Congratulations! You survived the Back to School retail surge. While the true test of eCommerce performance is yet to come, any hurdles you encountered during Back to School should be taken care of well before then. Consider these your warning shots. To help, here are 3 precautionary measures you can take to digitally strengthen your store for the holidays.
1. Stress Test to Avoid Lost Revenue
A wave of more than 6.2 billion shoppers will descend on digital retailers during Cyber Week. Unfortunately, not all businesses are prepared for success…
For example, J. Crew’s site crashed on Black Friday in 2018 and issues persisted throughout the afternoon. Analysts predict the outage cost the company around $780,000 in just five hours. Shoppers flocked to Twitter to complain en masse, causing a firestorm of anger to erupt across the web. This is where the real damage was done. Like a ghost story from holidays past, this is a warning for retailers everywhere to change for the better.
Redstage’s CEO Adam Morris identified the top “holiday rush” issues we’ve helped clients through in years past. Here’s what to watch out for:
1. Slow Site Speed
2. Price Caching
3. Broken or Buggy Checkout
4. Server Overload or Timeout
5. Add to Cart Features Failing
[su_quote cite=”Adam Morris, CEO at Redstage”]“The holidays are a time of increased profits, but that comes with a huge load on websites,” Morris says, “So if you haven’t done proper stress testing to account for higher demand, you won’t know how your online store is going to react.”[/su_quote]
Preparing for the worst now can save you money and your reputation later with one simple step— testing. Skipping this step could spell disaster that leaves the specter of poor service hanging over your reputation for years to come.
2. Your Back-End Checklist at Present
From Thanksgiving to Black Friday through the end of Cyber Week, retailers have a few critical days to rake in as many sales as possible. During this shopping frenzy customers both in-store and online. Regardless of how they buy, your online store (or your app) will more than likely be their first stop. We developed a checklist of what you can do today to ensure your eCommerce site survives Cyber Week.
- Optimize your site’s user experience with A/B testing.
- Check your indexing to avoid price caching.
- Review all error codes to avoid a broken checkout.
- Avoid overload and crashes by scaling your server.
- Double-check key functions to avoid important features failing.
- Complete load testing to prepare for an increase in traffic.
- Utilize an automated monitoring system for real-time updates on 404s and checkout errors.
- Upgrade your payments and security platforms to prevent payment fraud.
- Lastly, be prepared to scale up your support team on the fly. If something goes wrong, even for a few minutes, you’ll need a sizable support team to manage angry customers and correct the issues.
[su_quote cite=”Oliver Sosinsky, Sr. Solutions Engineer at Redstage”]”If you’re not using visitor data to identify the friction points in your checkout, you risk focusing your budget in the wrong places. A data-driven approach to optimization means trusting your analytics even when the message is counter-intuitive.”[/su_quote]
Learn a valuable lesson from LuLu Lemon. Last year, the athleisure brand’s site went down the morning of Thanksgiving Day. Shopper outrage hit Twitter at 8am EST with a “Site is down. Ugh!”
In the first minutes of the shopping event of the year, the brand was stuck, entangled in crisis. Once the site got back online, more errors appeared, causing sales prices for in-cart items reset to regular prices or prevent customers from checking out.
With proper bug monitoring and back-end preparations, this fiasco could have been avoided. Take a page out of our book and start monitoring now. You’ve done the legwork to bring customers to your site, now protect it.
3. Capitalize on the Future
A single visitor doesn’t guarantee a transaction and a single transaction doesn’t guarantee a loyal customer. Flawless mobile experiences will do both, but takes some serious testing.
Conversion rate optimization turns your visitors into customers while ensuring they receive an immaculate customer experience. While no two customers are the same, simple tests can lead to enhancements that remove friction from the checkout and dramatically reduce abandoned carts.
Merchants like LawnmowerTirestore.com took advantage of testing their site before the holiday season and the results were a game changer. By making their checkout button stick to the site’s header and follow users while they scrolled, sales soared with a 29.5% increase in revenue per visitor (RPV) for desktop customers. For mobile, the test yielded a 7% increase in RPV, after only 4 weeks of testing. Now, Lawnmower Tirestore plans to roll-out the feature site-wide to capitalize on their new-found data-driven advantage.
