Retailers: It’s Already Time to Start Preparing Your Apps for Next Holiday Season
Now that the new year is well underway, the next holiday season seems like it’s lightyears away. However, if you want to create captivating and efficient online shopping experiences for your customers, the time to start putting those plans in place is now — don’t wait until you’re scrambling at the last minute to prepare.
Over the last few years, the retail industry has faced a mountain of problems: supply chain meltdowns, inventory shortages, and staffing challenges to name a few. On top of all of that, e-commerce continues to grow, with consumers spending $204.5 billion online during the 2021 holiday season, an increase of 8.6 percent from 2020. The challenges retailers often struggle with aren’t going away anytime soon, but consumers still demand perfection. While there are many things largely out of your control as a retailer (looking at you, supply chain), one thing you can do is get a handle on your website and apps.
Lagging updates, glitchy interfaces, and difficult-to-navigate sites only add to customer frustrations. Most retailers start implementing their code freezes and infrastructure updates months ahead of December to prepare for the holiday season to officially kick off. If you’re just getting started or need to make major changes, a few months will pass extremely quickly, so it’s best to start fixing your online experience and glitchy website now to make the most out of the rest of the year.
Look to Examples of Retailers That Got it Right
Take advantage of information that’s already available to you and look at what the retailers that inspire you are doing with their online experiences and apps. Many retailers are already building and maintaining excellent apps and e-commerce sites, optimizing their online shopping experiences for customers during the busiest season of the year. In 2021, we saw retailers adopting new features to make checkouts a breeze, developing apps to create a more immersive experience, and streamlining their sites to make navigation easier.
For example, direct-to-consumer brands like Ritual are always on the cutting-edge of customer experience trends. This is especially true during busy shopping seasons. Over recent years, Ritual has been implementing a data-driven approach to every aspect of its business. It prioritized building a robust and nimble tech stack to improve internal processes, which was a game-changer for meeting the growing needs of its customers. One piece of this was combining feature management and experimentation efforts into one workflow, which allowed Ritual's developers to roll out new features quickly to specific user segments based on details like browser type and location — ensuring the best experience for all customers, even during the most hectic shopping seasons.
Remember that it’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel to improve your online presence. Sure, sometimes it’s beneficial to try out new ideas and see what works for you, but there should be a balance to get the best results. Take the time to learn from others that are already leading the way.
Use Your Software to Ease Inventory Challenges
While improved software can’t necessarily make products ship faster or solve all of the supply chain challenges we’ve been faced with over the past year, it can ease some of the resulting problems.
By building more nimble and easy-to-update software, you can spotlight in-stock merchandise. This way, instead of being met with a sea of out-of-stock inventory, customers will be directed toward items that are readily available, right now. Once a warehouse gets a new shipment of goods, you can also quickly manage updates and get items listed before shoppers lose interest and look elsewhere.
Flexible software makes it easier to keep customers and inventory up-to-date and stay ahead of inventory challenges.
Prepare for an Influx of Shoppers at All Key Moments
While Q4 is by far retail’s busiest season, the industry has multiple peaks throughout the year, including Memorial Day, July 4th, and Back to School. Anytime we have more shoppers on sites, there’s more opportunity for error (especially when software isn't up to snuff).
Consumers have higher standards for their online shopping experiences than ever before, and most retailers aren’t living up to them. In 2021, 88 percent of consumers reported having issues with their online shopping, including broken links and slow websites. These negative customer experiences take dollars directly out of retailers’ pockets.
It all makes sense. With digital experiences like Amazon Prime and DoorDash bringing everything a shopper needs to their doorstep with a few clicks, they start expecting all online experiences to be the same. While every retailer doesn’t have the infrastructure (or funds) to replicate these platforms, there are a few things we can all learn from them.
Apps like DoorDash, Uber, and Amazon Prime have taught us that quick and seamless experiences are key. Customers want to check something off their lists and move on without much disruption in their days. If your online experience is inconvenient or, worse, dysfunctional, customers will be quick to find what they’re looking for somewhere else.
I know from personal experience, when I’m trying to find those perfect pair of shoes to round out my collection or that gift at the top of my kid's wish list, it can be incredibly frustrating if website glitches hinder me from completing that purchase.
And I’m not alone: 53 percent of mobile website visitors will leave if a webpage doesn’t load within three seconds. Shoppers are swarmed with other options, so if your software isn’t cutting it, you’ve lost a customer.
Looking Ahead: Prioritize What’s Important
To revamp your website experience, you need to start from the inside and build a team with the bandwidth to regularly manage updates. During the holidays, website management should be all hands on deck. Investing in processes like feature management, app development, and inventory management can ensure that all updates are made without a hitch, and save you from dreaded site outages, delays and glitchy updates. Getting ahead of rolling updates and building safety nets into your process will make sure that customers are met with the best experience possible.
It may seem a little premature to start your website updates now in anticipation for next holiday season, but I promise you that you won’t regret taking the steps now to get ahead (and you’ll see the benefits well before December rolls around).
Keith Messick is the chief marketing officer at LaunchDarkly, the first scalable feature management platform.
Related story: 4 Things Retailers Must Do Before the 2022 Holidays