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How to prepare for a big online sales event

A number of major online sales events are just around the corner: Singles’ Day in China is on November 11, Click Frenzy in Australia is on November 17, followed by Cyber Monday in the US on November 28.

These shopping events present a big opportunity for online retailers. Click Frenzy alone generated over $200 million in November last year. But if a business isn’t prepared to handle an uptick in web traffic, it could spell disaster.

Global savings platforms CupoNation and have conducted a qualitative analysis of the key steps e-commerce retailers should take to be truly ready for the season’s online shopping events.

1. Start and plan activities early
The whole business must be aligned in the lead-up to and on the day of a major sales event, with constant communication between technical operations and the wider business. Planning each step in advance will help retailers stay organised and make it easier to control the process.

Retailers have to finalise their marketing plan and advertising budget in advance to ensure their consumers are aware of their participation in the sales event. They should also check their inventory and their supplier’s capacity. One of the worst things that can happen during a sale is selling out faster than expected and not meeting the demand of the customers.

2. Focus on advertising and promotions
Retailers should make sure customers are aware of the upcoming sales and deals they’re offering well before the online sale starts. This attracts new customers and motivates existing customers to participate in the event.

There’s a lot of competition for shoppers on the day of a big online sales event, and it’s hard to stand out from the crowd.  Marketing campaigns should be visual and catchy, and retailers should use online and email marketing as well as blogs to get shoppers’ attention. If a deal gets picked up by deals blogs or social media, sales can get a significant boost.

3. Test technology performance

Everybody remembers the huge fail in the first year of Click Frenzy. The main website went down almost immediately, followed by many retailers’ websites, and the hashtag #clickfail went viral. Nobody wants a repeat of that story.

Retailers should make sure they test their system up to peak loads, so they can identify weak points and bottlenecks in their site. They should make sure all pages are working and that the purchasing process is quick and easy. Finally they should check each payment method and the mobile version of their website, as more and more shoppers are purchasing via smartphone.

4. Check customer service
Retailers are likely to have many new customers for an online sales event, so they should make sure their website contains all relevant information, such as contact details and maybe a live chat function. Information about the delivery and return policy should be readily available. Retailers may want to consider hiring additional staff on the day to ensure they can provide the best possible customer service.

5. Conduct post-event analysis
Click Frenzy comes just before Black Friday and the start of the Christmas sales period, therefore it’s a perfect time for retailers to assess their processes. Use tracking tools to analyse the performance and improve the process for next year or the next online sales event.

6. Have a contingency plan
Something will always go wrong. Regardless of how well-prepared retailers may be, it is difficult to make such an event completely fail-proof. It’s also not too late to put some basic functionality in place. Retailers can add an online queuing system where customers wait to access the website. This will help control the surge and reduce the risk of the site crashing. Identify the problems that could arise during an online sales event and create a list of solutions and the responsible departments. There are infinite risks, but if retailers have a contingency plan in place, everything will be fine.

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