As part of the Mobile Optimization Initiative, retailers can receive checkout tests 100% free. The goal of the initiative is to create a set of best practices for mobile optimization and share our insight with the world. Read more about the initiative here.
According to Internet Retailer, 60% of consumers plan to spend 50% or more of their holiday shopping online; spending over $21.6 billion during Cyber week.
It is not too late to prepare. If you start early enough and cover all the bases, you can sit back, relax and watch your revenue grow with measurably less stress. Remember, this is your holiday too. While there’s still time, monitor your site for bugs, load test, A/B test, utilize the data, capitalize on those results, and enjoy some eggnog.
No matter what, customers are always right. Today, they have more power than ever before. As you are well aware, it’s much more likely that your online customers interact with your website via smartphone than desktop. Therefore, their experiences need to be personalized, fast, efficient, and tailored for specific devices. If not, they’ll bounce to the next competitor for a better experience.
Statistics show that 40 percent of users will switch to your competitors after a bad mobile experience. A risk ALL merchants should avoid, especially with the stark rise in mobile sales. In fact, analysts predict that by 2020, 44.7 percent of all retail eCommerce sales will be generated through mobile devices.
Remember, your customers won’t stand for mediocre customer experiences. Your only job is to push them through the checkout in the most frictionless (and secure) manner possible.The digital experience should always mimic the desktop. A business buyer wants to be able to access or check inventory the same way during a commute or at an office computer. According to a 2018 Cyber Week report by Invesp, 32% of consumers changed their mind about making a purchase on mobile, abandoning carts packed with unsold products or sercives. It’s time for a change.
Why 2018’s mobile experiences left money on the table.
Last year, Black Friday’s sales turnout beat expectations by more than 10 percent. However, while many attempted to manage an anticipated mobile surge, conversion rates on the “favorite” shopping device came in dead last during Cyber Week. In the end, over $6.2 billion was spent online from Thanksgiving to the end of Cyber Monday. Mobile orders only accounted for 45% of sales. When you consider that mobile’s share of traffic was 62%, that’s a pretty weak conversion rate.
“In a world where responsive design is trying to give [customers] all the same functionality we have on desktop in mobile, there may be a divergence here where we have to start thinking about different mobile-first customer experiences.”
– Adam Morris, CEO, Redstage
Merchants and B2B companies who don’t start thinking with a “mobile-first customer experience” mentality will be left behind. Of course, it’s ideal to know and understand the buying habits of each customer, but tricky to do without the right technology. Thankfully, free data-driven A/B testing provided by the Mobile Optimization Initiative can help you overcome these barriers. Your customers aren’t going to wait for better mobile experiences, so why should you? Customers want to “click and go.” Lucky for you, implementing optimization is not only easy but the best option for B2B companies and retailers. B2B companies have a more complicated sales funnel that tends to increase aggravation and cart abandoment by 26%. With the Mobile Optimization Initiative, merchants can increase completed purchases dramatically by improving customers’ mobile experience with simple tweaks. Here’s how it works.
The Mobile Optimization Initiative is the ultimate holiday tool!
Last year, we published several articles about mobile optimization to help merchants close the “mobile revenue gap” by optimizing checkout experiences. With some of the tests we’ve run, retailers can cut mobile cart abandonment in half or more on certain devices.
“Optimizing your customer experience thorough data-driven optimization allows you to discover small tweaks that ensure you’re capturing as many sales as possible from the growing pool of mobile buyers.“
– Benjamin Shapiro, Solutions Engineer, Redstage
Those who join the MOI program with Redstage will receive a free checkout funnel assessment, custom test design, experiment implementation, and professional services during the active program. The goal of our global initiative is to help merchants get more revenue from mobile. In turn for the free services, we gather anonymized data about customer habits to create a knowledge-base for best practices in mobile. Learn more about our community proven experiments and sign up here. As the results show, it’s well worth it.
