Festive Readiness

As excited as all retailers get for festive trading, there are areas of real concern for ecommerce businesses, which must be addressed for a successful trading season.

During this period:

• Volumes of orders could increase by a factor of 4
• Average order values and average number of items per order reach all time peaks
• Consumer tolerance for imperfect experience reduces
• Cart abandonment increases
• Mobile continues its upward surge

Emerce Commerce recommends the following 14 considerations for a successful online festive period:

01 Payment gateway provider

• Check with your payment gateway provider that they have enough automated processes in place to deal with the increased transaction volumes across all their merchants including you. and where they perform certain processes by hand (for example, verification of high risk potentially fraudulent transactions) ask them to show you that they are sufficiently staffed up to handle the increased volumes
• Confirm that you have a signed service level agreement in place

02 Technical support desk for customer issues

• Over the festive trading period, your customer service agents will see an increase in complaints from customers about technical issues. make sure that you have a technical support desk (you can rotate developers into this desk over festive) that can do the deeper troubleshooting needed to resolve these technical issues

03 Leave planning for each department

• Make sure you draw up a formal leave plan for each department, indicating exactly who is in office including over public holidays and week-ends. customers shop 24/7 online, especially during the festive season

04 Returns team readiness

• Sadly not all christmas gifts are well received. you can expect a significant increase in returns in early January running until mid-February. make sure your returns process is well documented and that it will be well staffed by the first week in January

05 Stock on hand

• South African online shoppers are getting increasingly demanding about quick delivery. the best way to ensure that you can delight your customers is by stocking your top products in your warehouses countrywide. ensure that your merchandizing team has done its sales forecasting in time and has ordered in sufficient stock for the anticipated popular products

06 Warehouse team readiness

• You’re going to want two shifts per day in your warehouse so as not to fall behind on delivery expectations. You’ll need to hire some temporary staff and get them trained up quickly

07 Courier service levels

• For festive, you’ll want to be able to ship using multiple couriers so that you can hold them to service levels by taking deliveries away from them if they’re underperforming. You will need to share your expected volumes with them ahead of time
• Confirm that you have a signed service level agreement in place with each courier

08 Supplier management

• You won’t be able to stock all your products in your warehouse. some will still have to be ordered as just-in-time orders from your suppliers. You need to manage them tightly to service level agreements
• Do you make use of an edi system to improve the speed and data quality of communications between your ecommerce platform and your supplier’s systems?
• Make sure that your finance department is able to pay supplier’s timeously during festive otherwise you might exceed your credit limit and have your ability to do bulk and just-in-time ordering suspended by the supplier

09 Last minute delivery address changes

• Many of your customers will realize that they’re actually at their holiday homes and will ask your customer service agents to change the delivery address from their home address to their holiday destination. Does your administration portal allow your customer service agents to change the delivery address? Does your web site allow your customers to change their delivery address on an order?

10 Why not do hyper local delivery yourself?

• It makes sense to rely on the larger courier companies for countrywide delivery, but have you considered running a small fleet of scooters for hyper local deliveries (i.e. a 20km radius around each of your distribution centres in the main cities of South Africa)? This could help you achieve same day delivery in some instances
• Also, why not allow your customers to collect from your warehouses?

11 Pre-order release readiness

• Do you have important pre-orders releasing over festive, especially pc and console gaming titles? The customer expectation is to receive a pre-order on or near the release date of the pre-order. Your warehouse needs to be ready ahead of time to ensure these pre-order releases are delivered to potentially hundreds of customers at a time without interrupting the flow of other orders out of your warehouses

12 Overselling

• Planning on doing deep discounts and flash sales? Make absolutely sure that your ecommerce platform counts down its stock ticker correctly so that you don’t have embarrassing oversells that you then need to refund

13 System readiness

• Ask your CTO to confirm that there are sufficient server and network resources in place to deal with a 3 to 4 times increase in traffic without any degradation in page load time
• Ask your CTO to show you the business continuity plan that details the steps that the it team will take in the event of a failure of any sub-system
• Ask your CTO to provide real-time dashboards that any employee in your company can load in their web browser showing concurrent users on the site, page load time for key pages, top pages visited, top search results and system errors. visibility is good and the more eyes the better

14 Software release management

• As a business, make a clear and conscious decision on whether software changes can be released to the production systems during festive or whether a change freeze is the safest approach

Share on :

Leave a comment