Since its creation in the 1950s, Black Friday has staked its claim as the post-Thanksgiving tradition, and in 2005 (capitalizing on the boom of the online retail industry) Cyber Monday joined the retail holiday shopping weekend. Today, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become staples in American culture and cornerstones of the retail industry.
This year more shoppers turned to online store fronts than ever before. For the first time, Black Friday’s online activity outpaced that of Cyber Monday: 93.2 million people shopped online during Black Friday, while Cyber Monday saw only 83.3 million shoppers venture online. In total, Black Friday online sales increased by 19.6%, reaching $7.4 billion.
It’s clear: A new era of retail is upon us, having been ushered in by evolving technology that is quickly blending physical and digital aspects of shopping. This new direction is also changing customer experience expectations, and many retailers are struggling to keep pace.
Several major retailers experienced significant technical issues, resulting in less-than-ideal customer experiences: Walmart’s customers complained about an inability to access Black Friday deals due to technical website issues, and Costco’s Black Friday difficulties reportedly cost the company an estimated $11 million.
As the demand for improved online shopping experiences grows, companies are turning to new technologies never before used in retail to meet the needs and expectations of their customers. Robotics, augmented reality and virtual reality, artificial intelligence and cloud computing are enabling retailers to offer new, exciting features to heighten the customer online shopping experience. Virtual “fitting rooms” on cell phones, personalized digital displays, customer face recognition and instant payment are just a few examples of how emerging technologies are shaping online shopping expectations.
However, this new demand also brings new challenges and new ways to fail, as we saw with the likes of Walmart and Costco this year. The new technologies mean that retailers are under increased pressure to meet the three main requirements for a seamless customer experience: speed, reliability and security.
- Speed – Customers expect to be able to research, locate and purchase their desired item quickly. This requires an infrastructure that can handle a large flow of traffic without slowing down or freezing.
- Reliability – The last thing customers want is to be at the checkout, and the website/app no longer works. They want to know that, even though it is the peak retail season, website crashes won’t stop them from capitalizing on some of the great promotions.
- Security – Consumers have seen prominent, trusted companies hit with major security breaches (i.e. Equifax), and they want to know that their data is protected. Regulators are beginning to listen, implementing laws and altering expectations around data protection. The California Consumer Privacy Act and the General Data Protection Regulation (and more) will mean increased restrictions on what these new technologies can do–but they won’t change consumers’ expectations of a flashy, intelligent, reliable and swift online shopping experience.
How to Survive the Holiday Influx: Prioritize Strategic Vendor Partnerships
Preparing for these short periods of extremely high-volume needs can seem daunting: the intricate, interconnected and complex challenges can indeed be time-consuming and cost-prohibitive when undertaken on your own. Partnering with trusted, industry-leading organizations can provide insights into customizable solutions for your company’s specific needs.
For example, Leaseweb offers metered burstable (95th percentile) bandwidth billing, an industry standard method of ensuring your business can remain up-and-running during high-traffic times like the holiday shopping season–without breaking the bank.
With metered burstable bandwidth billing, your server is connected to a port with committed and maximum speeds in megabits per second, whereby committed bandwidth is usually included in the server price. Leaseweb allows you to burst above the committed bandwidth and up to the maximum port speed. Burstable billing gives you the flexibility to economically burst traffic to meet short term demands without having to commit to this level of usage (which you may seldom require) on a monthly basis.
But there is more than just cost considerations. This evolution in the way consumers are interacting with the retail industry shows no signs of slowing. As with most technological developments, the rate of change is exponential, which means companies need to think both in the short-term (exploring vendors with flexible billing options like burstable billing) and long-term if they want to remain viable.
To meet these evolving and challenging demands, retailers should work with a comprehensive cloud hosting solution that includes hybrid-ready product portfolios, iron-clad security solutions, core uptime and an extensive network. Leaseweb’s E-Commerce Hosting Solutions provide all of these, as well as other key features:
- Instant Scalability – Always quick and easy to deploy new virtual or dedicated servers to meet spikes in demand.
- Great Price-to-performance Ratio – Removes the weight of capital expenditures, reducing costs, increasing efficiency and allowing retailers to always have the latest technology.
- Flexible and Hybrid-ready – Complete flexibility to work with any e-commerce platform and a choice of powerful dedicated servers, public and private clouds, CDN, cybersecurity, and hybrid solutions to optimize any e-commerce infrastructure.
- Global Presence – A global network that delivers 99.999% core uptime and 6+ Tbps bandwidth to deliver optimal performance.
This holiday season, the pressure is undeniable, but success can be easily achieved by partnering with the right hosting solution for a retailer’s business. Deploying the right solution can not only help retailers thrive during peak online shopping periods this holiday season but also prepare them for continued growth into 2020.
Read more about how Leaseweb’s E-Commerce Hosting Solutions could aid your company.
This blog was written by Lex Boost, CEO of Leaseweb USA.