Your 5 Step Online Holiday Retail Plan To Win At Key Moments

Here are five ways you can delight cus­tomers at every dig­i­tal touch­point and every moment of the cus­tomer jour­ney this hol­i­day sea­son.

David Jones By David Jones from Dynatrace. Join the discussion » 0 comments

Novem­ber is here, and this marks the begin­ning of a chal­leng­ing time of year for online retail­ers. Black Fri­day, Cyber Mon­day, and the rest of the Hol­i­day sea­son will soon be upon us. For unpre­pared online retail­ers, what should be the most reward­ing and prof­itable time of the year can spin bad­ly out of con­trol. Retail­ers pre­pared for the dig­i­tal onslaught can and will ben­e­fit by delight­ing cus­tomers at every dig­i­tal touch­point and every moment of the cus­tomer jour­ney.

holiday moment 1It’s not uncom­mon for dig­i­tal busi­ness own­ers to go through most of the year under the impres­sion that their site is per­fect­ly fine, and thus not be over­ly con­cerned at their prospects for suc­cess from Thanks­giv­ing through the New Year. How­ev­er, the asso­ci­at­ed traf­fic spike puts a whole dif­fer­ent kind of pres­sure on web­sites and mobile apps, and can reveal issues that only orga­ni­za­tions with a cul­ture focused on dig­i­tal per­for­mance man­age­ment would be on top of. The hol­i­day sea­son often sheds an unfriend­ly light on some spe­cif­ic issues. In the spir­it of giv­ing, we’re hap­py to demys­ti­fy these for you. Opti­miz­ing dig­i­tal per­for­mance to deliv­er high qual­i­ty cus­tomer expe­ri­ences at every turn is chal­leng­ing, but you can pre­pare for every hol­i­day mar­ket­ing moment. Here are five steps online retail­ers must take now.

1. Test, Test, Test!

holiday moment 2“Be pre­pared” sounds like a broad piece of advice that, while obvi­ous­ly a good idea, isn’t actu­al­ly all that help­ful. So the mes­sage here for busi­ness and mar­ket­ing teams: test well in advance of peak events like the hol­i­day sea­son. Test from an end-user per­spec­tive to make sure you get an idea of what they will expe­ri­ence. Make sure your tests actu­al­ly reflect the cir­cum­stances of peak load time. Too many dig­i­tal busi­ness own­ers wait for some­thing to go wrong before they wor­ry about mak­ing improve­ments and opti­miz­ing per­for­mance. But the goal here is not to spend all of Black Fri­day and Cyber Mon­day just try­ing to sur­vive the fire­fight. If you can get out from under­neath this kind of tech­ni­cal debt and focus on inno­va­tion, you can dras­ti­cal­ly improve how your cus­tomers inter­act with your brand. Don’t wait for some­thing to go wrong before tak­ing action.

2. Forget Sampling

holiday moment 3Noth­ing is more dis­con­cert­ing than know­ing you don’t know some­thing. From a per­for­mance man­age­ment per­spec­tive, look­ing at aggre­gate traf­fic ana­lyt­ics of your dai­ly, week­ly, and month­ly vis­its isn’t enough. Count­ing on a sam­pling of what users expe­ri­ence only gives you a vague idea of what your users are going through, and thus makes it dif­fi­cult to gain any real insight. It is impor­tant to load test in advance of peak shop­ping events like the upcom­ing hol­i­days, but it is no sub­sti­tute for real user mon­i­tor­ing. You need a com­pre­hen­sive strat­e­gy that includes load test­ing, syn­thet­ic mon­i­tor­ing and real user mon­i­tor­ing to ensure you’re pre­pared for every vis­i­tor. Rely­ing on sam­pling not only lim­its your under­stand­ing of what’s hap­pen­ing across the app deliv­ery chain, it leads to the next major chal­lenge…

