Black Friday has become established as the starting pistol of the Christmas shopping season. 

After an estimated £810m was spent during the promotional event last year, retailers should have been rubbing their hands in glee. But as last year’s turmoil showed, Black Friday can put a great deal of strain on retailers’ back-end operations, jeopardising the shopping phenomenon’s profitability.

To avoid the errors made last year planning is essential and retailers need to keep a close eye on how even minor discounts can significantly affect sales levels and profit margins.

“Today’s business planning decisions have to be made closer to the customer to provide as much agility as possible,” says Ian Stone, UK and Ireland managing director of cloud analytics software provider Anaplan.

“As the vast majority of businesses have access to them, spreadsheets have become a readily available tool that can be used across a number of departments or functions. However, it is important to remember that they were never designed for that job.”

Putting planning capabilities in the cloud provides an alternative, enabling teams or departments to be involved in collaborating on the best approach and to share accountability for the results.

“The cloud provides retailers with unprecedented scale and ability to cost-effectively manage and process data volumes that were previously unthinkable – ideal for highly sophisticated, configurable and up-to-date forecasting,” says Stone.

Such flexibility and power is paramount in maintaining a competitive advantage. With peaks in trading around special events unlikely to fade, it is essential for retailers to be prepared, and a shift in back-end technology could be the best way to ensure they are.