Black Friday: opportunity or threat?

While customers searching for Black Friday deals online are advised to follow a few simple guidelines to stay safe and avoid cybercriminals taking advantage of the annual shopping frenzy, tech experts explain what retailers can do to keep their devices and data secure.

Furthermore, physical theft is higher as well, as reports show that theft rates increased by two percent, more than any other day of the year. Retailers must employ effective solutions to combat threats while still delivering an excellent customer experience (CX). Industry leaders advise how retailers can keep threats at bay while also providing customers with a safe and secure shopping experience.

Educated Employees Are the First Line of Defence

Michael Jenkins, CTO at ThreatLocker, highlighted the threats faced and the employee’s role in mitigating this: “Organisations are responsible for protecting the data of their stakeholders and employees, making them liable for implementing data breach prevention methods. Businesses should prepare for the surge in cyberattacks during Black Friday by first educating their employees about potential threats and behaviours that make them vulnerable to ransomware.”

While on a tight deadline, an employee opening a phishing link, providing users incorrect access to private information, or downloading compromised data can all result in significant downtime, severely limiting businesses' ability to capitalise on Black Friday opportunities. The impact on profit is unimaginable.

Fight Fire with Fire

As technology advances, cyber technology becomes more prevalent, which eventually leads to cyber-attacks. As the frequency of data breaches, ransomware, and hacks becomes the norm, the continued evolution of technology means a parallel shift in cyber security trends. It is prudent to continually identify and adapt emerging cybersecurity technologies to strengthen cyber security. Black Friday is the best time to invest in new technology, not only because of the likelihood of an attack but also because of the specials available.

Will Liu, MD of TP-Link UK said it plainly: "There are some amazing deals out there this year making it very cost-effective to give it a try.”

As evidenced by last year's major cyberattacks on businesses and this year's geopolitical instability, cybersecurity will play a rapidly growing role in the coming decade as retailers continue to digitise. Cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated in their attack methods, but so are cyber defence firms and technologies, which are being bolstered by increased investment from the private and public sectors.

Not All Threats Are Invisible

It is not uncommon for people to take advantage of the craze of a busy day in a big box store and steal small items, and on Black Friday, thieves are simply much more focused on the opportunity than they are on a regular basis. Furthermore, with the introduction of new checkout modes, the risks of theft have increased enormously. In fact, stores with self-checkout options are experiencing double the shrinkage levels of traditional checkout stores.

Tom Vieweger, RFID Business Expert, at Nedap Retail stated the importance of managing this: “In order to be successful, they need a loss prevention strategy that enables a frictionless shopping experience without compromising on security.”

Security measures must however not affect the UX negatively. Vieweger goes said: “With Black Friday and Christmas upon us, it’s essential that no loss prevention measure stands in the way of a seamless shopping experience. Small changes like protecting the most stolen products ensure large reductions in shrinkage and purchased products can easily be deactivated at checkout without disruption.”

Don’t Sacrifice UX

Many organisations, including UX designers, see an inverse relationship between internet security and UX – greater security leads to poorer UX. To some extent, this is correct. Users do not want to be slowed down by cumbersome security features that make using a product difficult, irritating, or time-consuming. Too much security diminishes the user experience, and users may look for system weaknesses to avoid security features. Worse, stringent security measures may cause users to abandon a retailer's website or product entirely.

Rebecca Worsley, CEO & Founder of Rainy City Agency, stressed the importance of CX: “There is also now more pressure on retailers to satisfy the rising demands of today’s expected customer experience. Customers now demand more than simply purchasing a product or service, receiving it and using it.

"A strong brand identity, along with the provision of a seamless customer experience, are now expected amongst customers and retailers cannot overlook this in the run-up to Black Friday.” It is crucial to strike a balance between UX, cyber- and in-store security."

Preparing for Black Friday

Preparing for the traditional curtain-raiser to the holiday shopping season entails more than just securing adequate staffing and inventory or ensuring that the necessary marketing has been carried out to punt promotions. Retailers must have adequate robust solutions in place to combat both physical and digital threats.

There are numerous technologies available to assist retailers in protecting their data, inventory, and businesses as a whole.

Black Friday is a fantastic opportunity for retailers to thrive, as long as the proper safeguards are in place to mitigate any threats.