Focus on These 5 Areas of Tech for a Smooth Holiday
To prepare for the crush of shoppers this holiday season, retailers should focus on five areas of IT — the first, and probably most important, being websites.
In truth, a retailer’s website should probably be priorities No. 1 through 5 all on its own, given its importance in powering e-commerce. Test websites early and often, and put them through the worst possible scenarios.
“If you have not load tested your site at five times normal traffic volumes, your site will probably fail,” Bob Buffone, CTO at web-optimization services company Yottaa, told Business Insider.
Online drop-shipping and custom print fulfillment service Printful recommends in a blog post that retailers should take steps to improve the loading speed of their websites and increase web security features. And they should also avoid making significant changes to sites during the holiday season, lest these result in glitches that become exacerbated during a period of unusually heavy traffic.
Next, inventory systems. If retailers don’t have a firm grasp on their inventory, they might end up showing customers products they can’t buy, writes Matthieu Blandineau, product marketing manager for the web search service Algolia, in Retail Customer Experience.
This not only eats up valuable screen real estate for products that won’t result in any sales revenue, but it can also cause shoppers to go elsewhere out of frustration.
If retailers don’t already have such tools in place, they must deploy inventory control software to ensure that customers’ searches are accurate up to the second, he wrote.
MORE FROM BIZTECH: Learn how retailers can protect their inventory from malicious bots.
Analytics, Mobile Devices Help Optimize Customer Experience
It’s not enough, however, to merely produce accurate search results, Blandineau added. Retailers should also be utilizing their customers’ searches to glean insights into shoppers’ demands. These analytics can be used to revamp the online catalog, plan promotions or improve advertising and search engine optimization.
Retail kiosks and point-of-sale solutions can also help to simplify the holiday shopping season by allowing savvy customers to find and purchase what they need on their own, while freeing up store associates to focus on shoppers who need more help.
Endless-aisle kiosks allow customers to explore additional products, and self-checkout kiosks help break up lines and improve customer satisfaction; 66 percent of shoppers say that they prefer self-service technology, writes Melissa Tally, marketing coordinator for Meridian Kiosks. Some retailers even have smart-locker kiosks, which allow shoppers to place and pay for their orders online, and then pick up products in-store with an access code.
Point-of-sale solutions — including mobile point-of-sale, or mPOS — can make employees more productive and get customers what they need more quickly.
While the website is the engine that drives e-commerce, mobile apps and devices are how many shoppers now interact with retail brands. In fact, mobile devices accounted for more than half of all e-commerce traffic and nearly one-third of revenue between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday in 2018.
Retailers can optimize customers’ mobile experience by building credit card scanners into their apps and designing uncluttered mobile landing pages, Blandineau writes. Also, retailers should account for “research online, purchase offline” shoppers by prominently displaying product reviews and in-store availability.