As retailers enter the 2013 holiday season, Avnet Technology Solutions, the global IT solutions distribution leader and an operating group of Avnet, Inc. (NYSE: AVT), is offering advice that solution providers and value-added resellers (VARs) in the U.S. and Canada can use to help their retail clients optimize e-commerce systems for the end-of-year increased demand. These practical steps are designed to help partners address their retail clients’ business challenges, such as e-commerce system slowdowns and failures. E-commerce system performance will be a significant source of revenue generation and an especially important area for retailers’ attention as 2013 draws to a close. Shop.org, a digital commerce community for the world’s largest retail trade association – National Retail Federation (NRF), anticipates that 2013 online holiday sales in November and December will grow between 13 percent and 15 percent over last year’s holiday season, to as much as $82 billion. “Solution providers and VARs are in an excellent position to contribute to trouble-free online ordering, transaction processing and logistics for their retail clients,” said Tony Vottima, senior vice president and general manager, Avnet Services, Americas. “These tips demonstrate the skills and capabilities Avnet can provide to partners to help them engage their retail clients in conversations about the readiness of their IT systems before the holiday season hits full force, especially since retailers’ success relies on strong holiday sales.” Avnet, through its Avnet Services organization, has helped some of the world’s largest retailers create exceptional digital shopping experiences through e-commerce strategy development and solution design. Avnet’s e-commerce experts have identified five key areas for partners to explore with their retail clients in advance of the holiday season, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday. These include:
- Determine the “now” normal – Partners should work with their retail clients to baseline e-commerce sites before the holiday season begins, helping retailers immediately recognize if something abnormal occurs during the holiday season. Also, auditing sites allows partners and retailers to identify small and recurring errors that could multiply during heavy site usage. Remediating these seemingly small problems before the holiday season, such as simply reducing errors written to logs, can significantly improve site performance during critical periods.
- Reduce risk areas – Partners should also carefully review retailers’ local and edge caching strategies, which often have not been updated since their sites went live. Any adjustments made should be tested to reduce the risk of a poorly performing site. Additionally, partners should examine retailers’ sites holistically. An assessment of items such as infrastructure stability, bandwidth usage, network backups and other back-end systems can help identify areas that could have a negative impact under increased holiday transactional loads.
- Optimize channels – Customers expect easy access to e-commerce sites through any device. Partners can work with retailers to incorporate solutions, such as responsive web design (RWD), into retailers’ sites. This allows retailers to build one set of source code that can be adapted to any new device—smartphones, tablets, desktop browsers, etc.
- Detect early, resolve quickly – Partners should also ensure that their retail clients have quantitative and qualitative tools to help IT support teams proactively manage the site during heavy loads. Actively monitoring user experiences can help retailers rapidly pinpoint issues, such as long-running pages and bad promotion codes, as they arise, reducing their impact.
- Check in – As trusted advisors, partners should also discuss customer support team communication strategies with retailers. Customer support teams are often not as familiar with e-commerce sites as they need to be. By making time before the holiday season to gauge the support team’s confidence, retailers can help ensure support teams have 100 percent proficiency navigating and working e-commerce sites. If needed, partners and retailers can create refresher training programs to review overall operations, with an emphasis on explaining changes that have occurred since the previous holiday season.