“With the current data collection and analysis tools available, we no longer have to speculate on where to put efforts to improve your site. The data is the guide in both where to focus your efforts, and where to expand after experimenting. Smart A/B testing based on data-driven analysis gives you insights that lead to successful, simple changes that can have a big impact on increasing your revenue per visitor. One recent participant – A lawn mower tire store – saw lifts of 24.9% and 7% RPV on desktop and mobile respectively through a‘sticky cart’ test.“
–Benjamin Shapiro, Solutions Engineer, Redstage
How Soon Should You Start?
The sooner you begin, the better. Participants start gathering testing data immediately, and all it takes is adding a simple tracking tag to your site (less than a minute). If you’re looking for a last-minute boost for your holiday marketing, this is it, and it packs a punch. Our latest test yielded a 25% increase in revenue per visitor.
The Mobile Optimization Initiative puts you ahead of the competition, because the experiments are proven, having been tested over millions of transactions across hundreds of merchant sites.As of December of 2018, experiments from 120 merchant sites generated a collective $22 million in revenue, averaging a 9.28% increase in RPV (extra revenue they would’ve missed without MOI testing). Today, we leverage the data from more than 200 participating merchants to ensure your tests are optimized for success. From this, we’ve created more than 130 standardized experiments to test, so now’s the time to join!
“We were struggling with mobile conversions and the MOI program helped us with the insights and adjustments we needed. This data-driven, forward-thinking program is certainly worth a try.”
– Digital Marketing Coordinator @ Lawnmower Tire Store
Ignoring the trends means you’re missing out on your share of over $500 billion in online sales. With 95% of mobile devices being used to look up local information to visit businesses, it’s your business they should be checking out (pun intended). By this time next year, we expect the number of participants in the MOI to double again, which means it may be too late to get a leg-up on your competitors. Since the experiments work best during high-traffic periods, there’s no better time to test! And don’t worry, the tests automatically notify you if they’re not giving you positive results.
If you’re still not convinced, or don’t know where to start, check out the latest results, case studies, and strategies in our new Holiday Mobile Optimization Ebook here! Good luck this holiday season! Want to learn more about the initiative but before you sign up? Contact us here for a free consultation with our testing experts.
At this very moment, retail executives around the US are likely screaming about their Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales performance. For some, these sounds resemble a triumphant war chant, for others, these are the shrill cries of defeat. The reason? Mobile-first adoption.
No matter where you stand, this data changes the eCommerce landscape. Here are the latest stats and key trends from the long-weekend of holiday sales events. We will update this article as soon as new data is released, so make sure you subscribe to be the first to know!
Thanksgiving Takes an Extra Helping
On Thanksgiving day, as of 7:00am Pacific Time, U.S. consumers spent $406 million. By 2pm, Adobe announced that this number skyrocketed to a whopping $1.75 billion, representing a 23% increase over sales in the same time period in 2017. By the end of the day, Americans beat out last year’s sales for the day by a shocking 28%, resulting in a shocking 3.7 billion dollar Thanksgiving. Adobe initially projected a $3.1B bottom line for the holiday.
Mobile Wins Big
Here’s a quick breakdown of the major events in bite-size chunks:
[su_quote cite=”Taylor Schreiner, Director of Adobe Digital Insights” url=”https://techcrunch-com.cdn.ampproject.org/v/s/techcrunch.com/2018/11/22/thanksgiving-eCommerce-spend/amp/?amp_js_v=0.1#referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com&_tf=From%20%251%24s&share=https%3A%2F%2Ftechcrunch.com%2F2018%2F11%2F22%2Fthanksgiving-eCommerce-spend%2F”]“Mobile stole the show Thanksgiving Day with smartphones representing more than 50% of traffic to retail sites, as well as record amount of revenue,” [/su_quote]
$2.1 billion or 33.5% of sales came from smartphones this Black Friday. Another 10% of sales, or roughly $627 million, came from tablet users. All in all, the day yielded an impressive $6.2 billion, a 23.6% increase over 2018.
