US retailers (and, increasingly, UK) count on Cyber Monday and Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, to bring in billions of dollars in sales. Yet, each year, websites crash, supply chains fall apart and shoppers are left disappointed.
Last year, on Black Friday in the UK, “websites fell over like Victorian ladies on a hot day,” crowed Techradar; with HP, Best Buy, Currys, Tesco, Argos, Boots and Game's websites “all requiring smelling salts.” Best Buy’s website crashed after a "concentrated spike in mobile traffic triggered issues," said the company, which appeared to be the common denominator.
These were only a few of the problems retailers had in dealing with peak demand online. And, while last year Black Friday and Cyber Monday represented two peaks of the festive period, they were not even the largest shopping days, according to Experian.
But, if you get it right the rewards can be great; in 2014, Cyber Monday online sales grew to a record $2.68 billion in the US alone, with Black Friday sales said to reach $1.5 billion. But getting a good slice of these pies requires a well-orchestrated omni-channel IT network.
Therein lies the challenge; most omni-channel retailers still have legacy networks, which are supported by processes and systems from multiple vendors. This often provides limited interoperability between each other or with external systems from suppliers or delivery companies—and the IT service providers specializing in omni-channel orchestration. In addition, supply chains are often designed for the single-channel world—resulting in cost disadvantages and margin erosion for omni-channel retailers.
So what is the solution? You should consider your supply chain network, store network and individual systems as a form of orchestra with which you can play an omni-channel “tune.” Failure to conduct this orchestra will result in margin erosion—online orders will require high levels of human interaction which can lead to errors, or orders will be delayed during periods of peak demand. Cue Black Friday or Cyber Monday website crashes.
The answer is to have your front-end and back-end technology and processes seamlessly automated.
The following elements to achieve this are essential:
- Clear process design—omni-channel processes must be codified in such a way that they can be applied systematically and adapted in the future
- Connectivity—you need the ability to connect and interact the multitude of systems across your enterprise as well as the ones outside that need to be involved in the omni-channel process
- Process orchestration—you must have the ability to execute the omni-channel processes automatically and control the interactions between different systems
Not only do these elements act as the basis with which to control your orchestra but they also give you real-time actionable insight into your omni-channel business. This insight is the foundation for automated corrective actions to ensure the orchestra continues to play the right tune—avoiding website crashes and supply chain breakdowns.
You have 80 days to get your orchestra organized and conducting tools in place. Time to get started.