E-tailers check list for Black Week and Christmas

November 12, 2019

Black Week and Christmas are rapidly approaching and e-commerce is facing its most hectic period. A lot can happen when there is a greater-than-normal load on your e-commerce site, and something going wrong can have dire consequences. You have to be prepared lest your customer experience be impacted by high traffic, e.g. in the form of delayed response times or, in the worst case, that the site crashes. That’s why we put together a check list of concrete tips for ideally preparing for a period in which uptime and response times are vital.
Getting started late? Keep in mind that it's better to have a simple plan than none at all. If you can’t check off everything, at least ensure that you have an overall plan. Start with the most business critical aspects and work from there. Good luck!

1. Assign a project manager

Black Week and Christmas retail are a project in and of themselves in which many people are involved (in-house and out at suppliers) making it’s easy to miss or forget things. Therefore, it is important to assign a project manager to be responsible for ensuring your progress. If you don’t have the time or resources in-house, you may benefit from bringing in an external resource during this period. You will be paid back for investing in this many times over since you can reuse and refine the processes you set now for the coming years.

2. Identify business parameters 

It is important to prepare by setting clear targets. Start from your current situation, compare it to last year and define your expected targets and a best case scenario.Use existing data and set the most important KPIs for your particular line of e-commerce – visits, response times, sessions, turnover, etc. For your e-commerce site, also set performance limits that, once reached, you will need to take particular measures in the case something arises. If you already have a good idea of your KPIs from the start, you will actually be working from real data rather than just a feel for how things are going. This way, you can set real fact-based targets for what you want to achieve rather than let your decisions be determined by emotion.  

3. Involve your suppliers

Compile a list of your suppliers and document areas of responsibility and contact persons. Distribute this information to your other suppliers as well as to your own organization so everyone knows who to contact should anything unexpected arise. It is good to have one supplier (preferably a technical implementation partner) as your single point of contactwho can be in charge of the contact chain. 

Your e-commerce is an ecosystem of services – from main suppliers such as platform and operational suppliers to technical implementation partners and all auxiliary services, such as for payments, etc. It goes without saying that it is vital that you are clear in your communication with your most business-critical suppliers. In addition to supplying contact information, it is important to inform suppliers of your market plan as well as through which channels your promotions will be distributed so that everyone is aware of and prepared for possible peaks on your site. 

4. Set processes for communicating and for taking measures should something arise

Should something unexpected arise, you need to have a plan of action. First and foremost, you need to identify the cause of the problem and then act quickly. The disaster scenario is that your site crashes, your response times are unreasonably long or that your checkout or payment routines do not work. 

Are there temporary solutions you can implement, ways of bypassing the problem to meet your most important needs, even it this is not optimal in the long term? That is, an interim solution until the problem is resolved. For example, could you exclude small markets to at least make your main markets reachable?

Here too, it is vital to first meet the demands of what is most business-critical. Document the plan and inform your organization and suppliers so everyone knows who to contact, regardless of where they work in the organization. Also ensure that you have escalation chains should someone be out sick or unavailable. You otherwise risk your communication rising or falling with individuals. 

5. Ensure that you have supplier SLAs and on-call services

Often, you need some kind of service level agreement (SLA) with suppliers to make your expectations clear.  For example, how important is it that there is someone to respond to incidents outside working hours? It is therefore very important to have contractually agreed with suppliers that resources need to be available 24/7 should the need arise. Can your suppliers provide extra monitoring? Can you pay to ensure that you are prioritized regarding case management and customer service during this period? Also establish response times for incidents and escalation chains for any urgent matters. First and foremost, ensure that this is available for your platform supplier and partners, as well as for auxiliary services in your e-commerce service ecosystem. 

6. Document planning and processes

Planning and setting processes for your work during Black Week and Christmas retail is a substantial task that takes considerable time and resources. Therefore, see to it to carefully document escalation procedures, contact routes, KPIs, etc so that the same methods can be used in the coming years. This means you don’t need to reinvent the wheel each year but rather that you can just remove your old data and fill in your current data. The more times you work using the same methods, the better your procedures take hold, for you and your suppliers. Also consider that the material you produce can be used in training, for hand-overs and in your onboarding of new employees. 

7. Evaluate, develop and reuse

Remember to evaluate your efforts so you can reuse what was done well and learn from your mistakes. When you follow the same procedures year after year, it is easier to make comparisons and gain understanding for why certain things work and others don’t. Through this, you can more easily develop and improve your processes, after the fact. The processes you set for Black Week and Christmas may even be useful in other promotions, or in your daily work.

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Is there anything missing from this check list? Or are you curious as to what services Litium can offer to ensure that Black Week and Christmas are a success for you? Contact usto give us your input or for us to describe how we can help.

Daniel Hultgren.png
Daniel  Hultgren
CIO