As online shopping becomes easier and more convenient for consumers, days like Cyber Monday have become just as crucial as Black Friday for retailers. This year, Shop.org, a digital commerce community for the National Retail Federation (NRF), anticipates that online sales in November and December 2013 in the U.S. will grow between 13 and 15 percent over the 2012 holiday season, to as much as US$82 billion in revenue.
With the rise in online sales, optimizing e-commerce performance becomes a significantly important area for retailers and a key opportunity for solution providers. Solution providers are in an excellent position to contribute to the success of retailers during the holiday season and throughout the year by helping the retailer make online ordering and processing a seamless experience.
In the midst of this year’s holiday season, I offer five tips that solution providers can use to engage their retail clients and start a conversation about the readiness of their IT systems to handle online sales in both the short and long term:
- Establish baselines – Solution providers and VARs should benchmark e-commerce sites before major anticipated spikes in traffic. This will help retailers immediately recognize when something abnormal occurs during peak usage. Also, by auditing sites, small and recurring errors become easier to identify, and can prevent errors multiplying during heavy site usage. Even something as simple as reducing errors written to logs can considerably improve site performance.
- Reduce risks – Many retailers’ local and edge catching strategies have not been updated since their sites went live. Carefully reviewing and testing these strategies can reduce the risk of a poor performing site or sections of a site. In addition, e-commerce systems should be looked at holistically to assess infrastructure stability, bandwidth usage and network backups to identify areas that could have a negative impact on site performance.
- Optimize for mobile – With mobile devices becoming a necessity in e-commerce strategy, customers now expect it to be easy to access all sites through any device. Solution providers and VARs can incorporate responsive web design (RWD) into retailers’ websites to create a single set of source code that can be adapted for any device.
- Detect early, resolve quickly – Retail clients should be equipped with the quantitative and qualitative tools necessary to help IT support teams proactively manage sites. By actively monitoring the user experience, these IT groups can rapidly pinpoint defects as they arise, reducing their impact.
- Communicate with support teams– Retailers look at solution providers and VARs as trusted advisors in the IT services space, so it’s more than just a courtesy to check in and discuss support team communication strategies. By taking the time to gauge the support teams’ confidence in the e-commerce system, retailers can help ensure 100 percent proficiency navigating the site.
Online sales experiences are becoming an increasingly important element of customer satisfaction and can generate significant revenue for retailers. This presents a tremendous opportunity for solution providers to consult with their retail clients on how to optimize their e-commerce sites and ensure that the sites exceed customers’ expectations during the holiday season and throughout the rest of the year.
Tony Vottima is vice-president and general manager of Avnet Services, America, a division of distributor Avnet.