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Black Friday & Cyber Monday 2014 set to beat records, but at what cost?

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are set to be the biggest UK shopping days ever, but are customers at risk?

shopping key

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become increasingly important events in the calendars of UK Christmas shoppers season in recent years, and 2014 looks to be the year it really takes off.

The shopping day has traditionally been confined to US shores, with retailers launching special deals and offers for customers the day after Thanksgiving, with the event rapidly growing to include the rest of the weekend and what has become known as Cyber Monday.

2013 was the first year it hit big in the UK, prompting retailers across the country to invest heavily in making sure they can withstand the inevitable influx of traffic this weekend will bring to their websites, as well as capitalise on the increased chance for sales with deals and offers.

Simply looking at the figures for this time last year gives a good indication as to why UK retailers are falling over themselves to latch onto Black Friday and make it an occasion to rival the size of the annual shopping event in the US.

According to stats released by Experian, UK consumers visited online retail sites 115 million times in a single day, and spent 15.3 million hours shopping online during last year's Cyber Monday.

In fact, 2 December 2013 was the biggest online retail day ever in the UK, beating Boxing Day 2012 in traffic by 2.5 per cent. Compared to 2012's Cyber Monday, visits to online retail sites rose by 3.3 million.

For 2014, this is set to rise even further. According to data from Pockit and the Centre for Retail Research (via E-consultancy), shoppers will spend around 1.32 billion - an increase of 9 per cent on 2013 figures - saving 233 million across the weekend.

James Murray, Digital Insight Manager for Experian Marketing Services commented at the time: "As expected Cyber Monday smashed previous online shopping records, making the 2 December 2013 the biggest single day of online shopping we've ever witnessed. Black Friday has also become an event in the UK calendar and this could have had a spill over effect on Cyber Monday shopping in the UK.

"Customers have never been savvier and with more ways to shop than ever before, engaging with customers at the right time and across every channel is essential to maximise sales in what is shaping up to be another record breaking Christmas period for online retail."

John Lewis is one retailer wholeheartedly diving into the idea of Black Friday and Cyber Monday for 2014, telling IT Pro that their Never Knowingly Undersold' policy has prompted them to follow the lead of global brands like Apple with special offers launched in line with the retail event.

Mark Lewis, Online Director at John Lewis, said: "Black Friday has definitely become one of the key dates in the UK's shopping calendar. Following steady growth over the last few years, Black Friday really emerged in the UK line 2013, when we saw the day break our previous records for a single day's online trade.

"Now that customers are aware of the date and expecting it, we anticipate that this year's Black Friday will be bigger still."

An eye on security

As big as this weekend looks set to be for online retailers, the rise of Black Friday and Cyber Monday has also brought with it bigger security risks for customers who are unaware of scams and phony offers targeting online shoppers over the festive period.

According to GetSafeOnline.org, reports of shopping fraud related to online shopping rose by 31 per cent over Christmas 2013, with UK shoppers losing around 9.5 million.

Among the most "risky" Christmas gifts, according to the national internet security awareness initiative, are smartphones, games consoles, footwear, clothing and iPads.

Stuart Fuller, director of communications at online brand protection specialists NetNames, spoke about the dangers facing consumers and retailers from opportunistic "too good to be true" offers.

"Whilst the internet provides an unrivalled opportunity for businesses to grow online, it also provides fantastic opportunity for criminals to prosper from your brand value by using your intellectual property and trademarks for their own gains.

"Safeguarding your genuine customer traffic and protecting your legitimate route-to-market is of paramount importance to maximise the opportunities that the online channels offer to grow sales at Christmas."

Fuller also gives advice on how businesses can help their customers safeguard against these scams: checking when a site's domain name was registered, making sure the site is using a SSL certificate before handing over payment details and finding reviews from other users before going further.

"We have seen throughout 2014 that cybercrime never stops," adds TK Keanini, CTO of Lancope. "But believe it or not, attacks are likely to escalate even further in the coming weeks. This holiday season, we might even see some ransomware attacks as cyber criminals become increasingly bold.

"While security should never be a passive process, now is the time for retailers to be especially proactive in monitoring their confidential data and assets for any unusual activity."

As Black Friday and Cyber Monday catch on in the UK, it's clear that the security risks and scams associated with the retail event are also coming our way. With 2014 set to be much bigger than 2013, business must keep vigilant and offer advice to their customers.

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