Cyber Monday Breaks The Internet
Here’s the big one. Cyber Monday sales shattered all previous records for online sales… in U.S. history.
[su_quote cite=”BusinessWire” url=”https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20181126005829/en/Adobe-Analytics-Data-Shows-Cyber-Monday-Broke”]”Cyber Monday [topped] $7.9 billion by the end of the day, making it the largest online shopping day of all time in the U.S. This represents a 19.7 percent increase year-over-year (YoY) as of 7:00 p.m. ET. In comparison, Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday brought in $3.7 billion (28 percent growth YoY) and $6.2 billion (23.6 percent growth YoY) in revenue, respectively.”[/su_quote]
Here’s the share of devices (as of ~1:30pm ET November 27, 2018):
See more live stats at ExploreAdobe.com
7 Days of Spectacular Sales
Additionally, Adobe’s latest report notes that this November has seen 7 days where total sales broke the $2 billion mark (as of Nov. 28, 2018)… Thanks in no small part to the mobile sales spikes.
Omnichannel Adoption Drives Sales
The trend of “buy online, pick-up in-store (BOPIS)” continued, with the trend growing 50% during this past weekend over 2018. According to Adobe, this spells dollar signs for omnichannel merchants: “As the online and offline retail experience continues to blend, retailers with physical stores drove 28 percent higher conversions online.” While this trend helped retailers increase their share of online earnings, in-store sales lagged far behind.
It’s time to join the mobile-first movement. As Adam Morris, Redstage CEO notes, “Cusotmers are no longer expecting an in-store Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but instead, an omnichannel experience.” While many retailers successfully ramped up their omnichannel strategies for this holiday, the data shows this trend is here to stay, and more work is needed.
If you want to reduce mobile checkout friction before the holidays are over, contact us asap! To see the results we’ve achieved with our recently launched Magento Community Initiative, find the latest data here.
These extravagant stats spell success for an industry racing to close the mcommerce gap. It’s seems the industry is all-aboard the mobile-first customer experience wave. As Internet Retailing points out, retailers may have finally reached ‘always-on‘ mobile consumers. Now it looks like the key areas for improvement are streamlining mobile checkouts, and optimizing omnichannel experiences.
Update Nov. 28, 2018
Black Friday + Cyber Monday Stats You Need To Know
Here’s a breakdown of YOY holiday sales by device and region based on data collected by our partners at Nosto!
- United States
Desktop: 39% (2017) / 34% (2018)
Mobile: 56% (2017) / 61% (2018)
Tablet: 5% (2017) / 3% (2018)
- United Kingdom
Desktop: 47% (2017) / 40% (2018)
Mobile: 42% (2017) / 48% (2018)
Tablet: 11% (2017) / 12% (2018)
- Northern Europe
Desktop: 39% (2017) / 37% (2018)
Mobile: 51% (2017) / 57% (2018)
Tablet: 10% (2017) 6% (2018)
Desktop: 69% (2017) / 67% (2018)
Mobile: 19% (2017) / 22% (2018)
Tablet: 12% (2017) / 11% (2018)
Desktop: 40% (2017) / 53% (2018)
Mobile: 42% (2017) / 39% (2018)
Tablet: 8% (2017) / 8% (2018)
Update Nov. 29, 2018
PayPal Mobile Payments Get A $2B Holiday Boost
- For the first time in PayPal history, mobile payment volume topped $1 billion, and did so on both Black Friday (November 23) and Cyber Monday (November 26). – PAYMNTS
- Adobe reports U.S. shopping carts averaged $138.00 during Cyber Monday, a 6% bump over last year.
- 49% of Black Friday traffic came from smartphones, driving 30% of online sales.
