Opinion

Black Friday and the Tech That Enables It

blackfriday

There is no hiding from it. Advertising, promotions and reminders surrounding Black Friday, Blessed Friday, White Friday and Cyber Mondays come in from all sides, platforms and devices. Emails, text messages, social media and every other possible form of communication, will tickle your fingers until you click on something or simply reject them out of your cache.

Before anything, let’s just get one thing straight: the ‘Black’ in the ‘Black Friday’ actually has nothing to do with the sanctity of the day itself. Unless you are somehow rolling up the entire day in pollution, charcoal and tar, which is the curse of most urban cities, nothing is becoming any darker or uglier.

Black Friday actually got its name when retail outlets would offer massive discounts before the holiday season in the hopes of getting their books out of the ‘red’ and into the ‘black’, or in a more profitable position. The concept has become so popular globally and moreso in the Internet age simply because the term ‘Black Friday’ is more SEO friendly. You’ll be able to get more accurate search results specific to this time of the year if you search for the complete term, instead of the casual and unattached term of ‘discounts today’. Go through the metatags for the alternate identities, and they will not disappoint. At the end of the day, it’s all about how many customers find you, land on your page and hopefully convert the click into a sale.

Way Back When

Ecommerce certainly isn’t new. Companies used to put up their static HTML websites with a static list of the inventory they had, added some contact information and wait for orders to come in awaiting fulfilment. But I do recall one of the first businesses that fascinated me in 2001, was set up by Abid Beli in the form of beliscity.com. If memory serves me right, Abid had one brick and mortar shop on II Chundrigar Road followed by a second one in Sasi Arcade, Clifton. Both these served as fulfilment centers, allowing him to follow the orders placed and service them. There were others that also came up seeing how serial entrepreneurs like Abid were setting the blueprint of how things should happen. Today, it just seems so much easier with the VC-backed and some just on pure customer uptake: Daraz, Tazamart, Kaymu, Homeshopping, Yayvo, Shophive and more.

But here’s the deal: the difference between ecommerce in 2005 and the digital commerce of 2017, can be summed up in 3 factors: acceptance, incentive and infrastructure.

Acceptance: There has been an increasing acceptance that ecommerce can work, it is convenient and simple enough. Also the fact that consumers realize that they can scream blue murder if a service dissatisfies them because the social connections are critical to their success. Besides, any cashless transaction just hurts a little less. And if you’re living in a congested city, you don’t want to risk your neck getting into a physical shop – some people take this stuff really seriously! Like, life-and-death seriously!

Incentive: It’s basic psychology – promote the sale as ‘upto 70%’ and you will get a gazillion clicks. Clicks mean traffic. Traffic means you need to be able to engage the visitors and keep them there.

Infrastructure: And there are a couple of parts to infrastructure – first there is the UI. If you haven’t created a webfront that is native to customer behavior, you’ve lost the customer. Same goes for your app. The integrations have to work, because one bad message and it’s game over for you.

Then there is end-to-end visibility into the supply chain. The customer should be able to track exactly where their order is and when it will be delivered. The service will usually surround you from all sides giving you 360 degree love. This essentially means connect with you over a text message, email, your social and its rare but they can call you. This visibility helps to keep the delivery honest and is really part of the value a company offers to you. It is also the vendor’s visibility into his/her own supply chain that enables the expansion and growth of local brands across their brick-and-mortar, multiple outlets. The POS and terminals on the cash counters enable stores to see the quantity of product available in which branch. This helps keep clean fulfilment through an updated inventory in real-time.

An increase in the performance and functionality of courier companies also helps make the last-mile of the supply chain easy to control. At least a lot easier to control than compared to the times orders were sent via messenger pigeons.

Finally, a multitude of payment options also makes it possible for more people to be more comfortable with online buying. As with many markets, people are still hesitant to use their credit cards online. Hence the debit cards, prepaid cards, third party payment solution providers, digital wallets and fintech solutions really help give consumers an increased number of options. Disruptive solutions will only make this entire experience better. Of course, if all else fails, the COD option is still widely accepted.

So, call it whatever you want. The simple fact is this: it is infinitely easier and more exciting for sales and marketing to promote campaigns that drive more business to their companies because of the technology that supports it. The business of online is only going to continue to grow. Bill payments, integrated screens that make settlements and payments more convenient for consumers agnostic of platform, service or bank… the list really goes on. The payment space will only get more disruptive, yet alignment between the tech and the consumer behavior that devours it.

Editorial

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