All corners of the retail sector will now be gearing up for the busiest and most important period of the year, with key shopping dates such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday fast approaching, seeing retail leaders eager to maximise sales opportunities over the coming months.

This year we’re likely to see record numbers of customers turning to online shopping to find the very best deals and avoid last minute panic buying in the shops, and this in turn will lead to a jump in average transaction values for online retailers. For brands, there will now be a massive sense of anticipation and excitement about what the next few weeks will bring.

However, within IT departments, the sentiment will be very different. Retail technologists will be feeling a sense of trepidation, knowing all too well what lies ahead for them. They’re used to working round the clock at this time of year to keep applications performing at optimal level in the face of huge fluctuations in demand. And this year, consumer expectations for digital experience will be higher than ever.

To avoid any slip up in application performance over the coming weeks, retail technologists urgently need to ensure they have full and unified visibility across their hybrid application environments. This will be the difference between their organisations enjoying bumper sales this holiday season or instead suffering reputation and revenue-impacting application performance issues.

Online sales set to soar but shoppers have zero tolerance for bad digital experiences

At Cisco AppDynamics, we recently surveyed 1,000 Aussie consumers exploring their intentions around holiday shopping this year. We found that Aussies are expecting to spend 72% of their total spend online (through applications and digital services) holiday season, with 33% of Aussies expecting to do more holiday shopping online compared to last year.

With cost-of-living pressures continuing to impact many consumers, shoppers are turning to online shopping to get more choice and find the very best deals. They also favor the ease and convenience of online shopping, wanting to avoid last minute panic buying in the shops and the ability to shop at any time of day. In fact, 24% of Aussies admit that they’ll be doing more of their holiday shopping online this year because they can do it during working hours.

However, while these findings will be hugely exciting for online retailers, with the potential for significant uplifts in customer numbers and sales, the research also highlights a stark warning for application owners. Holiday shoppers will have zero tolerance for any retailer whose applications and digital services fail to deliver a consistently world-class digital experience.

People of all ages are becoming ever more discerning about the applications they use and their expectations for digital experience continue to rise. At the same time, responses to poorly performing applications are becoming a lot tougher. 61% of Australian consumers are clear in saying it doesn’t matter how good the deals are that retailers are offering, there is still no excuse for poor online shopping experiences.

It doesn’t matter how compelling a brand’s prices might be over Black Friday and Cyber Monday, shoppers simply won’t tolerate poorly performing applications. They’ll immediately move to a competitor brand, without a second thought.

IT teams need application observability to ensure seamless digital experiences

Within retail organisations across the world, IT departments will be bracing themselves for the weeks ahead.

Unfortunately, though even the most hard-working and highly skilled IT teams will struggle to ensure seamless digital experiences over the coming weeks unless they have in place the right tools and insights to manage modern applications. Most IT teams are finding it increasingly difficult to optimise application availability and performance due to a lack of visibility into cloud native technologies. They don’t have a clear line of sight for applications paths running across hybrid environments and therefore it’s incredibly difficult for them to identify and resolve issues before they impact end user experience.

This is why retail IT teams need application observability, to generate unified visibility across their hybrid environments and a single source of truth for all application availability and performance data. With application availability, technologists can easily detect issues and understand root causes, and with business context on application performance data, they can prioritise issues based on potential risk to customer experience.

As is always the case at this time of year, retailers will be leaning heavily on their IT teams to ensure that applications are operating at an optimal level. And, as our research indicates, the pressure on technologists is likely to be even more intense during this holiday season.

Retail leaders need to heed the warnings from consumers and recognise that digital experience is now equally as important as pricing within the battle for holiday season sales. And with this in mind, they urgently need to ensure that their IT teams have the tools required to deliver the world class digital experiences that holiday shoppers are demanding this year.

Joe Byrne is CTO advisor at Cisco AppDynamics.