- “In the [PYMNTS] Checkout Conversion Index report, the 30 merchants with the fastest, most streamlined online checkouts ranked well. Conversely, the 30 merchants with the lowest scores offer a widely inconsistent checkout experience…”
Update Nov. 30, 2018
Cyberweek 2018 Trends Report
Our partners at BigCommerce identified a few additional trends in their Cyberweek 2018 Trends Report. Key findings include:
- While online stores continue to have the highest AOV for any sales channel, Facebook took second place, accounting for “70% of total GMV” for Fashion and Jewelry brands using the channel. Home and Garden brands selling on Facebook came in at 16% GMV.
- “The Fashion & Jewelry and Toys & Games verticals saw the highest GMV increases over 2017.
The 2017 holiday rush was a tipping point for eCommerce optimization. Between mobile sales taking over traditional retail and other trends that took the industry by surprise, the holidays gave retailers myriad reasons to rethink digital strategy. Today, with Black Friday looming only days away, 2018 stands to be another make-or-break point for online sellers who did or didn’t adapt.
Our partners at Shoppimon put together this list of last-minute reminders for retailers prepping for the big week of sales ahead. Dive in to discover the top recommendations for managing traffic, guaranteeing uptime, and perfecting conversion optimization that just might save your store this season.
#1. Test the full sales funnel – from landing page to checkout.
The full sales funnel should be tested and optimized leading up to –and throughout– the holiday season. However, some key points of weakness that lead to significant business downtime are:
1. Search: 0.7% of all issues Shoppimon sees are problems with search. When search isn’t working on a website and shoppers can’t find what they’re looking for, it’s all too easy today to buy elsewhere.
2. Page Errors: Exposed error messages are surprisingly common. In fact, they’re responsible for 0.6% of all issues Shoppimon identifies. These pose a problem for several reasons. The first is that they stop the shopping process dead in its tracks. As a result, they also scare shoppers off. Not only are customer unable to complete a purchase, but after seeing an error message, they may lose all trust in the site going forward. Lastly, depending on the error, exposed messages can pose a serious security risk to a website… Ensuring these types of message don’t happen should be a top priority.
3. Error Message Text: To cover all your bases, make sure the language in your error messages is friendly and less automatic. This will let the customer know you are aware a problem is occurring, and that it may be fixed soon. “Error 506!” sounds a lot worse than “Hey there! We are experiencing a slight issue due to heavy site traffic. Check back in 15 minutes and the problem should be resolved. Happy holidays!”
4. Missing Product Images: If a shopper can’t see a product, they won’t buy it, end of story. Missing product images are surprisingly common. In fact, they make up 2.1% of all issues we spot. Understanding when this happens and fixing it before you lose a sale is a must. Monitoring your site will help keep you aware and in the know about missing product images and info.
5. Add to Cart & Checkout Errors: You are likely losing 4% or more of your total sales to issues occurring in these two key shopping stages. Issues here range from missing add to cart buttons to problems with payment providers. The average retailer will lose approximately 13% of sales to functional and performance-related website issues during the holidays. To avoid this, thoroughly test your conversion funnel and upgrade your website in advance of the seasonal surge. It can make a significant difference to your bottom line. If you’re out of time for a significant upgrade, monitoring your site closely and proactively address issues as they occur. It will have a dramatic and positive impact on your bottom line.
#2. Stress-test your site’s ability to handle increased traffic.
Under enough stress, every system will fail. Stress-testing your website before the holidays is a great way to find out if additional traffic could be your downfall. Leading up to Black Friday, we recommend you do both of the following:
1. Load Testing: making sure that your site can handle a given number of users/requests consecutively and concurrently.
2. Completing A True Stress Test: load the site to the point that it crashes to see how that crash is handled by your software (and potentially, your team).
When a site is overloaded, if a server is properly configured, it should be able to handle the benchmarked number of consecutive or concurrent requests, after which requests will be queued. If you then pass the benchmark for you queuing, requests should time out, rather than the site itself going down completely.
If your server does crash, splitting the load across other third party solutions like CDNs will help in the long run, so the servers don’t need to handle each and every request. However, if you need a last minute fix you can quickly tune the configuration of your servers to change the amount of memory they use. You may also be able to manage the number of requests they handle (assuming your code has been built to allows this).
