5 Insights to learn from Black Friday 2015

Lloyd Dunstall our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 5/3/2016 1:02 PM
With the hype of a £1bn sales day ringing in the ears of shoppers and retailers alike, Black Friday 2015 proved to be the busiest UK online shopping day on record.

As impressive as this figure is, there are some key lessons that can, and should be learnt for the future; as well as insights into consumer behaviour to improve the shopping experience year round.

It seems that Black Friday has now become the epicentre of a week-long sales season, which merges almost unnoticed into Cyber Monday, rather than the stand-alone sale it began life as. The distinctiveness of Black Friday has definitely gone. But will it stay that way?

Much has changed since Black Friday hysteria came to the UK, and retailers are seeing new trends emerge, with crucial lessons to learn along the way.

1. Consumers are avoiding the manic high-street experience of past years in favour of shopping online. The 2014 scenes of chaos and over crowed stores, seemed to deter many from leaving the safety of their screens. Out of the total spent on Black Friday, £1.1bn was spent online (up 36% on 2014 according to Experian and IMRG) rather than in store. This initial fear proved to be unfounded as the sale started with considerably less voracity than expected.

2. Website stability is key to maximising sales, and boosting user experience. US retailer Target, as well as Tesco, Schuh and Zara in the UK were hit by system faults due to the high volume of visitors to their websites. As consumer confidence grows in online shopping year on year, so do the threats. Cyber security, and credit card fraud are very real daily battles for online retailers. Therefore consumers need trust, and believe the sites they shop on are robust enough to handle the expected demands for stability and security. Online retailers were still unprepared, despite the widely publicised volume predictions.

3. Presales lowered Black Friday sales growth. For some retailers the spike in sales predicted by many pundits, proved to be a little less spectacular, due to their early presale price slashing. This conversely may then see Christmas sales suffer for the same retailers due to consumer binge shopping over Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Shoppers were able to benefit from discounted prices from as early as Tuesday for Black Friday, and Sunday for Cyber Monday.

4. Action change and improvements. The implementation of customer insight data, and analysis will be the differentiators between those brands who just do well during the sale next year, and those who sustain sales growth throughout the fiscal year. As healthy as many of the revenue figures have been over the Black Friday period, some retailers may see a dip in overall revenue, as shoppers settle back into normal shopping patterns. Using raw data to improve offerings is a trick too good to miss.

5. There are always pretenders to the throne. eCommerce strategies, and post campaign analyse are now more important than ever, to gain competitive edge. Customer insight into how, and why the trend for shopping online is growing in the UK as the next retail space is key. It has shown itself to be a space where new, and established retailers can be extremely niche with their offerings. Performing well, away from the bricks and mortar of the high street. Right now Amazon, Walmart, and other larger retailers have staked a firm claim to the mass market online. The advantage for those that still have a strong high street presence should, and must be to maximise the aesthetic advantage of customers being able to physically touch and feel products in store, as well as return to a store; verses the shopping experience of an Amazon for example.

One brand who has taken all these points and more into consideration this Black Friday is Argos. Who attracted more visitors than the online behemoth Amazon!

The key takeaways from this years’ sale are that if you participate, it is essential that you have a robust end to end strategy to complement your sales campaign, with a road map that extends to after the sale is over. 

As well as Argos have done in engaging consumers, they are now victims of their own success, as they have been unable to meet delivery deadlines, and subsequent customer service demands. Perpetuating brand reputation must be as important as the sale.

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2020: The Year of the Data Engineer

Data Engineers are the architects of Data. They lay the foundation businesses use to collect, gather, store, and make Data usable. Each iteration of the Data as it moves along the pipeline is cleaned and analysed to be used by Data professionals for their reports and Machine Learning models. A ROLE IN HIGH DEMAND Even as businesses reopen, reassess, and for some, remain remote, the demand for Data Engineers is high. Computer applications, Data modelling, prediction modelling, Machine Learning, and more need Data professionals to lay the groundwork to help businesses benefit in today’s Data-driven culture. The word gets thrown around a bit, but when the majority of business has moved online, Data-driven is the name of the game. Having a Data plan, a Data team, and all aligned with your business strategy is imperative to the way business is done today. This type of innovation can offer insight for better business decisions, enhance customer engagement, and improve customer retention without missing a beat.  Without Data Engineers, Data Scientists can’t do their jobs. Understanding the amount of Data, the speed at which is delivered, and its variety need Engineers to create reliable and efficient systems. Like many Data professional jobs, even still in 2020, Data Engineers are in high demand. Yet a skills shortage remains. This has created an emerging field of professionals from other backgrounds who are looking to take on the role of Data Engineer and fill the gap. Whether by necessity or design, these individuals build and manage pipelines, automate projects, and see their projects through to the end result. CAREER OPPORTUNITIES OUTSIDE THE NORM As this growing trend emerges, it has created career opportunities for those with experience outside the normal channels of Data Engineering study. While it might involve individuals from backgrounds such as software Engineering, Databases, or something similarly IT-related, some businesses are upskilling their employees with talent. Rapid growth, reskilling, upskilling, and ever-constant changes still leave businesses with a shortage of Data Engineers to meet the demand. It’s critical to fill the gap for success. According to LinkedIn’s 2020 Emerging Jobs Report, Data Engineering is listed in the top 10 of jobs experiencing growth. THREE STEPS TOWARDS BECOMING A DATA ENGINEER This is a vital role in today’s organisations. So, if you’re in the tech industry and want to take a deeper dive into Data as a Data Engineer, what steps can you take? This is a time like no other. There’s time to assess your goals, take online classes, and get hands on with projects. Though having a base of computer science, mathematics, or business-related degree is always a good start. Be well-versed in such popular programming languages such as SQL, Python, R, Hadoop, Spark, and Amazon Web Services (AWS).Prepare for an entry-level role once you have your bachelor’s degree.Consider additional education to stay ahead of the curve. This can include not only professional certifications, but higher education degrees as well. The more experience, hands-on as well as academic, you have the more in demand you’ll be as a Data Engineer. Data scientists might be the rockstars of Data, but Data Engineers set the stage. As business processes have shifted online, looking for your next job has become more daunting than ever before. If you’re looking for your next opportunity in Data, take a look at our current jobs or get in touch with one of our expert consultants to find out more. 

