At no other time has eCommerce been as prominent as it is today. The pandemic continues to keep consumers at home, with many turning to online retail to purchase goods. Indeed, online sales in the United States climbed to $347.6 billion in the first six months of 2020, a rise of 30.1 percent from the same period last year.
The trend shows no sign of letting up, with physical retail operating in fits and starts as Covid-19 keeps brick-and-mortar stores closed (or sometimes open, depending on the rate of local infections). These abrupt changes have caused merchants to prioritize their digital storefronts. “It feels like we’re starting a whole new business,” Steven Aarons told the Washington Post in May. The owner of Child’s Play, an independent toy store in Washington, D.C., has since beefed up his shop’s website and introduced delivery service.
Changes to the retail landscape extend to the holiday shopping season, which kicked off unofficially in October with Amazon’s Prime Day. Typically held in July, the two-day event was pushed back to the fall as the retail giant struggled to meet unprecedented demand at the start of the pandemic. Now merchants are encouraging consumers to finish their holiday gift-buying early as ongoing shipping delays and supply-chain disruptions continue to affect fulfillment.
Changing Consumer Habits Put Pressure on Retailers
The extended timeline also means retailers can expect greater traffic to their websites for a longer period of time rather than in the concentrated bursts that Black Friday and Cyber Monday invite, particularly as consumers grow more and more used to shopping online. These changes place added pressure on retailers who can’t comfortably rely on offline sales to round out or boost their revenue in 2020.
Instead, they must guarantee frictionless digital shopping experiences or risk abandoned shopping carts and would-be customers driven to competitors’ sites, as shown by a 2019 study from Retail Systems Research.
Instead, they must guarantee frictionless digital shopping experiences or risk abandoned shopping carts and would-be customers driven to competitors’ sites, as shown by a 2019 study from Retail Systems Research. Of the 1,300 shoppers the company polled, 90 percent said they left an eCommerce site if its load time was slower than they expected. Worse yet, 57 percent said they instead bought from a similar site, while another 40 percent said they went on to purchase from Amazon.
Retailers understand these threats. They know that eCommerce sites that perform poorly or fail altogether, especially during peak demand times, risk fewer sales, lowered customer satisfaction, and damaged brand equity.
Increased Challenges to Prevention and Protection
Yet merchants may not fully appreciate the complexity of today’s eCommerce sites, the range of challenges they face, or the number of stakeholders invested in their success. For instance, an eCommerce website may feature products from numerous external sites, as well as rely heavily on third-party providers. One may offer search engine optimization (SEO) services, while others provide content delivery or product catalogues.
An outage or failure along any of these points, as well as potential hacks and data breaches, threatens the smooth functioning of any eCommerce website. Consider the range of unexpected incidents — weak patch practices at a third-party loyalty program, miscoded pricing by an external marketing partner, poor security at a third party’s transaction processor — and the hit to a retailer’s business quickly becomes evident.
To control risks, incident-management teams must have a DRIFT plan: the rapid detection, response, investigation, fix, and test of critical issues. Most retailers have the detection, investigation, and fixing processes down pat but are less prepared to respond in a timely manner. There’s critical lag time between detection and assembling the right remediation team within or external to the organization, yet it is the time between discovery and repair that generates the most business impact.
The Most Important KPI When Safeguarding Any eCommerce Site
Called the mean time to repair (MTTR), this key performance indicator represents the average time to fix a failed element or device. The lower the MTTR, the softer the business impact of an IT incident.
The best way to reduce MTTR? Forrester Research recommends lowering the mean time to know (MTTK) or the average time spent connecting the right people to the right data and information about a disruption.
The best way to reduce MTTR? Forrester Research recommends lowering the mean time to know (MTTK) or the average time spent connecting the right people to the right data and information about a disruption. The difficulty of rapidly linking the proper staff and teams together is laid bare when you consider the constellation of affected parties and potential troubleshooters: the IT team that’ll root out the cause of an outage or failure, the security department that must determine if the incident represents an attack or data breach, the PR agency that must craft messaging to customers, the social media vendor that may be fielding queries about the incident, and so on.
A Flexible Response Plan and the Platform to Support It
To mitigate the potential damage to its business, retailers must develop a flexible response plan as part of its risk-emergency management. The plan should allow merchants to quickly identify, contact, and communicate with any responder internal or external to the enterprise to lower both MTTK and MTTR. This goal is especially salient during the pandemic, when retailers must manage the availability of their resources.
A technology platform like Everbridge’s IT Alerting proves especially key to this effort. Whenever an incident raises alarms, the platform automatically activates the appropriate response plan. Within minutes, it identifies, contacts, and engages with the assigned responders. Team members who fail to respond become the subject of an automated escalation of communications or can’t-miss alerts. Moreover, it integrates with leading APM, ITOM, DevOps tools and more.
Everbridge’s IT Alerting provides the smart orchestration of major incident management teams, enabling their communication and collaboration, as well as the management of responder schedules, during critical eCommerce demand times. With Deloitte forecasting an increase of just 1 percent to 1.5 percent for holiday retail sales during the 2020–2021 holiday season, merchants can’t afford missteps in their response to unpredictable outages, breaches, or failures.