#3. Be prepared to scale-up on the fly (and know how to).
The first thing an eCommerce manager should do is simply talk to their team. Understand what is already in place and what it would take to scale-up their web and database servers if needed. In an ideal situation, when a website is on a cloud platform, you should have deployment automation that allows you to quickly spawn more servers (which should only take a couple of minutes to complete). This does however require that automation is already in place to allow you to do this, and that the code was written in a way to support the expansion to additional hardware. And this is true not only of web servers, but database servers as well.
In a typical eCommerce setup, the biggest bottleneck is the database, which also tends to be the hardest to scale in an emergency situation. With limited time to prepare before Black Friday and Cybyer Monday, your top priority should be to check if your database hardware can scale if necessary. This is critical. If the situation arises where the database needs to be scaled and it wasn’t prepped in advance, it will usually result in significant downtime for the full site.
Going deeper into the issue, Redstage CEO Adam Morris states, “…when downtime occurs, or things do go wrong during the holidays, the effect of those issues is compounded because you’ve probably expanded your customer service team to make up for higher demand, as well as increased marketing budgets to attract more holiday spending. So when things go wrong, those marketing dollars are lost, and [customer] support may suddenly be relegated to a more junior team with less experience and a lower quality of service.” (Check out more insights on holiday emergency management from Adam Morris here on Shoppimon’s blog).
#4. Find problems before your customers do.
At Shoppimon, we see retailers monitoring their websites in a multitude of different ways; From manual checks conducted by different team members, to using completely automated systems like Shoppimon, and everything in between. Unfortunately, many of the systems require resource-heavy investments, not just for setup, but also to understand them and react to the data they generate.
While we know that monitoring automation is key for any business at scale, it’s important that a team’s resources spend as little time as possible on the monitoring itself. Instead, team members should be free to spend their time making a website or application better, fixing bugs, and creating a great customer experience.
Luckily, Shoppimon supports script-free and integration-free automated setup, which takes minutes. The solution also automates issue prioritization and notification, so users get critical information when it’s most needed, but never bothers them when it’s not.
These benefits have made a huge difference for our customers leading up to the holiday season. We’ve seen brands successfully roll out new updates and upgrades just before the sales surge, and also helped them identify better ways to plan for next year.
Each year we see the biggest challenges and successes of major brands in the eCommerce Industry. Last year, in our Online Store Health & Usability Index (OSHU Index), we saw brands like Birchbox, Dollar Shave Club and Saatva excel during the holiday season, with consistently faster load times and fewer issues both leading up to and during the holidays. However, we saw other retailers, like One King’s Lane, that experienced significant downtime during Cyber Monday, really struggle. The difference relies on your ability to react.
Monitoring your online store for bugs and the ability to react quickly will determine the winners and losers for 2018. Testing is paramount (especially if you had issues last year), which means diving into your funnels, your site, and being prepared to tackle anything that needs fixing, fast. However, without a monitoring solution in place, you might not notice significant issues on your site causing lost revenue every minute. Do your due diligence and walk through each stage of the customer journey to make sure your holiday haul will be a happy one. Let us know what you think of these tips in the comments below, and enjoy the holidays!
For more insights on last-minute holiday strategies, check out this post from our partners at Brightpearl on omnichannel & backoffice prep!
Sellers wait anxiously as distant bells chime through the chilly air. Less than a week remains until Black Friday, and projections are looking good. Despite the ghost of retail’s past taking down giants this year, U.S. retailers are positioned for a “Trillion Dollar Christmas” in 2018 (eMarketer).
In line with holiday tradition, Redstage and our partners have an early gift for online merchants. Together, we’re launching this last-minute holiday prep series to ease your seasonal anxieties. The geniuses at Brightpearl combined this year’s top trends and strategies to create the ultimate holiday guide for omnichannel and back office prep.
