TrafficDefender - Fulfilment in eCommerce

One of the most common use cases for TrafficDefender’s virtual waiting room and online queueing solution is to prevent website crashes due to increased demand, which would cause significant damage to sales and a brand.

However, stopping high demand website crashes is not the only way TrafficDefender’s virtual waiting room protects our clients’ user experience.

Managing expectations when demand outstrips supply

When a site is busy, it’s not just the front-end of the website that is put under pressure. Spikes in demand also put strain on stock levels and supply chains as well as fulfilment and distribution. An argument between GAME and Yodel over where to aim the blame for undelivered PS5 consoles hit the news back in November 2020.

Selling out is usually a sign of a popular item but being out of stock is actually bad news for a retailer. No stock to sell means no further profits to be made, and on top of that, any customer looking for that item is forced to go to a competitor instead. This leaves the window open for lost loyalty and reduced customer lifetime value.

A common way of handling this situation is to create “virtual stock” on product pages. This means a retailer will continue selling items that are out of stock, whilst adding longer estimated delivery dates on a sliding scale, depending on availability for the item within the supply chain as dictated by their inventory management tool. The advantage of this is that customers don’t go elsewhere to buy the item and will hopefully get a realistic expectation of when they’ll receive their goods.

This creates a risk, especially where the retailer is reliant on a supply chain to restock the item, that stock will be delayed. The delivery date to the customer would be missed, potentially losing the sale and annoying the customer (in which case they may lose them permanently to a competitor). While this is hard to control via inventory management tools, it is less risky for retailers that manufacture their stock directly.

Where does queuing factor into stock and fulfilment?

Clearly there is a delicate balance between taking orders, managing stock levels and fulfilling sales made. Each have their own bottlenecks.

For taking orders, a bottleneck could be how much traffic the site can comfortably handle at once before it suffers a high demand website crash. The usefulness of a virtual waiting room is obvious here.

Let’s say the front-end website can comfortably process 1,000 sales each minute. If the fulfilment system connected to this can only process 500 orders each minute, retailers often manage this by placing orders into a backend queue. This isn’t ideal as a sudden flood of traffic can cause the two systems to go drastically out of sync. Promised fulfilment dates and stock level estimates could be affected.

Aside from the software and systems, there may be other factors affecting fulfilment capacity. The pandemic has highlighted this, with many components and materials in short supply globally. Many warehouses have had to reduce their workforce or spread them out due to social distancing measures, cutting down capacity at peak times.

In these instances, retailers need to think carefully about how to balance making sales, fulfilling orders and replenishing stock: Do they remove the ability to add items to the basket, add virtual stock with estimated delivery dates, or find a way to throttle sales to allow fulfilment to keep up whilst protecting the customer experience on the front-end?

The value of virtual queuing to order fulfilment

A strategic approach to controlling the flow of sales to protect fulfilment is by using a virtual waiting room on the front-end. A well-designed, carefully crafted online queuing experience reassures customers that their order will be delivered within the promised timeframe, whilst providing opportunities to reinforce trust in your brand.

This is especially effective for high-demand items, as an expertly constructed virtual queue page builds hype and excitement as well as protecting your back-end fulfilment systems from becoming overwhelmed.

Control sales and fulfilment with TrafficDefender

If you are a retailer who has struggled in balancing the rate of sales against stock levels and fulfilment capacity, have a conversation with our team at TrafficDefender about how we have helped eCommerce businesses in similar situations.

We believe our virtual waiting room solution is more than just an online queue to prevent website crashes due to increased demand. It’s also a strategic solution that helps businesses achieve their goals by providing full control over visitor flow and customer experience, particularly under peak trading conditions.

Book a demonstration today and we will be happy to talk about how TrafficDefender can help your business solve these problems.

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