How to balance stock levels and web traffic on Black Friday

In recent years, more and more retail spend has moved from in person to online, with analysts predicting this trend to continue. However, the expansion of online retail was accelerated at unprecedented levels by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Every industry was disrupted by Covid restrictions, but the changes within retail have made it much more difficult to forecast what will come next with much certainty.

Retail has also been affected by manufacturing limitations that have come about since the start of the pandemic. Demand for specific materials and components has outstripped supply, meaning many retailers have been unable to maximize these lines of business.

Black Friday best practices for retailers

These factors all contribute to an unusual degree of uncertainty for the retail industry. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday fast approaching, retailers are having to prepare for multiple outcomes to quell this unpredictability.

During this time, many retailers have experienced rapid business growth as more consumers turned to eCommerce platforms to buy. Many retail businesses both big and small that embraced online ordering, delivery and curbside pickup services have flourished in turnover and headcount.

Rapid business growth creates new bottlenecks

This sudden expansion has not come without teething problems. When restrictions were strict and widespread, getting enough staff in warehouses to fulfill orders was a challenge for many. Web and IT infrastructure was also pushed beyond capacity in many cases, forcing businesses to push their platforms beyond their intended means to stay operational.

With Black Friday looming, supply chain problems also play a part in decisions around what lines to put on sale. Products must be desirable while at an attractive price point, and abundant enough to keep Black Friday marketing promotions going through extended sales periods, yet scarce enough to be sought after by shoppers.

After all, a key learning from our research into queue psychology is that scarcity boosts demand and the value people place onto goods and services, so this is a great way to boost conversion rate.

Website complexity compounded by high traffic

As retail businesses took opportunities to serve new demographics through Covid through online shopping, demand and growth has been exponential. However, too much growth too fast can be dangerous for any business.

Without a good technological foundation, a growing eCommerce business can quickly crumble. For example, if traffic coming into a site is more than the system was built to handle, there can be unwanted and damaging consequences.

The more systems you have working together to deliver your website, the more potential bottlenecks you have. The more traffic coming into a site, the more likely it is that one of these bottlenecks will create problems, such as parts of the site not loading, images and styling being removed, or functionality such as the checkout process breaking.

Another potential bottleneck is in the synchronization between your product pages and your inventory reporting. If you lose the link between these, you risk overselling stock, leading to several probable outcomes.

First, you may be unable to deliver to customers within the promised timeframe at the point of sale, causing frustration and added support overheads when customers enquire about their purchases.  When restocking quickly to remedy the problem, retailers may also get less favorable margins on the items, affecting revenue targets and profitability. Conversely, a system may show items as out of stock when this is not the case, in which case revenue would be lost on unsold stock.

Protect your web systems from reaching critical mass

Retail websites can control the traffic coming into their sites using a virtual waiting room like TrafficDefender. This allows visitors to be granted access to the website at a rate the website can handle, whilst presenting a fair and consistent experience to all customers.

Virtual waiting rooms prevent bottlenecks being reached anywhere in the web application, so there are no nasty surprises on busy days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Alongside a robust plan for load testing and infrastructure scaling, online queue systems remove the stress from eCommerce IT teams on these critical business days.

Get a free demo of TrafficDefender, which is used by some of the best-known online retailers, today.

Join our upcoming webinar with marketing experts Spike: “Is Your Retail Business Prepared for Black Friday 2021?” at 4pm BST on 27th July 2021.

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