Monday, November 28, 2022, is three short months away. Are you ready for one of the biggest online shopping days of the year? With all that pressure, there are bound to be a few mishaps. Here, we’ll tackle four common problems that some less-fortunate retailers have experienced over the years and provide tips to ensure it’s not you this season!

The Disaster: Your site crashes.

Why It’s Bad: Customers can’t buy from you if your site goes down. And even if your site doesn’t completely crash, a massive influx of Cyber Monday traffic can slow it down to the point where customers jump ship before completing a purchase. Most consumers expect a web page to load in two seconds or less, and they’ll abandon your website if it takes more than three seconds to load. Even a one-second page response delay results in a seven percent reduction in conversions. Either way, this means lost sales.

How to Avoid It: Beef up your servers and test everything now, so you’re not left checking the site 24/7 on Cyber Monday. Have a plan with your IT and ecommerce teams if the site does go down, and have extra help on-call if needed to ensure it’s up and running again quickly. If a third party handles your hosting, consult with them to identify their backup plans should things get overloaded.

The Disaster: Your contact center goes crazy.

Why It’s Bad: A contact center that can’t handle inbound call volume leads to long hold times, angry customers, and ‘rushed’ customer service that may not be effective. Also, constantly slammed agents may be a little less upbeat and friendly as their shift goes on, leading to sub-par customer service and a higher likelihood of customer frustration (and the potential for lost sales – both present and future).

How to Avoid It: In the months before the holidays, revisit previous years’ data and compare it to planned product promotions and overall business growth to accurately forecast your call volumes for the current season. Begin hiring for peak season several months in advance by attending job fairs, posting ads online, and possibly even sending ‘now hiring’ emails to customers in your database near your location if it makes sense. Concerned that you still won’t be able to handle it? Speak with an outsourced contact center provider about taking your overflow volume during the holiday season. Who knows, maybe you’ll find out that you like someone else managing it!

The Disaster:  Your operations team doesn’t know about the deals your marketing team is promoting.

Why It’s Bad: This doesn’t seem like a big deal, right? Wrong! Let’s say you’re running a special where everyone who orders a particular high-dollar item receives complimentary gift-wrapping. Guess what if your warehouse management system doesn’t indicate this on the packing slip? The item doesn’t get wrapped, and your customer gets pissed. Or perhaps your merchandising team has picked two items to sell together as a BOGO offer, but they didn’t bother to tell the warehouse about it, and those products are on opposite sides of your warehouse. This leads to longer, less efficient picking and more time to get packages prepped and out the door – which could have been avoided by placing the two items side-by-side in a temporary footprint.

How to Avoid It: Communication is critical across all departments of an ecommerce organization – especially during the busiest time of the year. Hold weekly meetings with department management to coordinate in the weeks leading up to the holidays. These should occur regularly during the peak season, even for five minutes! Share your marketing calendar and merchandising plans with the warehouse, contact center, and ecommerce teams, so there are no surprises. Allow other departments to be a part of the holiday planning process and keep all documentation in a central location that’s easily accessible for later use.

The Disaster: Your top-selling product is out-of-stock and back-ordered until after the holidays.

Why It’s Bad: Do we need to explain this one? I don’t think so.
How to Avoid It: Forecasting is your friend with inventory management, just as much as it is with labor management (if not a little more). Take into account planned promotions and overall sales growth when planning how much to order. Work with your vendors to submit orders well in advance, so you have the products in your warehouse before Thanksgiving.  But even then, sometimes an amazing thing happens – you sell way more than you ever anticipated! It’s a good problem, but not when you have customers who still want to purchase that item once it’s gone. To help mitigate lost sales, have a plan in place before the holiday season for handling these situations – whether it’s offering a comparable product at a discount, allowing customers to place orders that will arrive after Christmas, or providing a unique appeasement code to those who aren’t happy about it.