Monday, December 1st, 2014 – just 74 days away. Are you ready for the biggest online shopping day of the year? With all that pressure, there’s bound to be a few mishaps. Here, we’ll tackle 4 common problems that some less-fortunate retailers have experienced over the years and provided some tips to make sure 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, right? 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 (trust us, page load time counts). Either way, this means lost sales on the busiest day of the online shopping season.
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 in place with your internal 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 your hosting is handled by a third party, consult them to see what their backup plans are 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, agents who are constantly slammed may be a little less upbeat and friendly as their shift goes on, leading to sub-par customer service and a higher likelihood for customer frustration (and the potential for lost sales – both present and future).
How to Avoid It: In the months prior to the holidays, revisit previous years’ data and compare it to planned 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. (Sidenote: if you haven’t really started, it’s not too late – but you should start NOW! Hiring during peak season is a bad, bad idea.) Concerned that you still won’t be able to handle it? Talk with an outsourced contact center provider about handling your overflow volume during the holiday season. Who knows, maybe you’ll find out that you like someone else managing it anyways!
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 that big of a deal, right? Wrong! Let’s say you’re running a special where everyone who orders a certain high-dollar item receives complimentary gift-wrapping. If your WMS doesn’t indicate this on the packing slip, guess what? The item doesn’t get wrapped – and your customer gets pissed. Or perhaps your merchandising team has picked two items to kit together as a BOGO offer – but they didn’t bother to tell warehouse management about it, and those products are located 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 all could have been avoided by placing the two items side-by-side in a temporary footprint.
How to Avoid It: Communication is key across all department of an ecommerce organization – especially during the busiest time of the year. In the weeks leading up to the holidays, hold weekly ‘all hands’ huddles to get all department management in-the-know about what to expect. During the peak season, these should become a daily occurrence, even if it’s just for 5 minutes! Share your marketing calendar and merchandising plans with 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 really 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 sales and overall sales growth when planning how much to order – then work with your vendors to submit orders 2-3 months in advance so you have the products in your warehouse, ready to be picked prior to Thanksgiving. But even then, sometimes an amazing thing happens – you sell way more than you ever anticipated! It’s a good problem to have, but not when you have customers who still want to purchase that very item once it’s gone. To help mitigate lost sales, have a plan in place prior to 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 special appeasement code to those who aren’t happy about it.