As the festive season gets underway, plans for making sure your business can make the most of demand will undoubtedly be on the agenda. Even more so in 2020, as it's been a year like no other with the pandemic affecting us all and having a particularly negative impact on the retail sector.
As a result of the first lockdown, we have seen an upturn in demand for home delivery, and online shopping is becoming many people's first choice for purchasing everything from groceries to home furnishings. In September, the Office of National Statistics reported that,
"The proportion of online spending peaked during lockdown and still remains higher than in February".
So, it seems that even after the easing of restrictions, many people continue to do more of their shopping online. This includes "first-timers" who have only recently realised the benefits of shopping from the comfort and safety of their own home.
As a result of the shift in shopping habits, we can expect to see a massive upturn in festive purchases being made online this year. Clearly, the retail sector has been paying attention, with 15% of UK retailers creating specific roles to manage the increase in online sales.
So how is your business planning to ensure that customer supply and demand can be met to provide the relied upon boost in sales that Christmas is normally expected to bring?
Key questions to ask when preparing for retail surges
There are several questions you should ask yourself when planning for retail surges:
- Can your organisation accommodate the extra traffic to your website?
- Are you able to efficiently manage customer services queries?
- Is your business set up to manage the order picking and logistics of the surge in demand?
- Do you have effective methods for ensuring your stock levels are aligned to the demand – and how do you measure and monitor this?
Managing online vs in-store traffic
In the digital world, preparing for retail surges needs to be as carefully planned as clearing space on the shelves for the seasonal goods and getting extra staff in to stock, restock and work the checkouts.
If your web server hasn't got sufficient compute or network capacity and crashes when too many people are browsing, you are effectively slamming your shop door in the face of customers and their cash.
And if your call centre bottoms out at X number of calls – how many potential purchases will be made with your competition? Online shoppers have options and impatient people won't hang around in a digital queue for long.
Preparing infrastructure for retail surges
To maximise the revenue input potential over Christmas, retail outlets need to be able to provide the best experience possible for consumers and manage the increased virtual footfall. This may include:
- Ramping up public cloud consumption to make sure that applications can accommodate extra demand.
- Call centres taking on additional staff and expanding their call centre capabilities with "burstable" extension licensing and SIP channels.
- Reviewing multi-media options to enable call centre operatives to not only take calls, but respond to emails and manage online enquires via chat functions.
- Utilising services, such as database optimisation and supply chain management to ensure efficient systems are in place.
In today's digital world, there are flexible and scalable options that allow the temporary increase in demand to be managed by an equally temporary commitment. It's worth doing some forward planning – chat with your suppliers and see what options there are.
A little extra oomph to your servers and some burstable bandwidth could be all it takes to maximise your sales potential this Christmas. So explore those options and here's to a fruitful Christmas!