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Virtual interviewing may have erupted over the last few months but the trends are showing that this is something that is likely to last well beyond the remote reality that many people are facing. Virtual interviewing is not as easy as it seems, in fact we’ve found our clients asking us over and over again for advice on how to run an effective video interview process. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of some of our top tips for clients and hiring managers for a successful video interview:  1. DON’T FORGET THE PRE-INTERVIEW PREP Confirm: Just like you would confirm a face to face interview with an email with the right address, instruction of how to get there and what to expect – the same applies for virtual interviews. Ensure to email candidates in advance with a link, information about who they are meeting and, most importantly, what you expect from a dress code. One of candidates biggest areas of concern is usually about what to wear for a virtual interview, so setting this out clearly in an email is a great way to start the process off on the right foot.Do not forget to provide instructions for using the video conferencing platform. Whether it is zoom, skype, google hangouts or another – keep in mind the candidate may not be familiar with your platform of choice.  Test:  Make sure to log onto to the interview early to ensure your camera, microphone and set up works. Be sure to ensure that your image is clear and that the volume is adequate. It is likely that the candidate will do the same and will ensure that the first few minutes of the interview aren’t focused on the technical side of things and ‘can you hear/see me?’.  2. 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It’s likely that the candidate will have done everything they can to stop both of these from occurring, but ultimately, they could happen and it’s important the candidate knows that this will not negatively affect their outcome.  Set the agenda: Once you are through the icebreaker and have eased concerns, make sure to set an agenda for the interview. Let the candidate know what to expect. For example, introduction, CV run through, competency questions, Q&A and end. End the interview the right way, finish up by telling the candidates about the next steps and the timescales that you expect for that.  3. PREPARE THE QUESTIONS IN ADVANCE Due to the nature of video interviews, you will find the experience quite different to what you were used to. Usually you would have the CV and question sheet in front of you on the table, or on a laptop and the candidate separate to that. This time, you will potentially have all of that information on one screen. Preparing for how to optimise your screen and information therefore is important so that you can focus more on the candidate.  Read up on the candidate: Complete your CV read through and background prior to the interview to ensure that you do not need to rely wholly on the CV to make sense of the candidate’s answers. Don’t try and wing it: Prepare your questions in advance, have the questions in front of you and use them to help you to keep the interview on track and ensure all your questions get answered.  4. BE AWARE THAT EYE CONTACT IS DIFFERENT One of the biggest issues that clients and candidates alike feedback to us is that the concept of eye contact when video interviewing has as slightly different meaning. Having real eye contact in a virtual interview is challenging, because it means that you are going to be looking at the camera and not at the candidate, which takes some adjusting to.  Top Tips: Train yourself to look at the camera when you are talking, as this will give the candidate more of that personal feeling.Avoid the temptation to gape at your image on the screen, or the candidate when  you are speaking. If possible, turn off your picture so that the only image that shows on the screen is that of the candidate – this avoids the very familiar desire to look at oneself.  5. AVOID DIGITAL DISTRACTIONS There’s only so much you can do to stop your child running into the room, or your partner forgetting you’re on an interview and heading to the fridge but you can control the digital interruptions. It is important that you give the candidate your full attention. If your entire process is virtual, these are the sole ways that the candidate has to judge whether this is the right opportunity for them – so remember that this is a key part of their experience. Turn off notifications: Interviewing on a computer means that you are more likely to be distracted by your emails, IM messages, we’d advise turning off your notifications for both emails and IMs and closing all unnecessary tabs. Turn your phone onto airplane mode or DND. Harnham are currently supporting our clients within the Data & Analytics space on running completely remote interview processes for candidates. If you're looking to hire we can help you optimise your process in order to get the best talent then get in touch with one of our expert consultants. 

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