Use this post as your last-chance optimization guide so you can sleep soundly and avoid the dread of feeling there’s one last thing you forgot. Here’s 8 critical areas you need to master to survive this year’s holiday rush:
#1 Understand your omnichannel buyer journeys
To truly tackle omnichannel retail this holiday season, there are a few steps you need to take. The first is to understand your omnichannel customer and the path they take to get to your eCommerce website or brick and mortar store, so that you can ensure you’re on the channels they use the most.
Nicole from Retail Minded has identified the following omnichannel buyer journeys. Which do you focus on?
1. The Omnichannel Savvy Customer:
○ The journey: Visits store > Connects on Facebook > Buys online via mobile
○○ This customer typically spends 10% more when shopping online
2. The Last-Minute Buyer
○ The journey: Searches online via mobile > Buys online via tablet or desktop.
○○ 75% of last-minute buyers rate shipping costs as the most important buying factor.
3. The Researcher
○ The journey: Searches online > Visits multiple stores > Continues researching online > Buys from one of the original stores
○○ It’s said that over 92% of online consumers don’t intend to buy during their first visit.
4. The Impulse Shopper
○ The journey: Visits store > Buys in store almost immediately.
○○ 5 in 6 Americans admit to impulse buying.
5. The Feel-Good Buyer
○ The journey: Scrolls through social media > Buys online or in store.
○○ 45% of digital buyers worldwide say reading reviews, comments and feedback on social media influence their shopping behavior.
#2: Gain a strong presence on your customers’ most used channels
Today’s digital age means connecting with customers has never been easier. As the above buyer journeys show, the majority of shoppers experience multiple touchpoints before buying. It’s important to show your presence across a number of channels and offer a consistent customer journey throughout (based on what you know about your own customers).
The following channels are a guide to show you what you need to consider adopting within your business:
- Brick and mortar
- Social media
- Online marketing
- Email marketing
- Special events
- Location based marketing
- Loyalty programs
- Text message marketing & live chat
“Know which popular channels your customers are most frequently fulfilling their orders, so that you know where to concentrate your marketing and inventory planning.” – Anthony Payne, VP of Global Marketing, Brightpearl
#3: Use omnichannel fulfillment as a differentiator
Getting omnichannel fulfillment right can have a huge payoff but it can be one of the most difficult areas to implement without the right technology. This is because it requires inventory to be tracked across all physical locations and sales channels.
Some key examples of how omnichannel fulfillment can be used as a differentiator this holiday season are listed below. Which are you taking advantage of this season?
- Click and collect: The option for a customer to purchase online and pick up in store. By offering this service, you can expect an immediate uplift in revenue based on impulse purchases made in store when picking up items.
- Ship from store/endless aisle: The ability to offer products not available at the location the customer originally visited. This helps avoid losing a customer if a product is out of stock at a particular location.
- Online store inventory availability: The ability to lookup inventory at a given store online. This is important as it’s said that 33% of millennials (today’s most influential spenders) won’t visit a store if online inventory availability isn’t published.
#4: Clean up your inventory data
No one likes the idea of disappointing a customer due to inaccurate inventory availability, and especially not when that item was intended as a gift for someone else. Therefore, ahead of the holiday season, you should always endeavor to do a complete inventory count in your warehouse, ensuring inventory is correct across your back office and sales channels.
Furthermore, it’s also important that you know (and have recorded) your true landed costs as well. The holiday season is driven by discounts, promotions, and flash sale days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so getting a clear gauge on your true landed cost of products (e.g. the associated freight, duty, tax, and storage expenses) ahead of time is essential for making business decisions on pricing and for final supplier selections.
