Flash sales are hardly a new phenomenon in the retail sector. For generations, retailers have sent shoppers clamoring with “one-day-only” or “limited selection” markdowns that help the store owner turn over product and collect quick returns.
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But the flash sale has evolved as the retail landscape has transformed into a truly multi-channel arena. Now Cyber Monday is as big — if not bigger — retail holiday as Black Friday, and ecommerce sites frequently have “first come, first serve” shopping events that flood networks with bargain hunters in search of the biggest markdowns.
Although true bargain hunters will either wait in line overnight or deal with hours of service downtime in order to get their hands on deeply discounted merchandise, the average shopper may not be so patient. If a customer's experience with a retailer is unsatisfactory — whether in a brick and mortar or on an ecommerce site — there are plenty of other businesses that the buyer can go to in the future for the same product or service that offer fewer headaches with each transaction.
Even with steep discounts, customers still expect quality UX
In any situation where the overall shopping experience has left a bad taste in a customer's mouth, a retailer is setting themselves up for missed revenue opportunities in the future, which could ultimately play into the hands of their competition.
Take, for instance, the recent Amazon Prime Day flash sale, which had users commenting on Twitter in an uproar over Amazon's service downtime in the early hours of the event. A series of glitches on the website made it impossible for some shoppers to check out with their products for nearly two hours, which was a hit to the company's public profile as well as a deterrent for potential customers.
These issues aren't only limited to ecommerce retailers, either. Ensuring a positive customer experience is more important than ever in the current retail landscape now that shoppers expect an omni-channel experience no matter how they shop, whenever they shop, even in a physical store.
A salesperson may employ the use of a tablet, for instance, to check the availability of a certain product in real time rather than having to leave the customer waiting while an employee checks the store room. Similar applications can give sales associates the ability to help guide what the shopper purchases, making recommendations, in the store based around their needs and budget or help them check out quickly on a mobile device, making the entire shopping experience swift, valuable, and enjoyable.
The success of these applications hinges on the network and reliable application performance. A unified performance management solution that is application-aware and can balance traffic loads, keeps retail applications performing optimally even during times of great strain on the WAN. This is especially important during flash sales, where applications will be expected to perform in a fast manner to ensure that customers get the bargains that will have them returning for products in the future. Remember the salesperson with a tablet? Waiting for more than 5 seconds for the screen to refresh feels like an eternity to the shopper — they won't wait and that could be a lost sale! Retailers might not get a second opportunity to woo a customer, so they must be able to manage the user experience at all times. And, the only way to do so is with detailed visibility and control of application performance.
To learn more about how Infovista's application-aware SD-WAN solution, Ipanema, regulates network traffic for retailers, check out this case study with French retailer Nature & Découvertes.