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Not just another Black Friday

Change has been forced upon the retail sector this year. In the long weekend when all eyes turn in retail’s direction, many are asking whether Black Friday and Cyber Monday should now become more than a digital shopping feast.

To describe 2020 as “unforgettable” seems both an understatement and ambiguous: something of a double-edged sword. A time of change and uncertainty; also a time of acceleration and agility. Not to forget or in any way minimise the very real pain and loss suffered by millions worldwide; yet from such times we see communities and businesses coming together in innovative ways.

As the extended Black Friday weekend is such a perennially important one for so many of the retail technology partners (and retailers of course) that we at Retail in Detail work with all year round and help them plan for, I always like to write something about it. Ordinarily it would cross my mind that I might risk repeating myself, but if there’s one thing that 2020 has done, it has made sure nothing’s ordinary or predictable. This patently isn’t “just another Black Friday.”

Will it fail spectacularly? Will we all prove to have done so much online – and so much shopping online – over the course of this year that we’ll prove to be all done, and have had enough of a good thing? (For the record: I don’t think so.) Will the astonishing records that it manages to break every year survive for at least one more? Or will the figures hit undreamt of highs, with everyone stocking up for the holiday season? Well … we’ll all know soon enough.

2020 and a certain global situation has moved the dial for innumerable things in innumerable ways, but on this particular Friday I have two things in mind. This year has seen a fire re-ignited under the idea of what I’ll call “social purpose” – for individuals wanting to make a difference, and for companies genuinely getting serious about CSR (and the two are now very much linked – an imminent new report from the retail charity Pennies which I’ve had sight of points out that 74% of people in the UK believe businesses have a responsibility to do “social good”, and 87% would purchase a product because the company supported an issue they cared about).

Retail can very much play its part – and by retail I here mean the whole of the happy retail ecosystem, from consumer to payment provider to technology partner to retailer to logistics companies and everywhere in between. Micro-donations is a movement whose time has very much come: retail customers have a renewed appetite to give back, but in the ways and times of their choosing. By my own rough-and-ready calculation, if only 2% of the Black Friday online orders from within the UK were able to add a micro-donation to their transaction (of say, no more than £1) over £2million would have been raised in four days alone. You can read more about the great work of Pennies here.

The other thing I’d claim that has moved the dial over the last eight months or so is the role technology has to play in delivering the efficiency and agility – and, yes, the automation and cost-savings – that retailers have sorely needed. From RFID to advanced big data analytics, from digital workspace solutions to applications modernisation acceleration, technology has smartly stepped in and stepped up for retailers. But I think I’ll save that for my year-end wrap-up blog.

So for now: enjoy Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Support your national retailers – and some international ones! And while you’re confirming payment, look for the chance to make a micro-donation. And if the merchant in question isn’t offering it, why not make them a suggestion for their New Year’s Resolutions … ?