Learning from the ghosts of Christmas past: Last minute tips for peak

November 3, 2017

I’ll never forget the three years I spent working in the Covent Garden branch of Accessorize at Christmas time. Between wading my way through colourful knitwear and wrapping close to 1 million Christmas gifts, I developed what I can only describe as a loathing for Christmas music and even the mere mention of festive cheer.

What I didn’t realise is that I would spend the next six years working with retailers to get the most out of this peakiest of periods! I reached out to the Mirakl ecosystem and asked our partners to share their top last minute tips for a smooth and successful Christmas Peak 2017.
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Tip #1: Provide consumers with the product choice they need

Nick Bareham, UK Industry Lead, Mirakl

Last year the build up to Christmas peak was characterised by question marks over whether to opt in to Black Friday sales or whether to boycott this discounting day completely. As the smoke cleared, the industry was divided across battle lines. The decision for many retailers was to run promotions throughout all of December, aNick Barehamttempting to capture customer demand at just the right buying moments, and even out spikes in demand - leaving merchandisers to tackle the dilemma of balancing out of stock and overstock of products.

The key to providing the best customer experience over this peak period is to ensure you are giving customers the choice they want by leveraging a network of sellers to quickly and easily expand your assortment - avoiding inventory and overhead costs. For example, capitalise on the latest toy trends by leveraging your seller network to stock and fulfill these orders, using your brand and website as the destination by which customers come through.

Discover the top trends for UK retailers in 2018 in our latest webinar, Retail Predictions 2018 with special guest Michelle Beeson of Forrester.

Register Now

Tip #2: Focus on Critical Operational Stress-Tests, Contingency Plans, and Team Alignment

Patrick Munden, Head of Retail and Marketing, Salmon:

Peak trading has changed dramatically in recent years, with less of a focus purely on DecePatrick_Munden_-_Salmon.pngmber or even Black Friday as a day. Peak now spreads across an incredible two months, from November to December, with retailers having to manage a prolonged level of heightened activity during that time. It takes even more planning and preparation than for just the one day, and retailers need to ensure that their online operations are consistently able to cope with increased levels of traffic and orders, to prevent site outages and poor performance.

To get ready, retailers need to rigorously test their site and its capabilities, even creating kill switches for elements of the website that will hinder its performance during busy periods, including payment methods that may cause the site to lag. By making sure stress-tests are taken well in advance, retailers can shore up performance during the peak period. Moreover, if retailers are to reap the benefits of the end-of-the-year peak, they need to have all of their systems in place. This means ensuring that services such as next-day delivery can still be facilitated, as consumers will expect seamless levels of service during this time. All elements need to work collectively and equally quickly for retailers to survive heavy loads during peak periods; if one slows, it could decelerate the whole process.

Finally, communicate across all departments of the business – from marketing, through to logistics and the technical teams – so they are all fully briefed and aware of any peak trading plans. Things to consider, for instance, is ensuring that the pricing and promotion strategies are consistent across on and offline channels, as conflicting information across these different avenues is likely to confuse and lose customers. Ultimately, the peak trading season is a chance to gain new customers and grow that loyal fan base.

For more tips on how to cope with peak, download Salmon’s Peak Trading Ecommerce Operations playbook.

Tip #3: Keep fraudsters at bay while delivering a great customer experience

James Hunt, Senior Director, Managed Risk Services, CyberSource

For retailers and other businesses, the annual holiday sales peak is no longer one single day such as AAEAAQAAAAAAAAPPAAAAJDYwNDA1YmM1LWNjYzItNGJiYy05MjEwLTZhYzE3ZTVlMzdmNQ.jpgBlack Friday or Cyber Monday, or Singles Day in China. As the digital economy grows more global and more complex, peak season is becoming longer and taking on new forms, creating increased demand. Adding to the challenge, consumers around the world are purchasing more and expecting faster delivery times.

Are you in the know about peak season fraud prevention?

KNOW THE IMPACT OF YOUR MERCHANDISING

  • Know your merchandising strategy – Understand what new products are being released and what special promotions you will be running.
  • Put some focus on your high-value items – Implement rules that monitor online purchases of these high-ticket products.

KNOW YOUR STAFF READINESS

  • Staff up – Make sure you have enough team members to handle the influx of orders, and that they are adequately trained.
  • Rely on automation – Help relieve the burden on your existing staff, and help optimize the review process.
  • Take advantage of a fraud management expert – Consider employing the services of a fraud specialist.

KNOW YOUR FRAUD RULES

  • Reassess your risk tolerance – What level of fraud are you willing to tolerate in relation to how your fraud management systems positively or negatively affect the customer experience?
  • Use the past as a window to the future – Look at historical trends and patterns from your last few peak seasons.
  • Continue to refine your fraud rules – Test and quantify your fraud rule changes before activating them in your live production environment.
  • Establish mobile-specific fraud rules – Consider mobile shopper behavior and data from mobile-specific technologies such as device fingerprint readers.

KNOW YOUR CUSTOMERS

  • Protect customer accounts from account takeover – Monitor suspicious behavior at both new account creation and existing account interactions.
  • Understand your customers’ peak season shopping patterns – Introduce season-specific fraud rules based on customer order patterns and devices used.
  • Remember that it’s a year-long planning process – Start the planning process even earlier than you think is necessary.

Click here for our complimentary 2016 UK eCommerce Fraud Report to gain more insight.

Tip #4 Optimize product content, ratings & reviews, and be mobile-first

Håkan Thyr, Director of Strategic Partnerships, EMEA, ChannelAdvisor

321f7ad.jpgThe festive season is the biggest single opportunity of the year in e-commerce so it’s imperative that brands and retailers put themselves in the strongest possible position to take advantage.

But, there’s good news and bad news for those looking to sell more this festive period. The bad news is it's late in the game, our research tells us that more than 50% of consumers have already been researching their festive purchases for months now and have a pretty good idea of what they want and where they might get it. The good news though is that these savvy shoppers are still looking for the best possible deal and to get it from the most reputable and competitive source. 

So here are our top tips for maximising your sales potential this festive season;

Optimise Product Listings Pages (PDPs)

Make sure your PDPs are as up-to-date as possible. To win that Buy Box your pages need to stand out and offer information that your competitors might not. Brands should create as much content here as possible and retailers should work closely with brands to ensure the content they have is as rich as possible, video content can be a key driver in decision making and should be used where possible.

Be Mobile First

All product content should be optimised for mobile, our research tells us that nearly 50% of orders will be coming via a handheld device of some sort this coming cyber weekend.

As such, mobile optimisation is key, ensure all content is mobile friendly and loads quickly. Users want a seamless experience on their devices and if you’re not offering it, your competitors will. 

Ratings and reviews

More and more users and turning to sites like Trustpilot and Reevoo before purchasing products to ensure the company they’re buying from is credible.

Whether you’re a brand or a retailer, work with these sites to boost your profile and ultimately your reviews on them.

Good or bad, answer your customer comments and let them know their feedback is being considered. This makes your business look reputable and gives consumers confidence in your customer service.

That’s it for now, we would like to wish everyone a smooth and profitable Christmas peak and we look forward to seeing how it all unfolds!