Have you planned for Black Friday?
With Christmas lights beginning to adorn the high streets, there is no more ignoring it, the festive season is well and truly upon us and, with it, so is Black Friday. Arriving in the UK from across the pond, bargain shoppers spent an estimated £810m last year alone; there is clearly huge potential for retailers to boost their sales, as well as the potential for mayhem to ensue. Indeed, last year, riots broke out in shops with bargain hunters scrapping over TV screens. As a result, the stores taking part in Black Friday need to ensure they can deal with the increased footfall and demand on the day.
Customers will still expect the best service possible and will not take kindly to delays in paying. Ensuring that tills are working efficiently and that EPOS devices are fully functional is one step in appeasing the situation; preventing queues from forming and tensions from rising. Should a till, or any other piece of equipment, go down, retailers need to ensure then that they have a contingency plan in place to deal with broken devices. It’s a little early for Santa’s sleigh to hit the skies for delivery; instead the responsibility lies with tech partners which have the expertise to manage the slick running of business’s supply chains and get replacement parts delivered safely and efficiently. So, what exactly is the job at hand?
Perhaps the most crucial step, is to increase resources for peak trading; it’s imperative that additional resources are on standby if needed for the entire ‘holiday’; pre, during and post Black Friday. Should a device go down the day before Black Friday, that shop will have one less outlet to process purchases which will anger customers and lead to loss of sales. Tech partners should have extra staff on standby throughout the entire period to ensure that replacement parts are sent out as quickly as possible so that retailers can operate in the most efficient manner.
Tech companies should ensure that all jobs are carefully assessed by tech service managers in order to; plan routes, minimise any potential delays and identify pinch points. As the saying goes, ‘forewarned is forearmed’ and knowing exactly where stock is in the supply chain, and where there is likely to be increased traffic, will enable engineers to get parts out to replace faulty or broken equipment smoothly and quickly.
These two steps are imperative to the successful management of retail supply chains during Black Friday. But equally as important: tech partners organising the supply chains must ensure that their customer service team maintains a steady flow of communication between technicians and retailers to keep everyone abreast of potential delays. Even with the tightest of plans in place, problems can occur, and keeping retailers updated on the situation enables them to manage customer expectations in-store.
It is essential that retailers have the technology and infrastructure in place to be able to deal with such vast numbers of shoppers; else they may find employees unable to deal with the strain. We’re gearing up for arguably one for the busiest times of the year for retail, and working with a suitable tech partner to implement an effective contingency plan in the case of a break down, will enable businesses to ensure there is a steady flow of parts and EPOS devices, so that they can run as smoothly as possible. In this way, tech partners operating in the background can enable retailers to turn Black Friday, golden.
Mark Garritt is Managing Director at ByBox
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”