Is your SME ready for Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Black Friday is on 23 November followed by Cyber Monday three days later. For small businesses these shopping extravaganzas bring real opportunities for extra sales. However customers and businesses alike need to take action to avoid cybercrime and stay safe online.
What is Back Friday and Cyber Monday?
Black Friday originated in America in the 2000s as a shopping event, either the invention of Amazon or American Express depending on your source. Taking place on the day straight after Thanksgiving, it marks the start of the lead up to Christmas and sees businesses offering huge price cuts. Thanksgiving falls on the 4th Thursday in November, meaning Black Friday is always the 4th Friday of the same month.
The phrase ‘ Black Friday’ originally referred to the traffic chaos during the post-Thanksgiving period when Americans took to the malls. Brits of course don’t usually celebrate the American holiday, but in the last few years have increasingly embraced this transatlantic shopping bonanza.
Its younger sister, Cyber Monday, is the lesser-known kid on the block but was also created as a marketing ploy though this time focussing solely on online shopping. It offers smaller businesses with websites and e-commerce a chance to compete with the larger retailers who are more prominent during Black Friday.
How small businesses can benefit from Black Friday and Cyber Monday
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are expected to be the busiest days of the year for online shopping. Last year a huge £1.4bn was spent online during Black Friday in the UK, an increase of some 11.7% on the previous year ( BBC ). Cyber Monday saw a 3% increase in sales compared to the previous year. The annual event boosts the already growing trend of online shopping.
A large majority of businesses, at 82%, participating in Black Friday expect to sell more stock on Black Friday than on an average day, according to YouGov research .
While a boon for online businesses, footfall to actual retail premises tends to fall during this period – last year footfall to highstreets and shopping centres was down 3.6%. During this Black Friday and Cyber Monday period it’s definitely a case of ‘click over brick’. However, while browsing and purchasing are done online, many shoppers do visit shops to pick up ‘click and collect’ items representing a further selling opportunity for businesses.
Naturally retail businesses fare the best but it’s an opportune time for other types of business to get in on the act too. Whether you think it’s over-hyped or a genuine shopping event, there’s little doubt that it’s a great free marketing opportunity of which all SMEs should be taking advantage.
SMES and online trading
With the excellent promotional opportunities offered by marketing gifts such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it makes sense for SMEs to have a strong online presence and to offer e-commerce. Businesses need to be where their shoppers are.
● Website – Having a website is a basic minimum. Whether or not you offer the opportunity to purchase through your website, an internet presence reminds your customers you’re there, provides a marketing opportunity and provides details about your location and contact details. It can be relatively inexpensive to set up and provides your business with a professional modern image.
● E-commerce – today’s shoppers, whether retail, trade or charity/public sector-related expect to be able to browse, make purchases and pay online. The absence of online selling risks a potential customer or client simply browsing and moving on even if your product or service interests them. Customers are looking for a seamless experience. Once you have your website set up, have the e-commerce option built-in, offering a variety of payment methods including the popular Paypal.
● Be ready for Black Friday & Cyber Monday – your digital technology and infrastructure needs to be able cope with high volumes of traffic. You cannot risk having overloaded servers, communications which fail or websites which take too long to load. If your critical services – such as payment platforms, back-end databases, web servers etc. – become unavailable then you risk losing customers.
If you get your ICT (Information and communications technology) right you are more likely to convert browsers or one-off customers into loyal repeat ones. However, just as you would secure your physical premises and goods, you need to keep your online data and processes safe too.
How to keep safe online
With record numbers online on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it’s also a time when cyber criminals can have a field day. Given the huge increases in online fraud, more than two-thirds (69%) of consumers say they would avoid businesses which have fallen victim to a data breaches , according to research. The UK’s 164 million payment cards result in billions of transactions, banks and vendors being involved in purchases which can make catching cyber fraudsters a difficult task.
Attracted by increased numbers of distracted shoppers online, cyber criminals will try to take advantage of the personal information being exchanged. Criminals are not only looking to steal money but they aim to snatch sensitive personal data so they can use it for identity fraud and banking scams – businesses and customers can become victims.
At this time of year cyber criminals may use:
● Fake Black Friday apps – malicious apps which pretend to offer bargain deals but which are, in fact, Scams.
● Malicious Black Friday websites – similarly, malicious websites which are designed to attract Black Friday and Cyber Monday business may contain malware and phishing scams.
● Counterfeit products – people seeking the latest branded items can be fooled into buying products which are poor, and illegal, imitations of original products such watches, perfumes, trainers and high-value toys.
Customers online should follow basic safety tips – they may seem obvious but distracted with shopping customers are repeatedly falling for theses scams:
● Check the URL – check the web address in the browser bar. Fraudulent sites often have a site address which is very similar to well-known sites, differing only by one letter. You may think you’ve clicked the real thing but in reality it’s a fake mirror site.
● Update your anti-virus – ensure you have reputable anti-virus software installed and update it regularly. When you inadvertently try to visit a malicious site, it will give you a warning.
● Do not open suspicious emails – a common criminal ploy is getting you to click on a malicious link provided in an email. Be aware and never click on any links about which you are unsure; always check with the originating company first if you are concerned.
● Use extra caution on a mobile device or unsecured Wi-Fi network – be extra careful if shopping on a mobile or tablet and their safety features are often not as advanced as those of a desktop. Unsecured Wi-Fi networks, especially free ones, can leave your data exposed to cyber thieves who can grab sensitive information about you.
Businesses and customers alike need to take extra care to stay safe online.
For small businesses this means ensuring your firm has adequate cyber security – at a basic level, this can include checking your anti-virus software, updating your firewalls and training staffing to spot phishing and scams.
It can cost an SME dearly if it becomes victim to an online attack. The good news is that there a many other measures which SMEs can take. However we know that SMEs with limited resources are busy dealing with the everyday tasks of their business. They often lack the time, staff or skill to look into the best ICT to further their business. In these circumstances the next best option is to turn to professional help for Risk Management, Cyber and Data Security Services.
At 360ict Ltd we can help you protect your business against cyber criminals. We can review your ICT to ensure it has the right level of cyber security to prevent fraud, theft and scamming.
To arrange your on-site review or talk to our IT support team about your options, call 0208 663 4000 today.