel Gambill, Director of Product and Program Management, Quorum:

"In terms of having a solid business continuity (BC) plan in place, there is no more of a crucial time for the retail industry than the run up to Christmas. In the UK alone, approximately £810 million was spent on Black Friday last year - this is equivalent to more than double 2014’s total. Just as people fight in the aisles to secure a bargain, websites crash: as well as buyers, retailers need to be prepared to cope with demand. This is the period in which the majority of businesses in the retail industry start to see profit, so it is imperative that everything functions without disruption or downtime.

"Retail businesses should remember the 3 Rs:
1) Risk – understand your level of risk
2) Run tests – in order to work out peak capacity
3) Recovery – ensure a plan is in place for system outage or failure

"The popularity of Black Friday is increasing, therefore the retail industry must ensure more than ever that its IT infrastructure can keep up with demand. During this peak time, poorly executed business continuity and disaster recovery plans place businesses and the larger retail ecosystems at risk.

"It is critical that organisations ensure their systems are prepared to deal with the massive traffic surge to their online sites while protecting customer data and preparing to recover if anything fails. As with any business, time is money: downtime at such an important time of year can have a potentially disastrous effects on a company’s reputation."

Jackie Barwell, Director, Fraud Product Management at ACI Worldwide:

"Retailers and consumers must brace and prepare themselves for higher levels of eCommerce fraud during the busier seasonal shopping days. Our data, based on hundreds of millions of transactions from large global retailers operating in Europe and the US, shows a significant increase in attempted fraudulent transactions in 2015 where 1 in 86 transactions was a fraudulent attempt verses 1 in 114 transactions in 2014.

"We have also seen fraudsters attempting new paths to target, mainly due to the increase in omni-channel shopping options. Attempted fraud rates for ‘buy online/pick up in-store shopping’, for example, are expected to increase by 28 per cent this holiday season as some retailers do not require consumers to re-run cards when they pick up products in store, making this an attractive option for fraudsters.

"Consumers need to be more vigilant than ever during this holiday shopping season. No one is immune to fraudulent attacks, as some of the high profile data breaches in recent weeks have shown. Stealing and reselling data from ordinary consumers is now a highly organised criminal activity and fraudsters have been finding ever more sophisticated ways to hack databases or obtain data from individual consumers via social engineering and phishing activities."

PPRO Group has also made sure retailers know what to expect by creating an infographic which looks at last year's results and offers a comparative review against this year’s predictions:

PPRO black friday

Image source: Shutterstock/Michele Paccione