Is your business ready for shopping season during a pandemic?

October 23, 2020 06:00
Photo: Reuters

The impact of COVID-19 on consumer buying behaviour has been unprecedented and breathtakingly rapid. The battle for consumer dollars has shifted to the virtual frontier, prompting Hong Kong retailers to evolve with improved online presence and customer experience to capture the opportunities. According to recent research, 86% of local retailers plan to focus their efforts on creating a better online shopping experience.

In the future uncertainty ahead, every dollar counts, and retailers must do more to ensure shoppers don’t abandon their carts. They may do so for a multitude of reasons well under the radar—from system malfunctions to security breaches potentially costing precious website uptime.

Along with the opportunities offered by shopping festivals like Singles’ Day and Black Friday come challenges—retailers need to prepare themselves to ensure an even higher volume of seamless digital sales. It’s predicted that around 30% of global retail sales will be made online this upcoming holiday season. Retailers need to minimise these dollars lost, but the question is “how?”

Know the Battle Terrain

Before marching into the online retail war, retailers should better understand what makes their buyers tick. Consider your own personal shopping experiences, and you’ll realise there’s a myriad of reasons for abandoning carts. A simple, effective method to navigate this terrain is to employ application user experience monitoring tools designed to help retailers examine the key factors driving consumer traffic and interactions on their websites. These tools can draw correlations between network performance and consumer behaviour, so retailers can optimise site displays and functions to better engage with prospective customers. By getting into the heads of prospective customers and knowing their triggers, retailers will stand a fighting chance to ensure the customer journey extends beyond browsing.

Perishables represent a different challenge. Speed of fulfilment is essential, and a server slowdown could be fatal to the shopper experience. In fact, slow load time is one of the leading causes of cart abandonment, leading to abandonment rates as high as 75%. To address these speed bumps, it’s crucial for retailers to respond to server slowdowns swiftly and pre-empt these potential scenarios from stalling the shopping experience.

One way to do so is by using server and application monitoring tools to survey system performance. This allows retailers the flexibility to set performance KPIs and thresholds unique to their system requirements and risk appetites to automate system health checks. Intelligent alerts flag warnings to IT administrators when applications approach critical thresholds or underperform, so retailers aren’t caught off guard by unforeseen downtime during sales wars.

Securing Your Base Camp

In the digital marketplace, security is another key determinant of cart abandonment. Whether it’s the security of your website or the payment platforms, consumers want to know they can trust your service. With the coronavirus outbreak shifting transactions online, consumers are trying out new payment methods for their online purchases, and they tend to favour the methods with the most robust protection against fraud losses.

With automated security patch management software, retailers can lower their security risks and limit service interruptions by ensuring their operating systems and applications are updated with the latest security features and upgrades. They can also generate system summary reports to highlight overall patch status, current deployment progress, and areas of vulnerabilities retailers should prioritise. This reduces the avenues for bad actors to infiltrate your database and siphon confidential customer information or cause network congestion due to malware activities. Safer transactions can encourage consumers to return to shop with the brand they trust.

Keeping All Movements on Your Radar

Now more than ever, retailers need to deliver a consistent omnichannel experience, so shoppers can access their products and services from the most convenient and salient customer touchpoints. Retailers today need to be on top of all activities across these channels, not only their virtual storefronts but social media channels as well.

To combat this complexity, retailers can also leverage log management tools to centralise the supervision, control, and execution of key system and network activities across these platforms. This allows these tools to effectively investigate machine data from multiple sources, accurately pinpoint the root cause of IT issues faster, and perform near real-time troubleshooting for any device across a complex and extensive network web. Simply put: fewer carts lost because of system malfunctions means more successful order conversions.

The rapid technological adaptations to support online operations during the pandemic may be a blessing in disguise for many retailers. Even with increased demand expectations for the 2020 shopping season, the new skills and technologies learned during the crisis have proven new solutions perhaps once considered too risky. This can be a huge advantage when catching up on overdue transformation toward digital retail. Seamless and snappy multi-channel online shopping experiences can go a long way to keeping customers happy and holiday shopping carts checking out of the virtual store.

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Head Geek, SolarWinds