One of the biggest consumer trends of the past few years has no doubt been the acceleration of online retail, which has only been strengthened as shoppers seek to avoid a lack of social distancing in physical shopping centres due to the pandemic. And with community outbreaks still a possibility as the vaccine continues to be rolled out, the growth of online retail is certainly here to stay.

So, what does this mean for the end of financial year (EOFY) sales? As 30 June fast approaches and consumers look to grab a bargain, the reliability of online stores has never been more important. Costly and frustrating store load times are a major turn-off for time-poor shoppers, which is why retailers must look to adopt technology that creates a seamless online experience across all devices, and identifies issues long before they become problematic. With this in mind, there are three key steps to preparing for the EOFY rush, and it all starts with retailers understanding what their customers expect from an online shopping experience.

1. Understand the customer experience

Businesses who thrive this sale season will be those which offer a strong, digital customer experience, while also demonstrating the capability to pre-emptively avoid bottlenecks during peak periods of demand. Site crashes or online stores with slow loading pages have the potential to quickly degrade the effectiveness of even the best retail platforms with little to no warning, making it highly likely that customers will look to alternative retailers to fulfil their shopping needs.

Having a clear line of sight that identifies problems quickly is crucial. Our global research found that in around 50 percent of cases, IT teams learn about software and service interruptions through complaints from external customers. This is seldom the case for retailers that have a clear view of how their infrastructure is performing.

One large Australian retailer that we work with ensured that they were able to launch a new online marketplace through the use of observability technology. This technology rollout provided them with the ability to accurately record transaction times and track any store delays down to the millisecond. By taking note of these delays, lag times were avoided, small scale issues were quickly addressed, and a positive customer experience was created.

2. Move at speed to ensure success

The pandemic has been the catalyst for many online retailers to complete technology rollouts, and such rollouts have been central to improving the customer experience. However, not all businesses have moved at the same pace. Those who have looked to completely modernise their software have excelled because they’ve leveraged technologies that help to provide a consistent and speedy consumer experience. Sporting goods retailer Decathlon last year announced it was automating operations in its Sydney warehouse. Aimed at supporting workers to keep up with increased demand, it’s expected that the move will support the distribution of up to 144 customer orders per hour.

Adopting technology that automates traditionally manual processes allows teams to have an end-to-end view of complex systems. Such adoptions ultimately determine whether a retailer has excellent, average or poor performance. Through automation and providing technology teams with the right tools, retailers can move away from troubleshooting issues with archaic systems and towards implementing automated processes that enable faster delivery and greater customer satisfaction.

3. Set realistic delivery timeframes

Unexpected delivery delays can quickly turn customers away from purchasing at a store for a second time. Having a clear line of sight across an entire software ecosystem is vital, but it’s also important that retailers are in sync with their delivery partners – whether that’s the national postal service, couriers or delivery drivers.

To ensure that its customers know the exact time their pizza was being delivered, Domino’s last year implemented a ‘call on arrival’ feature. By making a phone call to its customers two minutes before delivery, Domino’s developed a unique selling point for its business; creating a clear line of sight from the initial path-to-purchase to end-fulfilment. Such steps prove crucial when rapid technology scale-ups need to be implemented, as well as during spikes in demand.

By rolling out technology that supports smooth and streamlined deliveries, online retailers can create an effective integration between e-commerce platforms, warehousing platforms and end users. This allows such businesses to focus on generating customer satisfaction all year round. By meeting the increased demand of the 2020 festive season, online retailers and stores are much more likely to ensure greater customer satisfaction, as well as the addition of new customers into 2021 and beyond.

Sharryn Napier is regional vice president for Australia and New Zealand at New Relic.