It’s above 80 degrees outside, and here you are, cracking down on the holiday season sales strategy. Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, the day after Christmas, or the end of the year blowout sale, they’re all great opportunities for you to crush that fourth quarter, and they’re all, seemingly, so far away in time.
You know the drill: line up seasonal workers, order inventory and find backup vendors, prep packaging in advance, plan your shipping strategy, and prepare for higher transaction limits. It’s business as usual until the system clogs up on backorders, customers service reps quit from the abuse of disgruntled customers, product reviews and rating plummet, as your beautifully crafted plan goes up in flames.
Don’t let faulty infrastructure ruin your Holiday cheer / For a digital commerce upgrade now’s the best time of the year!
Preventing Holiday Indigestion
If you’ve ever stuffed yourself on Thanksgiving, you know that here is such a thing as “too much of a good thing.” And if you’re genuinely dreading Q4, your business has probably felt the consequences of what we call “Holiday Indigestion”: becoming a victim of your own success.
With an average uptime of 99.5% of the year, you could tell us to cut eCommerce systems some slack. But once those 43 hours of yearly expected downtime coincide with Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or Christmas specials, because your system can’t handle the success of your marketing activities… that’s when you start planning ahead, and will do anything to make sure your digital commerce system can “take the heat” of the cold season.
For the technically inclined, there are many reasons why such system failures take place, and patched-up systems are known to have had a visit from the grinch during the Holiday season. Hershey’s $100 million Halloween sales miss cost the company an 8% stock dip, but any operational failure that interferes with customers getting their Christmas presents in time might cost your company a lot more than just a “dip.”
Santa doesn’t care if your ecommerce platform hits the bucket in the middle of the Holiday season – he’s done his part!
There are preventive measures…
One way to make sure the grinch stays away from your corporation is to prepare processes and procedures long before the first mistletoe vector is ever resuscitated from ye ol’ Christmas promotions folder.
Forbes, among many others, recommends that you:
- Take a long, hard look at inventory and order management processes – In case periodic evaluations of inventory, and order management processes aren’t “a thing” in your company, doing so before the busiest time of the year could significantly increase your chances of overcoming the holiday pressure. Besides, finding ways to increase efficiency and the speed of fulfilment will only ensure that you have more sales and can leverage the true potential of the holiday season.
- Prepare to grab seasonal customers with both hands – In the wake of the Holiday shopping spree, the pressure is high for both companies and shoppers. Leverage last season’s data to build new customer personas, personalize messaging, pricing, shipping options, and design for customer loyalty.
- Focus on vertical alignment and product curation – Narrowing the focus of this season’s product offering to the buyer personas mentioned above, should simplify and amplify the marketing department’s efforts. Nothing says optimized conversions like targeted digital marketing campaigns.
- Keep your eyes on the bauble – If after all the trouble of figuring out who to sell to, what to sell, how to procure it, promote it, and deliver it, your payment gateway is the one to give in… You’re in trouble. This is a common problem during the busiest of times, and the best way to avoid it is have a back-up plan. Expect this to happen, and have an alternative gateway, or a payment forwarding service on hand.
Taking these measures will give you an advantage over the season, but won’t, unfortunately, help with technical limitations. Any integrations with external apps or systems should be double-checked and fixed as soon as any discrepancies appear, as they’re most likely to constitute the weakest link in the ordering process. Integrations themselves aren’t problematic, if done right, but their constant update and maintenance makes relying on too many integrations and disparate systems a needlessly complicated task.
Woop! There it is!
They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, which in the world of ecommerce systems usually entails understanding that…
Your digital commerce platform is most likely to play the Grinch
Running out of the special offer items? Catch it in time with stock level notifications, and if it’s too late for that, create a waiting list for when the stock is replenished, or try cross-selling.
Payment gateway failed? Use the alternative you prepared, or switch to any of the other payment options available, like phone orders — anything is better than nothing for a customer ready to buy.
Order management system piling on backorders for stock items that were already promised? That’s beyond an easy fix.
If your omnichannel order manager is more of a “some channels, sometimes” order manager, ecommerce platform won’t be able to tell the difference between “Quantity on Hand” (QOH) and stock “Available to Promise” (ATP).
The only way to guarantee that you’re not simultaneously promising the same item through different channels, completely oblivious of each other’s statuses, is to switch to a scalable and trustworthy unified commerce platform.
Unified Commerce is the native coordination of commerce business processes across multiple functional areas. A unified commerce platform is, basically, an ecommerce platform for the entire business, where all of your sales channels communicate in real-time, and where activities like procurement, manufacturing, or warehousing, traditionally isolated from the sales side of the business, can be accessed and managed as easily as your online store, in a single browser window.
Today’s technological advancements have brought the previously prohibitive prices of high-tech unified commerce systems down to that of a basic enterprise ecommerce platform, while providing added efficiency, visibility, and ease of use. Costing the same as an enterprise-level ecommerce solution, a unified commerce platform replaces dozens of overly-specialized SaaS, and legacy technologies held together by duct-tape, with a single, unified, and simplified view of the entire business.
Multiple stores, brands, payment options? No problem. Multiple price rules, currencies, shipping options? No problem. Multiple users? How about unlimited, for the price of a single license — and you even get the source code for it?
The catch? You have to start planning right now.
Summer is the best time for your winter-prep upgrade
If you’re reading this article, it’s safe to assume that you have already been collecting a mental list of must-haves and no-nos for your next commerce platform upgrade. Whether it’s expensive forced upgrades you’re dealing with, lack of scalability, or insufficient functionalities, know that there are options out there that never pose any such problems, and which — believe it or not –, could replace your system in time for the Holiday rush.
Any technological upgrade or migration usually involves multiple departments, backgrounds, and user levels. Planning ahead, documenting requirements, and getting everyone on board is a natural part of the platform adoption process, but working with an experienced company, that offers full consultancy services and support, can reduce the implementation time down to 90 days for a turn-key unified commerce solution.
Add an intuitive and user-friendly platform interface to the equation, and your company will be working better, faster, and more accurately before the Thanksgiving turkey is out of the oven.
Scootz learned the easy way the benefits of moving onto a more powerful digital commerce solution, and increased their sales by 400% through “increased efficiency (and profitability) as a result of smoother workflows, better processes, and better flexibility.” If they were able to unify, simplify, and amplify their business model and strategy through technology alone, why can’t you?
No business should be afraid to grow, and especially not because of faulty, or flawed commerce systems. Whether you make the bulk of your profits between November 15 and January 15th, or just get a kick out of seeing those sales numbers go up, and your inventory stock go down, now’s the time to make sure that your business is ready for the holiday sales rush.
So how about you give yourself the early Christmas gift of a free commerce technology audit, and start planning your Holiday success before the summer is up.
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