Marc Zottner, Global Application Modernization Lead at VMware Tanzu
This year’s festive period has proven to be a particularly difficult one for retailers, who are grappling with unprecedented disruption to their supply chains and persistent staff shortages. As well as this, UK consumers are eager to make up for last year’s Christmas, as projections suggest spending will rise by an average of £200 per person. With online retailers under pressure to deal with this higher customer demand, it has never been more important to offer a seamless user experience that can help drive sales during these uncertain times.
This is where technology teams play a vital role and harnessing their skills and expertise will be the key to retail success as we bring in the new year.
Every interaction counts
Personalised marketing and unbeatable deals are hallmarks of the festive period when it comes to online retail, acting as a sure-fire way of getting customers to make that initial visit to a retailer’s website. But with shoppers now being offered more choice than ever, getting them all the way to check out takes work.
Once shoppers are on a retailer’s site, it’s up to the technology teams behind the scenes to ensure things run smoothly. Every interaction matters, from the first click on a link to the final confirmation of purchase. The first time a customer goes through the entire online checkout process, only to be told their items are out of stock, might be the last time they visit a particular site. In a digital age where expectations on online shopping platforms are high, there is no room for error. It is vital that retailers can build year-round loyalty from transactions made during the festive season, and efficient technology will be the key to achieving this.
This is where retailers’ backend teams become key. Ensuring software is thoroughly prepared for upcoming traffic spikes, taking precautions in advance, allows tech teams to effectively process orders during peak times and deal with any troubleshooting in real-time. While retailers cannot control all potential risks and delays along the supply chain, they can ensure their software is proactive and designed to manage the higher-than-usual levels of demand expected during this festive period.
External technology expertise can also play a role here, delivering new perspectives on retailers’ pressure points to prepare them for these spikes. Not only can a deeper understanding of traffic and customer demand help to boost seasonal sales, but it can also help traditional brick-and-mortar retailers successfully expand into omnichannel retail.
At the heart of retailers’ digital strategy must be the establishment of robust IT infrastructures that can cope with increased technological demand. Legacy infrastructures that are not up to scratch will be unable to deal with the increased demand for a seamless online experience, disadvantaging businesses wishing to capitalise on pre- and post-Christmas promotions. In addition, re-aligning application architectures with their related business domains is key to building highly scalable systems.
For example, VMware Tanzu worked closely with DICK’s Sporting Goods, the largest omnichannel, full-line sporting goods retailer in the US, to modernise its approach to software and tackle higher waves of traffic during peak sales periods. In the past, the company focused on outsourcing its software needs, which was time-consuming and produced large, monolithic application systems. This meant the infrastructure was not flexible and could not be scaled up quickly.
With Tanzu’s support, the team developed bespoke software according to its needs, resulting in improved speed, scalability and productivity. Building fit-for-purpose IT infrastructure into the business must be a priority for any retailer, particularly when responding to major business opportunities like the festive rush for presents.
Retailers should be able to approach future festive periods confident that their promotions will be worthwhile and effective at bringing shoppers to their sites, especially after a year of challenging economic circumstances for the industry. However, this will only be achieved if the technology supporting retail is able to cope with increased demand and higher traffic, offering the seamless experience expected by customers in an increasingly digital age.