Big eCommerce seasons demand platforms that meet requirements.
The months before the end-of-year retail frenzy represent the deep breath before the plunge. If you plan on offering multi-channel options to your customers, or eCommerce in general, this may be your last chance to get the right solutions in place. You obviously don't want to be caught in the middle of a platform migration when conditions are at their busiest, but your logistics operations might not yet be in ideal condition. This means it's an ideal moment to self-assess and determine if your eCommerce platform is up to par.
Taking a checklist approach to eCommerce readiness can help ensure that an influx of consumers at the end of the year won't derail your operations. It's important to consider elements that underlie every part of the process that brings goods from warehouses to consumers, for even one weak link can delay orders and drive down satisfaction. Whether you work with a third party for your fulfillment needs or still perform many services in-house, this check-up can also be a time to decide the ideal balance between operations you handle and those you sign a contract for.
"Even one weak link can delay orders and drive down satisfaction."
As a good start for your eCommerce assessment, make sure you have the systems below and that they're strong enough to handle a sudden surge in business. Remember that every company is different, and you'll need to check on more than these:
A web store with mobile capabilities: With the rise in mobile commerce today, you absolutely have to be ready for consumers to access your website through their phones or tablets. If you don't possess a responsive and mobile-friendly web design, you may lose customers for good. Whereas a few years ago, it could be reasonable to expect individuals to try again on a PC, things have changed. Someone frustrated with a mobile site has plenty of choices that do work with smartphones and tablets - your competitors' sites.
Integration between systems: Do you have an eCommerce platform that feeds information from your enterprise resource planning system into your customer resource management solution - and vice versa? Are financial tools automatically connected? Bad links between different components can lead to poor record-keeping and performance. You can't afford that at the best of times, and it's especially worrying at peak seasons.
Automatic routing: Commerce today goes through a number of channels, and connecting consumers with goods from an ideal warehouse or retail store is more complicated than ever. With a powerful, automated system in place, you can ensure that the whole inventory is visible and goods are shipped from the location that will get them in consumers' hands for minimum cost, all by default. Trying to manage such an omnichannel operation without good automation could prove impossible as volume ramps up.
Inbound marketing features: Does your eCommerce platform contain marketing features such as the ability to post SEO-friendly content on your website? If not, you may be missing out on plenty of clicks and, consequently, sales. You may consider SEO and lead generation features to be completely separate from your storefront and other important eCommerce features, but there's no need to silo them. Draw customers right to items' store pages.
Flexibility across the board: All other features are moot if they fail to ramp up when demand is at its highest. Good eCommerce platforms can work at any scale. This applies to all the above-mentioned solutions. If websites break down under too much consumer demand or internal solutions fail to connect databases due to overuse, the holiday season, with its spikes in activity, could turn bleak. By the same token, extreme overkill in the form of huge in-house tech deployments can be a budget killer in quiet seasons. This is part of the case for platforms deployed via Software-as-a-Service models.
Becoming a leading merchant
The battle for eCommerce success can easily come down to a company's technical performance. At key moments of high demand, sites and underlying logistics operations that can handle the pressure of the season will stand to impress shoppers and hold onto their customers for next year. Those that deliver a poor experience may end up losing business before consumers even press the "complete order" button. Powerful, efficient platforms that don't let companies down at times of demand are a must-have, delivering the above capabilities and more.