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Black Friday boom or bluff? (And tips for traders)

As Black Friday approaches retailers and consumers are bracing themselves for another shopping frenzy, writes JJ DELGADO.

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Black Friday is recognised around the world as a modern phenomenon, mainly associated with online shopping, however it all started in the USA as early as the late 19th Century when two speculators created a disruption in gold prices that caused a stock market crash. However, it wasn’t until the 1950s when people began to use the Friday after Thanksgiving to start their Christmas shopping. Then in 1966, the term Black Friday became more widely known, when the Philadelphia Police Department used it to define the chaos and traffic congestion caused by shoppers on this day.

Nowadays, Black Friday is a massive retail event often associated primarily with online shopping, although brick and mortar stores also experience a marked increase in customer traffic. Retailers use an extensive range of online and offline tools and resources to enhance sales and improve customer acquisition in what has become one of the greatest days for online deals. Amazon has been at the forefront of Black Friday’s online success and was responsible for bringing Black Friday to Europe. In 2017, Amazon took 54.9% of all Black Friday online transactions. (Source: Hitwise)

My personal experience of Black Friday at Amazon UK in 2015 was one of the highlights of my career and allowed me to be a key player as Head of Amazon Deals Programme for UK, on the day with the highest number of international sales in Amazon’s history. (Source: BBC News) The incredible success of this day was the result of 6 months of hard work, negotiating the best deals from brands and retailers, ensuring a high number of quality deals with great discounts, coordinating digital marketing strategies, creating high impact media coverage and ensuring that IT infrastructures were in place so that the platform was ready for the surge of e-commerce traffic.

So, the question remains… Does Black Friday really improve business or is it just an over-hyped publicity stunt?

Well, the answer to this depends on how you work it, or to put it simply… “You reap what you sow.” Black Friday may only be one day in the year but the negotiations and preparations that lead up to this day can determine whether it is a true success or not, both for the brand and the consumer. The success of Black Friday in recent years has led to an extension of this shopping bonanza with the addition of Cyber Monday, on the Monday after Black Friday, which focuses on online deals. In a bid to maximise the customer’s eagerness for bargains, many retailers around the globe begin the build-up to Black Friday up to a week before, with tempting offers to whet the customer’s appetite.

Black Friday has evolved with the retail industry, maximising online and offline consumer trends to reach a seamless shopping experience but basically it is an event created by retailers, for retailers. There are several fundamental factors that have made Black Friday the phenomenon that it is today:

The date

The fact that Black Friday falls in November is no coincidence. November was traditionally a low month in sales, with shoppers saving their money for Christmas shopping. Many consumers now buy Christmas presents with discounts on Black Friday and this spreads the flow of shoppers, helping to make staffing and people management in stores easier. Also, with November being in Q4, it is a good time for balancing financial results and making up for any shortfalls experienced during the year.

The deals

Black Friday stands out from other sales periods because of the vast array of deals available in almost every retail environment. The effect is contagious and customers are hungry for bargains. Months of planning and negotiating go into finding the best deals and providing the greatest discounts. Customers have a huge amount of information at hand and online shoppers are very “tech-savvy”, instantly checking to see if deals are real or not. Price tracking sites such as camelcamelcamel.com show the pricing history of a product and quickly reveal if a product’s price has been inflated.

Media buzz

The mediatic impact of Black Friday is carried by powerful advertising that spread through social media like wildfire. The buzz generated by the media builds up anticipation to the point that customers often feel compelled to make purchases even without a real need. There is a social element to it that attracts customers, whether it be to physical stores or from the comfort of their own home, as well as the consequent social media feedback that it generates.

Stock clearance

Black Friday is a great way to clear old stock and make way for new products. This is especially relevant in electronics and technology, where products age very quickly and the stock can become obsolete if it is not shifted before the launch of the next model. Video game consoles and mobile phones are prime examples of the customer’s need to get the latest model and the announcement of new launches generates high expectation, causing present models to be perfect candidates for tempting discounts.

Brand awareness

Black Friday is a great opportunity to create brand awareness. Customers are in a shopping mood and are very receptive to new deals and high impact advertising. The audience is there, ready and waiting, to see what is on offer for them, with many people even taking time off to shop. Brands can seize on the mood of the customer to introduce new products or to offer great deals on established ones. Shoppers looking for Christmas presents don’t always have a clear idea of what they want and so they are more open to browse through deals in search of inspiration. The ease of online shopping and the fact that it has become such an easy process for customers, especially the younger generations, also incites impulse buys that are made by shoppers who get caught up in the shopping frenzy.

Read on on for top tips for online retailers:

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Cars

“Hello BMW” – Now we’re talking, with X5

BMW brings impressive safety features and a built-in voice assistant to its 4th generation X5, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Marking 20 years since its release, the BMW X5 has been given a substantial redesign for its fourth generation. A major revamp of aesthetics and functionality affirms this luxury Sports Activity Vehicle’s (SAV) position in the market.

New safety features not only make it safer but also more comfortable to drive. The redesigned headlights utilise laser lighting, which eliminates glare on reflective objects like signboards in dark driving conditions. The laser lighting technology also extends the distance of bright lighting to about 500 meters, 200 meters further than the previous generation.

The Driving Assist Professional package, an option for the SAV, comprises a steering and lane control assistant as well as a lane keeping assistant. These assistants work closely with a smart collision evasion system, which helps avoid collisions with vehicles or pedestrians suddenly appearing in the driver’s path. As soon as an evasive manoeuvre is detected, the system assists the driver with steering inputs to direct the vehicle into a clear, adjacent lane.