#5: Analyze your sales and inventory data
From knowing what items your customers love the most to knowing where you should be stocking your products, last year’s data is this year’s sales gold mine. At the very least, you should use your back office data and reports to analyze the following (and act on your findings) ahead of the holiday season rush. Check the box if you’re using your data for the following:
- Best selling products: Stock them again if possible or look for similar alternatives
- Top performing channels, stores and locations: Ensure you’re fully stocked up on your best channels
- Most loyal customers (MVPs): Send offers and discounts to lure them back to your website or store
- Stock-outs: Consider ordering more inventory or implement a process that ensures reorders are fast
- Returned inventory reports: Ensure you know why inventory is being returned; you may need to add more detailed product descriptions, change suppliers or improve packaging
- Time to ship: Consider the use of automation bots to speed up your time to ship and avoid unnecessary fulfillment delays
- Warehousing inefficiencies: Implement barcode scanning in the warehouse to power up your staff and reduce cases of human error
- Checking for business-wide integration
It’s not too late to ensure your different departments are all talking to each other where relevant. We suggest you focus on the following as a priority. What tech are you using to keep teams informed, in the loop, and up to speed?
- CRM + Marketing: Ensures order confirmation emails, discounts, offers and other marketing messages can all be personalized, which increases their ability to convert.
- eCommerce + Shipping: Customers want to be able to track their orders all the way to their door, which means shipment notifications must contain tracking references. This is where easy to use back office shipping integrations like ShipStation or Shiptheory become your new best friends.
- Inventory + eCommerce: Avoid stock-outs and disappointing customers by ensuring your inventory levels can be automatically updated across all your sales channels whenever an item is brought into stock, shipped or returned.
- Inventory + Accounting: With holiday season discounts and sales taking place, knowing your true margins is essential. With each inventory update, you should ensure your accounting is updated automatically… after all, who wants to be updating their accounts manually during the holiday season rush?
#6: Automate your workflows
If you already have a back office system that allows for automated workflows, then you should definitely make use of it as best you can. When setting up automation bots, it’s recommended that you map out your current workflows first in a tool like Lucidchart. This allows you to identify where bottlenecks can be removed by automation software.
“Make sure your operating systems don’t need any final touches and any special workflows are all set up before the holiday season because as you get closer and closer to the big day, your order volume and site traffic will just continue to increase. Fast and Frictionless experience is key for all your busy customers. Both before and after the holidays.” – Justin Press, VP of Global Customer Success, Brightpearl
#7: Make sure you’re ready for the inevitable holiday season returns
It’s estimated that 28% of holiday gifts bought last year were returned at a value of $90 billion. We all know that returns are inevitable after the drama of the holiday season, but you should be putting in steps now to ensure you’re able to ride the returns tsunami like a surfing pro.
Here are a few actionable steps for you to take as a starting point:
- Assess your current ability to handle holiday season returns
- We’ve recently created a self-assessment that enables you to assess your current returns processes. You’ll also gain actionable advice along the way for what needs to be improved. Check it out here.
- Understand your return rates and reasons for return
- Analyze your returned inventory reports from last year to identify common themes for why items were returned. Do you need to source a new supplier to improve quality? Should you stop stocking a certain item altogether? Does your packaging need to be improved? Try to isolate the problem and prevent it from happening again this year.
- Give customers what they want
Everything that happens in exceptional events (such as when items need to be returned) is where your customers will measure the service they receive from you and whether they want to shop with you again, so it’s important to understand what your customers want (and expect) from your returns process. A survey sponsored by shipping technology leader Endicia revealed these insights about American shoppers:
- 51% want free return shipping
- 36% want an easy and convenient shipping process
- 12% want a swift refund or credit
- 89% say they’ll shop again at an online store after a positive returns process
- 62% want a returns label in the package
- 61% want an easy to print returns label
#8: Identify your “serial returners”
Recent data suggests there is a rise in “serial returners.” These customers are identified as those who purposefully buy more items with the intention of returning some. By flagging this type of customer within your CRM software, you can ensure they don’t receive certain marketing promotions or discounts as they are already likely to inflate your return rates. Check out Brightpearl’s Returns Readiness Guide to assess whether or not you’re ready to face the returns tsunami this season.
Author Bio: Justine Cross is the Content Marketing Executive at Brightpearl – a cloud-based back office solution for retailers and wholesalers. Brightpearl allows you to provide a truly omnichannel experience for your customers, whilst unifying all of your sales channels, inventory, accounting, CRM, suppliers, fulfillment, warehouse management, reporting and POS in one single automated system.