As we approach end of year sales (and say goodbye to 2020 for good), retail leaders must arm their teams with the right tools and ensure they are prepared for the busiest online shopping days of the year.  

According to Australia Post, more than one million new households shopped online between March and September this year. This number is likely to skyrocket as concerns of the pandemic continue to linger in different parts of the country and with more Aussies planning to shop online ahead of the silly season.

Retailers that have updated technology systems before and during COVID-19 will feel confident heading into these holiday sales. Even with a level of preparedness, IT teams must be mindful that consumers will not tolerate poor application or website performance. They won’t hesitate to switch platforms or retailers, particularly when they are up against the clock and trying to score the best deals. Consumers are more loyal to an application than a brand so, the need for a best-in–class digital experience has never been more pressing.

In order to meet high consumer expectations for online performance this holiday season, there are three things to consider.

  1. It’s never too late to plan.

It seems this year has both dragged at times and raced by at lightning speed, and somehow in amongst it all, we’re already in December. The holidays will be here before we know it but there is still time for retail leaders to put a plan in place and maximise sales for the Christmas and New Year period.

The first step for any organisation, and for retailers in particular, is to understand the baseline performance of your website and individual applications. These often vary from year to year so it is important to have an up-to-date view to measure against. With this in mind, it is important to then set your goals for critical sales periods including Click Frenzy, Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year’s sales. Some questions to ask your team include:

  • Can your application environment support and effectively handle usage spikes?
  • Do you have a system in place to report business performance in real time and track revenue?
  • How will your platform maximise sales and convert inventory left in shopping carts?

Application performance monitoring (APM) solutions can be the missing piece of the puzzle. Tools like these can help to monitor applications, infrastructure and business metrics in real-time, identifying issues such as spikes in traffic or unexpected declines in transactions as they happen to create a smoother end-to-end experience for the customer.

2. Customer Experience is (still) key.

The key to maximising sales and unlocking a successful holiday sales period is a focus on exceptional digital experiences. Slow performance at any stage of the sales conversion path can leave a lasting impression on a customer, potentially damaging your brand and bottom line. 

In the 2019 App Attention Index, two thirds of consumers said they would avoid a brand known for delivering poor or clunky digital experiences. Retail leaders cannot afford to lose customers because of issues that can easily be fixed – issues like unexpected downtime, glitches or lack of real-time stock updates on consumer-facing websites and applications. Applications have become integral to the purchasing journey but even the slightest inconvenience can leave a customer feeling frustrated and ready to move on to the next available deal – regardless of value.

Providing an exceptional and easy customer experience must remain the focus for IT teams, particularly during peak sales periods like Cyber Monday and Boxing Day when there’s an added sense of ‘urgency’.

3. Be ready for the unexpected.

While it’s necessary to have a plan in place to make the most of peak sales, it’s equally important to be ready for the unexpected. Retail leaders who have equipped their marketing and IT teams with the right tools to adapt in real time to any situation will have a huge competitive edge this holiday season.

An application monitoring solution can provide an overview of the entire customer journey and ecosystem, providing valuable and timely insights to address issues as they arise and before they become a liability to your business.

As we jingle all the way to Christmas, it’s important to equip your IT team with the tools necessary to not only deliver high-quality digital experiences but also to convert browsing shoppers. On the other hand, a failure to prepare or adapt to what’s happening in real-time during peak sales will cause frustration from your customers’ point of view, lost revenue and abandoned shopping carts.

Gregg Ostrowski is regional chief technology officer at AppDynamics