In the lead-up to the busy season, there are many boxes to tick if you want to keep your e-commerce or retail business trade-ready. While smooth-sailing sounds impossible, there are ways to bolster your workforce, fill your storerooms with stock, and still keep your customers satisfied. We reached out to some of our partners with experience in planning and growing their business during trade peaks. We asked them for bite-sized pre-season advice that would help e-commerce companies to achieve similar successes. Here are their sure-fire ramp up tips:
Manage stock levels
“Be on top of your inventory management going into the busy season,” says Ben Parr, President and Co-Founder of Octane AI, a company that provides personalized quizz solutions that aims to humanize the ecommerce shopping experience. The team at Octane AI has become masterful at managing annual volume surges, especially with regards to an increase in ticket volumes.
“Shipping prices go up and the shipping process takes more time. If you run out of inventory or don’t have it organized before the spike, it can cause you a lot more unnecessary headaches. Make sure your website is prepared for these traffic spikes as well — stress test it if possible, and make sure to back things up.”
Any peak trading period allows businesses the opportunity to build long-term relationships with first-time customers who engaged with them during that peak.
“Capture as many email addresses and phone numbers as you can during the high season so that you can turn them into loyal customers after BF/CM,” says Parr. “A great email sequence after the new year can turn one-time customers into repeat purchasers without the need to spend more money on ads.” Come the following season, you will be equipped with a database of seasonal shoppers who might simply need a promotional offer to remind them that you are there to help them in their time of need.
This also filters through to statistical data on sales, because it could come in handy when you do a post-season review of key metrics. In your planning phase, be clear about what information you want to gather, then take a hard look at how you plan to obtain that information. Where possible, automate or outsource this data-capturing process so that your teams can concentrate on the things that differentiate you from your competitors.
Learn from mistakes
Mistakes come along more often than anyone would like to admit. With so many internal and external factors at play (staffing, logistics, suppliers, etc), it is likely that someone will drop the ball or make a mistake somewhere. However, one of the most difficult things to accomplish is to learn from these mistakes. By turning a stressful encounter into a fruitful learning experience it can create a culture of growth.
“A realization hit us right in the middle of the holiday season of 2021,” explains Mark Riskowitz, Caraway’s VP of Operations. “At the time, and even now, we are a fast-growing e-commerce company. Some of the numbers have been frightening, from products added to our catalog, our inventory, all the way down to sales. We didn’t fully understand the scale that we were seeing, nor did we appreciate our growth. But we were mature enough to say that, to continue scaling this and to grow in such crazy multiples each year, we needed to rethink our team strategy and how we do customer experience.”
They turned it into an opportunity where the team decided to try a hybrid model. This meant having in-house members of the organization focus on various different verticals or projects, while the teams that made up the frontlines of their customer support strategy formed part of an external team carefully constructed by Boldr.
Invest in your customer experience
According to Nancy Gurd, Customer Experience Lead at Caraway, the last thing any business should do as they go into season is to cheap out on their CX processes. As a fast-growing e-commerce company that specialized in luxury home goods, Caraway has first-hand experience of rapid growth during season surges. During the national lockdowns, they hit numbers that were alarming at first, but also confined to fourth quarter trade. The team quickly adjusted their approach to season planning to accommodate the rush. But the one thing they never skimped on, was the overall customer experience.
“It’s the holidays. No one wants to feel like a dollar sign,” explains Nancy. “It’s important to connect with your customers and to treat them like human beings. Your team members have to really care about your customers and they must take the time to educate them. Empower your teams and your agents to make this change a priority. Turn Customer Service into a Customer Experience.”
Ben Parr emphasizes that there is a need for speed when it comes to customer engagement. He pointed out that a quick response could ultimately help a brand build a healthy relationship with its customers. Says Parr, “Maintain fast response times and use macros whenever possible. Have empathy for the customer and provide clear answers to their questions.”
It is easy to forget that season time might be the very first time a customer does business with your company. Make that an unforgettable experience and they will come back for more.
Some more obvious (and self-explanatory) seasonal tips include:
- Iron out kinks in your marketing and influencer strategies.
- Recruit CX professionals who specialize in gift cards and returns
- Incentivize staff for awesome service and their dedication
- Incentivize customers for their loyalty and their patience
- Streamline checkout processes: fewer clicks to checkout, fewer abandoned baskets
With Black Friday/Cyber Monday(BF/CM) and the long holidays drawing nearer by the day, it is important to keep a clear mind and to tick as many boxes as possible. If we missed any seasonal pain points you want us to feature, or there is a specific customer experience stumbling block that we can help you to overcome, then reach out to us here.