“Black Friday is upon us, and today, more shoppers are planning to ditch the high street to stay at home and grab online bargains instead. Looking back at last year’s Black Friday, online sales were up by 14%.
“But as more shoppers choose to avoid the queues in store, this presents some challenges for retailers, especially when it comes to the functionality of their websites and mobile apps. Besides the threat of losing out on millions of sales, having a website or app go down is bad news for retailers and can seriously damage the brand’s reputation with consumers.
“It’s all down to how prepared sites are to deal with the peaks. To ensure online platforms can keep up with the surges in traffic, retailers need to be carrying out in depth tests to see whether their infrastructure can cope. Conducting this analysis now can help iron out any performance glitches, preventing their apps and websites from crashing on the big day.
“And just in case the number of visitors using the platforms is way above expected, it’s worth putting queuing systems in place to manage the amount of traffic on the site or app. This prevents any critical performance issues so existing visitors can remain on the website as normal, and queuing customers will be informed of their expected waiting time, thus improving the customer experience.
“Problems with website and app performance aren’t the only issues that retailers have to consider. To ensure they can meet online order levels and delivery promises, retailers need to be engaging with their commercial and marketing teams to forecast stock inventories. This should allow them to identify core products so they can manage stock levels, and move items to depots so they’re ready to ship straight away. It may even be necessary to relax delivery promises to customers to avoid disappointment – so instead of offering next day delivery, it should be made clear that products will take longer to arrive.
“The increase in online sales also requires retailers to have an effective omnichannel approach that provides customers with a streamlined shopping experience. Customers should be able to view products online, and then be able to check them out in the physical store too. This capability will allow retailers to drive more physical store traffic, by giving customers the ability to buy online, and then pick up the product in store later – which should help eliminate issues with delivery times, and may encourage more impulse buying.
“Learning from previous Black Friday sales, retailers need to be taking steps to meet customer expectations across all channels. It’s no longer just about customers physically trying to scramble into stores to hunt down the best bargains - the shopping experience is becoming truly multi-channel and platforms need to be able to handle this. Customers are much more likely to remain loyal to those brands that can deliver a great experience across all outlets, but will be put off by stores that let them down. So, with Christmas around the corner, the way retailers handle the increased amount of orders this Black Friday could impact their profit margins over the rest of the festive period.”
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