Retailers snowed in by Holiday Data
By Stephan Romeder, Vice President of Global Business Development , Magic Software
No one feels the Christmas rush more than retailers, and this includes sellers online. UK Retailers can expect another bumper year in 2017 with an estimated £79 billion in holiday retail sales, a 4 percent increase from 2016.
Not only does the last quarter of the year see increases in the number of orders, but the average order sizes also tend to be much bigger. In fact, some retailers make up to 40% of their yearly revenue in the last quarter alone.
But one of the biggest concerns of retailers is poor user experience on e-commerce sites, which can sabotage orders. Heavy transaction loads can lead to slow processing, making customers abandon their shopping carts. Lack of real time product updates can result in customers unwittingly ordering out of stock merchandise. No one wants a Christmas present arriving in January.
Here are five tips to help you avoid data hiccups during the holidays.
Plan for peak data volumes – All companies need to tailor their e-commerce stores to take holiday traffic into account. Planning and processes that worked in April and July, won’t necessarily work over the holidays. If you have seasonal products, designed to be sold especially during the holiday season, you need to prepare for unusually higher levels of online activity. Comparing month over month and year over year sales to predict sales volumes may not be effective enough. It’s also important to take into account business growth over the year.
Automate, automate, automate – All manual data entry should be automated wherever possible by enabling data to be automatically entered and updated by other systems. Reducing the amount of time it takes to handle each transaction means agents can process more sales in less time. Eliminating the need for duplicate manual orders entered in CRM and ERP systems not only reduces order processing time, but also the likelihood of data being entered incorrectly. Typing “1 Elm Street” instead of “13” is a disaster when timely deliveries are critical. If the product is returned, you don’t only lose the sale, you also have to absorb the additional shipping costs.
Connect everything – Systems integration is a critical component that is often overlooked when deploying e-commerce systems. Online storefronts need to be integrated with the company’s backend systems and external services to support the complete sales process from inventory management, payment processing, to shipping and returns, customer service and even analytics. Before investing in point-to-point integration based on a short term ROI, consider selecting a robust process-based integration platform that connects to several different systems and can scale to manage even the highest transaction loads for increased sales.
Plan for the post season – When the holiday season is over, your data processing volumes will continue. The week following Christmas can deliver up to 10% of overall holiday sales. The speed of processing during the post-holiday season is also important to handle returned items. There is typically a high level of price volatility over the holidays, so it’s important to have processes that track the exact amount charged so that the customer refund is accurate.
Real-Time updates – Current and fully up-to-date data will ensure that your system runs smoothly, while providing a better shopping experience. Real-time system updates as opposed to batch updates at the end of the day, will minimize the likelihood that a customer will order out-of-stock merchandise. If you have high volumes, you need a minute by minute picture of what’s ordered to know which items are sold out and need to be re-ordered. Don’t forget to also track the availability of shipping materials.
Integrating data can play a key part in making the entire order process slick, smooth and streamlined. Managing the data deluge with an eye on efficiency can ensure retailers and customers alike have a very Merry Christmas.
Stephan Romeder, is the General Manager of Magic Software Enterprises Europe, a leading provider of multi-channel application development, application integration and enterprise mobility solutions. He is also the Managing Director of Magic Software Deutschland, covering Germany, Austria...