BMW Operating System 7.0, the latest version of the car’s software, focuses on customisability. This means that more aspects of the vehicle can be set up in a way that is most comfortable for the driver. For example, the 12.3” infotainment panel features a home screen which uses a three-tile layout, where one can have one large tile and two smaller tiles. These tiles can be swapped around and configured to the point where drivers no longer have to search through menus to get what they would need, as their favourites sit on a customised home screen.

The X5 gets a voice assistant with the BMW Assistant Professional. “Hello BMW” will wake the onboard voice assistant for voice commands. These voice commands could be anything from “Play rock music” to “Is my tyre pressure okay?”. Renaming the voice assistant’s wake prompt is also possible if the driver has named their car something other than BMW.

Keeping in line with the latest technology, the X5 features options for a wireless charging tray in the front and two additional USB Type-C ports. Other features include an adaptive navigation system, a hard-drive-based multimedia system with 20 GB of memory, Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity.

BMW’s attention to minor details goes a long way with massage seats and thermo-cupholders. Electrically adjustable and heated sports seats are fitted standard. Additional options include seat massage functionality and ventilated seats. The thermo-cupholder option allows a driver to keep a beverage heated or cooled during a drive.

Unlocking the X5 with a smartphone will soon be a reality with a planned update to the BMW Connected Drive app, in the second quarter of 2019. BMW Digital Key brings functionality to lock and unlock the car with a smartphone’s NFC chip, which eliminates the need for a traditional car key. The driver will simply hold the smartphone to the door’s handle and the car will unlock. Once the driver is inside, the smartphone can be placed on the built-in wireless charging tray, and the NFC chip will register again to verify the driver. From there, the engine can be started.

Overall, exciting technology features come with the new X5 and even more impressive features will come with software updates in 2019.

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ERP needs asset management

A single, integrated EAM and ERP solution can power an asset-intensive business into the future, says MOHAMED CASSOOJEE, MD and Country Manager, IFS South Africa and Africa.

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Most Enterprise Resource Planning software originated in the manufacturing sector as materials resource planning (MRP) solutions for organisations that needed to manage a lot of inventory. From there, they were rapidly developed into solutions for every industry imaginable.

But these roots mean that most standalone ERP software isn’t quite enough on its own to address the needs of organisations in asset-intensive industries such as metal foundries, mining, oil and gas, pulp and paper, energy and utilities, and construction and engineering.

Companies in these sectors are not managing inventory as much as they are managing the capacity of a fixed asset over its lifecycle as well as handling large-scale infrastructure projects with long planning cycles. This is where enterprise asset management (EAM) comes into play, offering capabilities that are not found in typical ERP systems.

EAM systems are built to help organisations manage assets such as plants, heavy machinery, pipelines and industrial-class vehicles. These solutions enable organisations to track the location and status of assets and asset objects in real time, schedule work orders to maintain and fix the assets, and manage the storage of spare parts required to service them.

As Africa’s governments, state-owned enterprises and private sector step up infrastructure investment, EAM has a vital role to play in ensuring that organisations drive the highest possible value from their new assets, whether these are telecoms networks, railway systems, ports or power plants.

According to the World Bank, Africa needs to spend around $93 billion a year over the next decade to address its infrastructure backlogs — about one-third of that cost is for maintenance. In 2008, World Bank found that about 30% of the infrastructure assets of a typical African country needed rehabilitation.

These numbers point to the urgent need for organisations across the continent to take a more proactive and preventative outlook towards maintenance of their key infrastructure and assets. Implementation of EAM can enable organisations to better track, manage and maintain assets to prolong their lifespan and enhance return on investment.

From asset planning to construction to operation to decommissioning and replacement, EAM allows organisations to maintain, manage and optimise assets over the entire asset lifecycle. By helping companies to increase asset productivity and availability – while reducing total cost of ownership – EAM can have a direct impact on profitability and financial sustainability.

Good EAM solutions can also be paired with corporate performance management and analytics tools to let organisations analyse operation disruptions and determine and address the causes, such as maintenance issues, inadequate training, or design faults.

Technological advances, along with the associated price drop for smart products being developed for the Internet of Things (IoT), now make it possible to monitor almost any asset in real-time from nearly any location across the globe. This further boosts the power and usefulness of an EAM solution. It is imperative that the EAM solutions that are implemented are built on robust, newer technologies that can easily support IOT, AI and smart bots.

EAM and ERP: a critical partnership

To sum up, ERP manages business operations, while the EAM system manages all the monitoring and operations of the asset. That means for most companies it isn’t an either-or choice because they need both EAM and ERP to drive optimal business performance.

Some organisations opt for so-called ‘best of breed’ EAM and ERP solutions from different providers. Yet integration can be a headache. The challenges include master data synchronisation and transaction integration. The company may also need to consider whether the ERP or EAM system is the better fit for a particular transaction or asset type.

However, for most organisations in asset-intensive industries, the ideal solution is an ERP system with extensive EAM capabilities: a system built from the ground up to manage not only basic business functions but also assets and their maintenance. Such a solution provides one complete solution spanning key processes and data.

This approach enables the organisation to truly manage and maximise value over asset lifecycles. It also empowers the enterprise to organise operations around the assets and individual asset objects it uses to create value for stakeholders, customers and the community.

For most asset-intensive companies, delivering EAM capabilities as part and parcel of an integrated ERP solution, simplifies their business systems landscape, giving them a single source of truth. The same arguments apply to project management and workforce management systems.

Organisations seeking to transform their business by standardising processes and leveraging reliable, real-time data will benefit from an ERP system with all of these capabilities, setting them up to adopt IoT, artificial intelligence, or whatever other new technologies are coming up next.

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