Black Friday 2017 takes place on 24 November, and South African online stores are preparing for a large increase in sales volumes.
Many websites and online payment platforms struggled to cope with the increased load during Black Friday 2016, and retailers have learnt from these failures.
Parcelninja CEO Justin Drennan said they expect a 10-fold increase on Black Friday compared to normal daily volumes.
They are ready for the rush, however, as they have dealt with high-volume clients like Groupon in the past.
Parcelninja has communicated with its courier partners to prepare for increased volumes, and provided them with volume forecasts to ensure the timely delivery of products.
Drennan said their systems have been developed with Black Friday in mind and they use AWS for hosting – as this allows them to scale rapidly.
Additional staff have also been hired and trained, while Parcelninja has extended its operating hours and will work over the Black Friday weekend.
Parcelninja is not the only player prepared for Black Friday, with many online stores ready for the big day.
OneDayOnly said Black Friday 2016 was a genuine stress test for it and brought to light a number of areas to focus on.
“Many of this year’s improvement projects were driven by lessons learned from Black Friday 2016,” said OneDayOnly.
The retailer said customer communications, order management, and logistics will be strong focus points this year.
The company has also moved its Cape Town and Johannesburg warehouses to larger premises, and further optimised its inventory, picking, and packing systems.
“Our overall staff contingent more than doubled in the past 12 months to deal with the immense growth our business has seen,” it added.
OneDayOnly was one of the few ecommerce retailers which remained online in 2016, despite payment issues with BankservAfrica.
“We are currently making a number of final optimisations to our systems, and look forward to bringing some outstanding deals to our loyal customers on the day.”
Zando has implemented a “feature freeze” in the buildup to Black Friday, where it is not developing or deploying new features.
“We identified areas that needed to be addressed early on and have been developing fixes to ensure we maintain a positive customer experience during Black Friday,” said Zando MD Grant Brown.
“We are currently creating campaigns which will run during Black Friday, to accurately test the mechanics and load on-site well before the actual day.”
Grant said they remain at the mercy of payment providers, which experienced problems in 2016.
Zando has been in communication with the providers about forecasted volumes to assist them to plan accordingly.
Good news is that Zando offers a large variety of alternative payment methods, including COD and EFT.
“Customers will be redirected to these alternative payment methods if required during Black Friday.”
To cope with increased sales, Zando has improved infrastructure at its warehouse to increase picking speeds.
The company has also increased its staff complement and added additional resources, such as checking and dispatch stations.
“We have spent a lot of time with our courier partners discussing and planning around the anticipated volumes,” said Brown.
Zando will manage the distribution of volumes across its partners to ensure deliveries are on time, and has increased its delivery fleet by over 50% to alleviate shipping pressures.
Raru cofounder Neil Smith said his biggest concern for Black Friday is the country’s payment systems.
“Last year, they could not cope for the first couple of hours of Black Friday,” said Smith.
“We can only trust the upgrades the payment providers have made to their systems will be able to handle the expected high sales volumes.”
He expects Raru to ship all the orders it receives on Black Friday, as it will be “all hands on-board getting orders shipped and packed”.
“After that, it is in the hands of the courier companies to deliver timeously.”
Loot CEO Gary Hadfield said they have invested in more hardware, worked on improving the efficiency of their data processing capabilities, and optimised their servers for Black Friday.
“Since Black Friday last year, we have added more payments options and now offer our shoppers 13 payments options,” he said.
Loot is also prepared to ensure all Black Friday deliveries are done fast.
“In October 2017, we brought our new Cape Town Airport Industria warehouse online – which has dramatically increased our order processing and packing capabilities.”
“This, in conjunction with our Midrand warehouse, will make a big difference.” Both warehouses are within a few kilometres of Loot’s courier partner FedEx.
Loot has also increased its stock levels and has more than doubled its warehouse team in the past 12 months.
Superbalist said it is hosted in Google Compute Engine using Kubernetes container management, which means it can add servers as demand increases.
“Our systems have been built to be as resilient and horizontally-scalable as possible. Our predicted load across internal and customer-facing services places us in a comfortable, if somewhat intense zone,” said Superbalist CTO Brad Whittington.
The company can also disable portions of its system which are not critical to customer experiences to provide more capacity.
“We’re going to be doubling our normal capacity and provisioning additional capacity is possible in minutes.”
He said the biggest problem last year was banking infrastructure failing – for online purchases and physical stores.
“We’ve done as much as we can to ensure we have as many failover points as possible, however, we ultimately have to hope that the credit card and banking industry is adequately prepared for the onslaught.”
Superbalist also enjoys great logistics support, thanks to its links to Takealot.