3 Last-Minute Tips From IT Pros Before the Black Friday Surge


Cyber Monday and Black Friday typically kick off the holiday shopping season, but this November and December sales are forecasted to surge 33% year-over-year to a record $189 billion. Yet, despite recent digital advancements, there hasn’t been a Black Friday like we’ll be seeing this year and technical glitches aren’t going to give us a break in 2020. On Black Friday last year, we saw the websites of Costco and Nordstrom Rack go down, and in 2018, Walmart and J.Crew fell victim to an IT outage.

To guarantee shoppers can continue shop sales successfully during a period of heightened online traffic, retailers must rely on robust strategies at the back end to proactively control technical infrastructure and prevent IT issues. So what are some last-minute strategies for retail IT teams to handle the shopping surge that will begin this Black Friday season?

  1. Unify the entire organization, not just IT

While the organization's IT service management team will ultimately be responsible for getting the retailer’s system back up and running should an outage occur, it’s the customer-facing employees and customer service agents who must deal with the angry mob. Without a unified approach on what to do if the system is down, employees could potentially send in thousands of duplicate IT tickets to the service management team. Now, IT technicians are tasked with getting systems back online while assisting internal employees with customer service, which can seem like a daunting task for the entire organization. 

To better handle a company-wide outage this online shopping season, it’s most beneficial to have all employees and departments utilizing the same platform and service tools. Taking the steps to connect departments’ critical applications and communication channels seamlessly into the company’s shared ITSM solution, can provide IT teams visibility into broader organization-wide issues. This integrated approach not only will allow employees to quickly contact the service desk, but also help IT technicians access critical data to align impacted assets with the incident, creating a digital trail that can identify and resolve IT issues quicker.

  1. Equip the service desk with smart tools

While retailers have been preparing for the holiday shopping season by investing in smart POS systems and CX tools for front-end employees, it’s important to equally invest in strengthening your back-end systems. Smart technology, like AI-enabled tools, can streamline service management processes: enabling IT pros to respond to and resolve problems more efficiently. Should a software glitch occur during the surge in online traffic this holiday season, frontline employees will turn to their ITSM portal and submit the issue. With AI, the portal can guide employees to relevant self-service options or service request forms to help IT troubleshoot faster.

IT technicians can also leverage similar AI features to automate knowledge sharing, improve incident handling and ticketing queues, while delivering more efficient business processes. Having the resources to identify recurring issues paired with historical insights, enables IT teams to speed up fulfillment and resolution times: helping teams avoid downtime and disruption. By investing in the most up-to-date technology for service management teams, retailers can prepare ahead of time for potential outages and focus on driving sales this holiday season.

  1. Provide accessible communication channels:

One of the biggest challenges during a company-wide outage is communication across all departments and employees, ensuring everyone is on the same page about messaging to customers, stakeholders and more. However, providing accessible communication channels through one ITSM solution portal and relevant knowledge articles ahead of time can help align the company if an outage were to occur.

Beyond centralizing knowledge content, ticket submission, and request history teams must also look for ways to meet their users where they work. Offering multiple outlets to access the service portal’s resources with desktop and mobile access, enables employees to quickly find answers or communicate ongoing issues with the service desk, in real time. Take a unified approach by educating employees in advance of the heavy traffic of the holiday season, so they are empowered to leverage these self-service options.

With the biggest online sales event occurring during the same two-month period every year, retailers need to learn from past mistakes to ensure their system can handle the increase in online traffic. By implementing strong IT service management and preparing at the back end, retailers can handle a potential outage and still increase sales this holiday season.

-Liz Beavers, Head Geek at SolarWinds