Retailers work hard to get consumers excited about shopping their brand. Sometimes that pays off in a big way: a flash sale, Black Friday, Prime Day, a sidewalk sale, a free shipping event that drives big surges in traffic.
Cyber Monday 2017, for instance, exceeded $3 billion on desktop alone, according to ComScore. And then there are the unplanned spikes, like a spontaneous endorsement: when Death Wish Coffee was unexpectedly mentioned on Good Morning America, for example, the traffic surge crashed their site.
In the age of omnichannel, customer traffic surges are no longer confined to the channel where they’re focused. The day Rent the Runway opened the doors of four physical stores in the US, for example, its online traffic spiked. The Ted Baker, Game and John Lewis sites all went down intermittently on Black Friday 2017, an experience that can send frustrated customers to stores to make sure they don’t miss out on a deal.
Expectations Without Boundaries
The fact is, consumers don’t leave their heightened expectations behind just because a shopping event aligns with one channel. They still expect their deeply discounted Cyber Monday purchase to come in two days, or that fabulous new product that exploded on social media to be available in all the colors at their local store, right now.
They also expect consistency no matter the channel or the event. So, if they’re used to finding a store associate with a mobile device to look up inventory or check them out on-the-fly, that service must be available even if the store is wall-to-wall with shoppers. Access to loyalty data, or purchase history, or kiosks to shop the endless aisle — all must be fully operable on peak traffic days.
Ensuring a retailer’s information system is operating at peak efficiency within and across channels when traffic spikes is mission critical, because every shopping experience is a chance to win — or lose — a customer based on their experience. Deliver an exceptional one, and that customer is much more likely to come back. Mess something up, and they are just as likely to move on to a competitor.
Winning With Execution
Every retailer knows the importance of a consistent customer experience, in theory. But it turns out not many are following through. According to TimeTrade:
- 60% of consumers say retailers are providing a consistent customer experience across channels “somewhat” or “not at all.”
- Only 27% of consumers feel name-brand retailers (department stores, big box retailers, specialty stores, etc.) are trying to provide exceptional service; and
- Half of consumers say it’s difficult to get onsite assistance from a knowledgeable store associate in a timely manner, and 74% say they always or frequently leave without making a purchase when this happens.
That means omnichannel retailers can stand out and gain market share and customer loyalty just by executing better than the competition. How? By leveraging a robust, peak-ready omnichannel platform that’s always ready to deliver. Key capabilities must include:
- Availability in the cloud 24/7. This ensures customers can start or resume a visit on any channel at any time, anywhere in the world, and find a brand ready and eager to serve them.
- Centralized and failproof infrastructure. A coordinated, consistent experience requires a unified platform that functions properly, every time, so retailers have everything they need to deliver a positive omnichannel shopping experience.
- Guaranteed uptime. Spikes in online, in-store or call center activity test the robustness of IT infrastructure. A high-volume day is the worst possible time to experience an outage, because of all the transactions and customer impressions it puts at risk. Guaranteed uptime is essential to give retailers the confidence that their infrastructure will be up and functioning at full capacity.
- Offline mode availability. Connectivity can be disrupted. Stores must be able to operate autonomously even if a connection goes down, so their store systems must function offline.
- Follow-the-sun support. If a disruption occurs, retailers need a platform partner committed to restoring functions, no matter when they occur. On a peak day, minutes of time can cost thousands of dollars.
A spike in traffic online or in-store should be a happy problem — unless it’s alienating would-be customers and costing business. To ensure every customer has a positive, fulfilling experience even on the busiest days, smart retailers rely on a robust, surge-ready omnichannel platform that’s backed by solid, 24/7/365 support. Contact us today to learn how we can help you never miss a sale.