Black Friday 2019 was anything but black

December 13, 2019

Amaturing sector and consumer base, coupled with advances in technology and better collaboration from industry players, saw this year’s massive sales go off virtually without a hitch. That’s according to Craig Duggan, Commercial Head at Transaction Junction, a fintech company that specialises in digital payment solutions for the future.

The original reference to ‘Black Friday’, coined around 70 years ago, referred to the practice of US workers calling in sick the day after Thanksgiving in order to have a four-day weekend. Although the focus has since shifted onto retail sales and bargains, the thought of any electronic failures on this day – in terms of devices, tills or the software enabling transactions – can still leave many feeling sick to their stomachs.

What is interesting about Black Friday, says Duggan, is that even in today’s era of instant gratification, many people are prepared to wait several months to buy, for example, a new TV, in order to take advantage of the specials on offer. Add to this the fact that an increasing number of retailers ran their specials over the entire week, he continues, and it is no surprise to learn that this November was the record transaction processing month – in terms of both value and volume – in Transaction Junction’s history.

“As a business-enablement platform that provides services that encompass every level of touchpoint in the digital payments chain, Transaction Junction’s focus is to ensure that payments are delivered at the point of sale securely and timeously. We believe that we achieved this significant goal this year,” he says.

“We processed close to 40 million additional transactions in 2019, when compared to 2018. Last year, we processed approximately 136 million transactions in November, while this year the total was some 174 million. Despite the growth in volume, the question ‘can our systems cope?’ was never raised, because as the electronic payment enabler, our systems are designed with massive events like these in mind. As such, even during peak Black Friday traffic, we only reached around 30% of our capacity.”

Thanks to this, Duggan says that Black Friday could be described as a red-letter day for Transaction Junction. He adds that this could not be a more perfect start to the festive shopping season.

“Of course, to put our capabilities into perspective, it is worth considering exactly how busy the 2019 Black Friday actually was. Although our systems were geared for the massive influx of transactions and thus experienced no problems, the fact remains that Transaction Junction recorded a 400% increase in transactions on the day. At its peak, it was recording between 440 and 450 transactions per second (TPS), while the average for the day came in at over 100 TPS.”

Transaction Junction, while not a customer-facing company, is aware that any issue with its systems will have a significantly negative impact on partners, retailers and banks. The company has a responsibility to ensure it implements the right strategy and technologies to protect its customers’ brands and reputations.

Duggan believes there were several keys to this year’s successful Black Friday trading. Firstly, he points out that the key players, both in retail and financial services, developed a pre-emptive ‘war-room’ to determine exactly what systems and technologies were in place, to share information around potential pitfalls that were noticed, to identify where weaknesses still exist and to clearly understand what to do in a situation where something does fail.

“More than this, I believe that consumers themselves are generally more digitally mature than they were just a few years ago. Thanks to the increased maturity from both sides, and the realisation that you can always be more effective in stressful situations when you are all collaborating and sharing information, Black Friday was anything but black,” says Duggan.

He says the industry can look back on this one and congratulate itself on how well it worked together and collaborated, as well as how it learned from earlier mistakes and challenges. The key was the significant planning beforehand and the effort from all industry players who worked together to ensure that no customer was inconvenienced.

“We are pleased with the part we played in the overall transaction chain during this period. We look forward to fulfilling the same, unrecognised role in facilitating electronic payment transactions throughout the rest of the Festive Season. You could say our goal for the remainder of 2019 is to assist our customers in successfully transitioning out of the black and into the red,” he concludes.