eStar chief technology officer Matt Neale looks back at the peak trading season.
Well, it’s that time of year again, where the peak trade tension, the celebrations or commiserations have been and gone, and we look ahead to the next round.
This year was a mixed bag, some retailers reporting good results, others flat. An early report from Adobe out of the US showed Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales down on 2020. It’s not all bad news, overall sales in November were up, reflecting wider trends in customer behaviour.
Customer fatigue is a real thing, and despite a waning of customer interest, there continue to be expectations to participate in these events from customers and competitors, it’s now worth considering the effect of each promotion on subsequent campaigns, especially towards the tail end of the calendar year.
As we emerge into the traditionally quiet period of the year, it’s an ideal time to reflect and run a health check across all of the areas – people, processes, and platforms that we rely on to facilitate our customer sales and identify areas of improvement.
With the COVID effect still at play, growth and scale remain key considerations. So, how did your businesses hold up? What went well? What could be improved?
This year has had some challenges with inbound logistics leading to shallow stock levels, and growing customer lethargy.
These lead to some key questions to ask when running through your post-event reviews;
- How did we go with stock levels? Were customers able to find what they were after? Were we able to meet demand?
- Was our timing right? Did we need to go early? How did this affect the event overall?
- Did we keep up with demand?
Customer expectations are higher than ever. Expectations are driven by your internal KPI’s and metrics. NPS, it should be remembered, is a lagging measure.
So, did your KPIs hold up? If your ability to deliver and maintain customer expectations is scalable, then your primary KPIs and metrics should remain almost constant during both peak and off-peak trade.
If you’re unable to maintain your DIFOT, Cancellations, Perfect Order Percentage, WISMO rates (for example), then this is an indicator that your business isn’t geared to scale, and you can expect to see NPS drop back.
If your usual processing time is one day, but this blows out to four or five days, it goes without saying that you’re not meeting customer expectations.
There is enough data, and studies have revealed the same, to show that the link between faster fulfilment and increased customer sales is more than mere correlation – it’s causative, and so the inverse of this is true, poor fulfilment times impact future sales.
This leads into enquiries, and if your usual WISMO rate is 2%, but this grows to 5%, on increased volume, then your customer service teams are going to feel that acutely.
Scaling technology is generally easier than people or process, so by being aware of those areas of your business that didn’t scale well, but could be scaled through appropriate tools, then there is often a gain to be made there.
I’m often asked a lot about what the next big thing is – ‘which technology should we focus on?’ – it’s interesting to see the reaction when I say ‘people’, but it’s almost always true, people are the best technology you have. They’re naturally inventive, intuitive, and solve problems without the need for complex instructions. So, ask your people what you can do better.
However, technology is why you’re here, and there are some key areas to look at. These are – not surprisingly – customer centric.
Utilising automated chat bots to assist with WISMO enquiry is not new, but has proven its worth, and should be on your radar.
Real-time stock availability are not necessarily off-the-shelf, but are key to maintaining an accurate view on stock levels, avoiding the disappointment of shopping carts being emptied, or orders being cancelled due to oversells.
On the fulfilment side, are you ahead or behind your customer demand, scaling your workloads to sales events. Make sure your eCommerce or OMS systems can provide this insight.
COVID-fuelled online growth is unlikely to be sustainable at the current rates, it is continuing to grow, maintain a sustainable momentum, into continuous improvement – measure, understand, improve – it’s something you need to do to compete, your customers demand it, and your business deserves it.