Is your IT infrastructure ready for Black Friday?

Black Friday in a nutshell  

The end-of-year holiday shopping brings a significant business opportunity to accommodate higher demand from customers. Traditionally, the day after Thanksgiving, commonly known as Black Friday, has become one of the most active shopping days of the year in the United States, signifying the start of the festive season and increased gift-buying leading up to Christmas. On this day, brands and retail outlets typically offer consumers exclusive money-saving offers to attract shoppers into stores while also offering discounts online. This concept has grown in importance internationally over the years and combined with other busy shopping days like Cyber Monday, consumers are presented with extended periods of unmissable offers both in-store or online. 

How does this translate in the United Kingdom? In 2020 alone, UK consumers were predicted to spend £7.5 billion throughout Black Friday weekend, out of which £5.76 billion was just spent online (Statista, 2020). Research indicates that an extensive portion of consumer spending shifted online long before the global pandemic, but the ongoing health crisis has advanced that trend. Black Friday presents a significant trading period for THG (formerly known as The Hut Group), with revenue in Q4 typically accounting for c. 30% to c. 32% of group revenue each year. The volume of new active customers in November 2020 totalled over 1.7m (+74% YoY), with almost 900,000 new customers acquired in Cyber Week alone. Our reports also suggest positive trends on both customer retention rates, and average spend per customer further underpinning an extraordinarily robust performance during the most important trading period of the year (THG, 2020). 

Getting your business ready  

So, what does success look like preparing your online business for Black Friday? It is evident that the holiday season brings about the biggest and busiest time of the year for retailers – competition is at an all-time high and handling copious amounts of new data and customers can present a logistical nightmare, especially online. Many businesses assume that they can leverage greater sales without taking the necessary precautions to prepare for it which can often result in severe consequences for their brand. A fully functional site should be ready to deliver during one of the biggest shopping holidays and a good place to start is often with your website’s core foundations: your business’ hosting infrastructure.  

The reliability of your hosting and infrastructure provider would play a significant part in the success of your online store during this time of the year. Here are some things that our experts suggest you consider:

  • Is your existing hosting environment able to handle the surges in website traffic during Black Friday?
  • Is your tech stack able to mitigate or overcome any potential cybersecurity issues and respond to any virtual threats if they arise?
  • What level of support do you have if your website or any related critical systems are down?

Effectively managing traffic surges  

If your business is planning to run any Black Friday promotions, you should consider how sudden and inconsistent surges in traffic or payments will affect your website and infrastructure performance. An unforeseen influx of users can have a considerable impact on your page-load time, where even a two-second delay can negatively affect the bounce rate on your website. Put simply, you will see several users visit your page without purchasing anything. Most small and mid-size enterprises can utilize a standard annual website hosting plan however, with unpredictable website traffic spikes throughout Black Friday, you will benefit from a scalable hosting plan to safely handle any growth in new users. 

Websites failing or crashing can happen to companies of all sizes. For example, in 2018 several international retail brands such as Debenhams, JD Sports and Lululemon experienced technical issues on their websites because of the increased traffic volumes during Black Friday. Failure to prepare for one of the peak shopping periods in the year resulted in poor website navigation and performance, site downtime and subsequent loss in revenue with some shoppers even taking to social media to express their frustration with their online experiences (Business Insider, 2018). 

To overcome this issue, we recommend implementing scalable and reliable hosting solutions so your business can prepare for a successful trading period. With our cutting-edge servers you can custom build your hosting package to suit the needs of your business with the flexibility to scale your servers up and down whenever you need it. You can also avoid overshooting your hosting budget and prepare for busy periods like Black Friday with our 95th percentile billing option which allows you to manage greater bandwidth at affordable costs. While offering this flexibility and assurance our superfast network, coupled with up to 10 Gbps connectivity, provides low-latency throughput to power all your workloads and avoid system downtime. Look at our website to explore our scalable servers and browse our Black Friday deals

Overcoming cybersecurity issues   

The immense spike in online shopping presents a honey pot for cybercriminals to slip into the digital mix and deceive online consumers. From phishing emails to fake text messages to directly accepting consumer payments through PayPal, it becomes challenging to spot the original brand when lookalike domains appear to be secure HTTPS sites. According to the Global Information Security Survey conducted by Ernst and Young, cybercrime threats are increasing with 59% of organisations experiencing a critical incident between 2019 and 2020. The growth in online shopping and working from home has created multiple new avenues for attackers to steal personally identifiable information from customers. Organisations have a clear responsibility here to be as vigilant as possible to protect themselves and their customers. This means ensuring the systems include the highest security compliance with solutions such as DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) mitigation services to prevent any such attacks before they happen. 

For example, in 2019, an 80% discount was shared as part of a hoax Ray-ban campaign with emails sent to thousands of potential customers from various locations in the world, bypassing spam filters and luring them to a payment site. In another example, retail store Macy’s website was compromised with Magecart malware on its checkout pages when the holiday shopping season approached resulting in a data breach as the malware was able to capture extensive customer data including their credit card information (IFSEC Global, 2020).  

Due to these unforeseen vulnerabilities, brands and retailers must have thorough visibility and control over their internal processes and overall digital infrastructure to avoid being exploited by malicious attacks. Research indicates that a third of customers affected by data breaches never return and overall, two-thirds of customers become less likely to share personal information when online shopping with the fear of data privacy issues. In the example above, following the news of the data breach, Macy’s brand reputation was at stake considering the violation of strict data protection regulations resulting in a drop in their shares by 11%.  

Applying DDoS protection to your enterprise can help you avert volumetric, protocol and application attacks alike. That’s why THG Hosting’s on‐demand DDoS mitigation service is specifically designed to prevent any customer downtime regardless of what cyber threat your business faces. As the trusted option for hundreds of global brands worldwide, learn how you can protect your operations by exploring our DDoS mitigation offering. We also provide the highest standards of operational reliability and security with any of our colocation services. Our 99.995% uptime record of accomplishment sets us apart in the market, with remote and in-house experts available 24/7 to deliver configuration support for your high-power density deployments wherever you need them – achieve optimal results and control and we will support you every step of the way. 

Preparing for the worst-case scenario with data backups 

In your day-to-day administration leading up to Black Friday, you will likely face your share of challenges. However, data backup shouldn’t be one of them. Why are backups so important? Restoring your website in the event of any cyber-attacks or site downtime can be very time-consuming especially if hackers have managed to taint the backups stored at the host level. Spend less time re-installing and configuring your website from scratch and more time selling – we partner with the leading backup service provider, R1Soft, to deliver affordable and efficient backup software to over 250,000 servers around the world. So, if you’re facing growing data and shrinking budgets, our backup protection offering can provide the critical, secure backups you need at a pace that exceeds your expectations. 

Tried and tested solutions to power your business  

Give your business the best chance of success this Black Friday – whether you are looking for a platform to power your own global e-commerce operations or interested in leveraging our world-class technology and commercial expertise. THG Hosting provides the underlying infrastructure and network that powers the THG Commerce platform. Built upon 16 years of continuous optimisation and using our proprietary technology, our platform supports THG’s portfolio of over 160 eCommerce websites around the world. 

Ready to take your business to the next level? Speak to us today and claim your 1-hour free consultation with our team of experts.