This is the next in our series of articles featuring the thoughts and opinions of readers responding to the request give us your Black Friday Rule of Three.
While you don’t have to travel far to have the obvious pointed out – have a plan, be prepared, etc – we challenged readers to be more specific than that with the advice they share about making sure you don’t get caught out by Black Friday 2015.
Michael Allen, Solutions VP, Dynatrace:
“Firstly, retailers should make sure their sites are able to cope with the strain of heavy web traffic. Setting-up high scale synthetic load tests from the Internet to assess efficiency and resiliency when the site nears its limits to simulate what would happen if it’s subjected to a sharp spike in traffic will highlight any trouble-spots in advance. This will enable the retailer to fix any potential problems before they impact on customers.
“Secondly, it’s worth bearing in mind the old adage to expect the unexpected. Anything that can go wrong most likely will go wrong, so retailers must have a back-up plan in place. For example, if your web hosting or cloud services provider suffers an IT outage right in the midst of the Black Friday rush, it’s vital to have a failover in place, so the website is instantly switched to an alternative infrastructure before customers even notice there’s a problem.
“Finally, it’s important to remember that a customer is for life, not just for Christmas. Any customer that has a poor experience during the Black Friday sales rush could leave with a sour taste in their mouth. Retailers therefore need to be ready and able to intervene and safeguard the customer relationship if it looks like things aren’t going to plan for them. As such, they’ll need to maintain real-time, end-to-end visibility into every single customer interaction so they can identify where problems are occurring and step in to offer remediation where it’s needed.
“Added to that, retailers should also consider that nearly a third (31%) of UK consumers are omnichannel shoppers, buying through a mix of in-store, web and mobile channels. As such, it’s not just the website that needs to be flawless, but the mobile site and app, as well as the in-store experience; to create a seamless and consistent buyer journey regardless of which channel the customer is using.”
Patrick Gallagher, CEO of CitySprint:
“Be transparent with your customers and explain that orders made after a certain time will take longer to arrive. Many Black Friday shoppers are buying Christmas gifts that they don’t need urgent delivery, and the risk of putting a shopper off a purchase is nothing like the damage done by letting them down by failing to deliver when promised.
“Trust in a retailer’s brand is becoming crucial to today’s shoppers, which means trust between a retailer and their fulfilment partner is becoming a major competitive advantage. After all, a delivery is the final point of contact between retailer and consumer. Retailers should ask for real-time notification of delivery problems so that their customer service departments can respond quickly. They should also ask that their customers are kept apprised about the status of their delivery via text messages, emails or app notifications.”
“While the last four years have been mild, we should prepare for the worst and plan ahead to mitigate the impact of snow or storms. Carriers should remain flexible, stress test their supply chain and stay on top of all weather forecasting as it becomes available.”
Jon Hall, operations director at TouchStar:
“My three pieces of advice can be summed up in three words: choice, communication and integration.
“Research by Yodel has found that customers are less demanding about delivery as long as they get the best deal on a product. Therefore it’s vital for retailers to offer choice; from delivery date options through to methods of collection such as click and collect and drop and collect.
“This will allow retailers to better manage demand and expectation, but the key is to also keep customers in the loop with good communication. If you can use technology to get a snap shot of your operations at any one time, you can translate this into a customer update that helps them feel like they are in control.
“Of course, you can’t give updates without an integrated real-time tracking system. Retailers need to ensure their logistics provider has a work management system that can deal with increases in volume and also schedule priorities. This means scanning everything that comes in and out of warehouses and depots, tracking vehicles and pushing progress updates to the customer.
“With these three pillars in place, retailers will be able to offer a slick service whether it’s Black Friday or an ‘average Monday’.”
Asif Khetani, director of ecommerce, BT Expedite:
“Invest in agile and scalable infrastructure. Retailers need to invest in infrastructure to support the increased activity triggered across their business, from product margins to fulfilment. If last year’s Black Friday activity taught us anything, it was that retailers who do not plan ahead and invest in the infrastructure to adequately cope with the spike in activity risk losing out on more than just sales. Brand equity and customer satisfaction are also at stake and retailers need to be aware of the role that e-commerce and effective advanced planning can play in delivering on the brand promise.
“The online experience is only the beginning. An inability to fulfil customer orders is another theme from last year’s Black Friday that retailers need to appropriately plan for this year. It would be detrimental to take customers through the shopping process, from browsing to checkout, only to fail at the point of delivery. Retailers cannot afford this sort of failure again. Otherwise, they risk losing out beyond these busy shopping periods.
“The future of retail is joined-up. Customers want to be able to shop where they want, when they want and how they want, and don’t want to be limited by the challenges of these busy peak shopping periods. With the rise of ecommerce, customers expect instant orders and immediate fulfilment. To deliver this, retailers need to invest in technology that provides a joined-up view of customer interaction across every channel. Through this, retailers can use information customers have volunteered across various channels to influence their experience and personalise the customer journey.”