We are approaching the busiest online shopping season of the year and whether you run an ecommerce store or sell digital goods / services you are going to want to be on your A game. Maarten Wensveen, CTO at the$2.5 billion company Cimpress (NASDAQ: CMPR, the parent to Vistaprint) shares some advice he learned from running VistaPrint and a dozen more e-commerce mass customization businesses around the world. The company, whose businesses often ship 60% more customer orders per day during the holiday season compared to an ‘average’ day, has lots of experience preparing for the rush. Our learnings over the years include these four steps:
- Put Customer Experience First
- Though the holidays are a busy time, shoppers still expect the same customer experience that they receive during any other part of the year. In fact, often, their purchases are even more important to them than at other times of the year. Focusing on efficiency improvements during the offseason is a great way to ensure your e-commerce site delivers during the peak season. For example, Cimpress is continually updating its design process to ensure it’s easy for customers to design products they love (apparel, accessories, etc.). This includes validating that customers’ uploaded images will print well and rendering instant and realistic previews that allow a shopper to review and make changes to their product before purchasing. This also increases customers’ confidence in the product they are ordering, increasing their likelihood to order.
- Provide Affordable, On-time Delivery
- Online shoppers have come to expect fast, affordable (if not, free) delivery 365 days a year. Delivering orders on time is therefore essential for earning a lifetime customer. That’s why Cimpress has focused on its logistics network and makes it available to all of its brands through its shipping API. Not only does it ensure faster delivery for orders, but cost savings that can be passed on to the customer. It is also very important to provide very clear information to customers about different shipping options and when customers can expect their products.
- Don’t Just Buy More Hardware, Consider the Cloud
- Cimpress’ ecommerce businesses can ship over one hundred thousand orders daily during the holiday season. A majority of these products have personalized images or designs that are uploaded by customers directly to our sites. Given the scale during this busy time, it’s critical that our businesses’ websites are running at top speed. Having storage and services that are cloud-based ensures that we don’t experience any slowness, and don’t need to carry excess storage or physical hardware that is underutilized during the offseason.
- Be Prepared, Because Bad Things Will Happen
- All kinds of problems can and will happen that will impact operations like a flood affecting a facility, a supplier experiencing a strike, or a volcanic eruption disrupting transportation and customer deliveries. The effect of these problems can be more acute during the holiday period because there is less slack in the system and customer expectations may be even more exacting. It is important to have very good monitoring to detect when problems are arising and to have built some flexibility into your operations and infrastructure that lets you react to these challenges. For example, leveraging the cloud the right way gives an organization the ability to scale systems fairly easily; building redundancy in your supplier, production, and delivery networks allows for automatic or manual failover as needed.
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