3. Monitor Every Transaction

holiday moment 4In today’s dig­i­tal world, your apps are your brand. Quite pos­si­bly the worst hol­i­day “gift” is wak­ing up to an angry call from your boss ask­ing what is wrong with your web and mobile sites or your mobile app: “Our con­ver­sions have fall­en through the floor, the call cen­ter is get­ting slammed with ques­tions from cus­tomers who can’t check out online, and we’re trend­ing on Twit­ter – fix it!” Dis­cov­er­ing cus­tomer expe­ri­ence degra­da­tion after the fact is a sce­nario that keeps dig­i­tal busi­ness own­ers up at night, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Stay­ing ahead of the per­for­mance game means hav­ing a dig­i­tal per­for­mance strat­e­gy that deliv­ers real user mon­i­tor­ing on every sin­gle trans­ac­tion. This will ensure you will see any and all issues as they devel­op, before cus­tomers do. With­out this abil­i­ty your cus­tomers become your “ear­ly warn­ing sys­tem,” which means that by the time you learn about an issue they are already frus­trat­ed and aban­don­ing trans­ac­tions. At that point it’s like­ly only a mat­ter of min­utes before they vent on social media. This is not only dam­ag­ing to your bot­tom line, but it can also have a neg­a­tive effect on your brand equi­ty and rep­u­ta­tion going for­ward. Play­ing catch-up after users are aban­don­ing your sites and apps means you will lose rev­enue and cus­tomers to the com­pe­ti­tion, and the trust of your cus­tomers, which takes a long time to earn back. This can be avoid­ed. Stay on top of your cus­tomers’ dig­i­tal expe­ri­ences at all times. Proac­tive­ly address issues as they hap­pen, before your cus­tomers are impact­ed.

4. Uncover Actionable Insights

holiday moment 5Get­ting alert­ed to prob­lems is all well and good. After all, know­ing you have a prob­lem is the first step toward solv­ing it. How­ev­er, a dig­i­tal per­for­mance solu­tion that alerts you to issues but doesn’t tell you exact­ly what to do about it has lim­it­ed val­ue. Igno­rance is bliss, but not when you are aware of an issue, but blind to the root cause. The more time spent between iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and res­o­lu­tion, the more con­ver­sions you lose, and the more mon­ey gets flushed away. So a dig­i­tal per­for­mance man­age­ment solu­tion that doesn’t include root cause ana­lyt­ics, makes the whole idea of address­ing an issue before your users are affect­ed dif­fi­cult to exe­cute. Dig­i­tal busi­ness own­ers don’t just need more raw data; they need answers. They need insight into the exact dig­i­tal expe­ri­ence they are pro­vid­ing in order to iden­ti­fy con­ver­sion road­blocks. The good news is that today syn­thet­ic mon­i­tor­ing allows busi­ness­es to not only detect, but clas­si­fy, iden­ti­fy and gath­er infor­ma­tion on root caus­es of per­for­mance issues and pro­vides instant triage, prob­lem rank­ing and cause iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. “Smart ana­lyt­ics” reduces hours of man­u­al trou­bleshoot­ing to a mat­ter of sec­onds. With today’s mod­ern dig­i­tal per­for­mance solu­tions, busi­ness teams don’t need to be IT experts. Dash­boards show busi­ness stake­hold­ers how cus­tomers are expe­ri­enc­ing their ser­vices, in real-time, across dig­i­tal chan­nels. This enables stake­hold­ers to make clean and sim­ple hand­offs from tech­ni­cal coun­ter­parts to address poten­tial issues imme­di­ate­ly.

5. Be Alert For Third-Party Performance Issues

holiday moment 6In a per­fect world, third-par­ty ser­vices can improve end-user expe­ri­ences and deliv­er func­tion­al­i­ty faster than stand­alone appli­ca­tions. How­ev­er, there is a poten­tial down­side. Mod­ern appli­ca­tions often call on a vari­ety of third-par­ty ser­vices (Face­book wid­gets, pop-up chats, etc.) that are out­side the view of tra­di­tion­al mon­i­tor­ing sys­tems. Known unknowns like this should be enough to scare the socks off of any dig­i­tal busi­ness own­er. Hing­ing your site or app’s per­for­mance on a ser­vice that you don’t have any insight into is a fright­en­ing propo­si­tion. But it gets worse. Even though you often don’t have insight into thir d‑parties, when they expe­ri­ence issues it can still have a dra­mat­ic affect on your site. The issue is not your fault, but when Face­book crash­es, that “like” or login but­ton can still hang up your entire site. Your users don’t know it’s Facebook’s prob­lem and not yours. All they know is your site isn’t meet­ing their expec­ta­tions – sud­den­ly Facebook’s prob­lem is your prob­lem. Dig­i­tal busi­ness own­ers can solve this by mak­ing sure they can see these ser­vices from the get-go, map any per­for­mance issues to them, and act with­in min­utes to negate the prob­lem.

David Jones

Written by David Jones

Field Technical Evangelist Director, Dynatrace

David Jones is Field Technical Evangelist Director and has been with Dynatrace for 8 years, he has 20 years experience working with web technologies from the first commercial HTML editor to the latest digital performance management platforms at organizations such as Gomez (Waltham), S1 Corp (Atlanta), Broadvision (Bay Area), Interleaf/Texcel (Waltham), i4i (Toronto) and SoftQuad (Toronto).

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