If you’re a retailer with an online presence, the holiday season is likely your busiest time of the year. Last year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales reached close to $14 billion in the United States and are expected to increase this year.
As the official start of the holiday shopping season, Black Friday and Cyber Monday account for about 30% of a retailer’s annual sales. Those with an online presence have a unique technology challenge. They can directly see a significant increase in their short-term peak requests from website visits. Without a proper technology infrastructure, this can lead to downtime — and loss of sales from online shopper frustrations and shopping cart abandonment.
One option to consider is a cloud-based infrastructure that provides scalability so you can expand your capacity during this peak time, and then reduce it after the busy holiday season. This is often a more affordable option, since you pay only for the services you use at a given time. Below are the characteristics of a peak event, which may also occur at other times of the year, such as during the back to school shopping season.
- Increased traffic that can overwhelm the back end
- Rapid scaling on the day sales begin
- Reduced scaling after the traffic peaks.
If you have a retail business that uses location-based services, then Google Maps Platform gives you the ability to increase customer satisfaction and sales during the holiday shopping season with products such as Maps, Routes and Places. Combined with a cloud platform, these retail technology products provide a solid technology infrastructure to handle increased traffic during this busy time of year.
How Retailers Use Google Maps Platform
There are several ways that retailers use location-based services throughout the year and during the holiday shopping season.
1. Store Locator
For customers to buy from you, they first need to know where you are. To find a physical location, most customers will begin on your website or mobile app. Google Maps Platform allows you to create and deliver a virtual presence. Using the Google Maps API, you can connect real-time data to a customer looking for a nearby location. By having a store locator on your website or mobile app, you can display related information, including hours, address or photos.
2. Ecommerce Checkout
When a customer makes a purchase online, Places Autocomplete helps by automatically entering personal information such as the billing or shipping address during the checkout process. This tool guarantees you will never have a bad address again. Customers need only enter the first several characters of their addresses, then autocomplete steps in and fills in the rest by supplying potential matches from which they can select. The remaining fields are then auto-filled in the form fields. Whether you have an e-commerce site, or are simply doing in-person mobile checkouts, this solution is most beneficial when customers are required to type their information into a small screen such as a mobile device or tablet, since that is when mistakes in spelling or typing are most likely to occur. It also helps to reduce shopping cart abandonment.
3. Indoor Mapping
Create a better retail customer experience across multiple devices with indoor mapping. Use this tool to map malls or large department stores. You can help customers easily find products with location-based information added directly to your website or mobile app. Universal icons help guide customers where they need to go, and Google Maps Platform’s location accuracy gives them all of this in the palm of their hand. Indoor mapping also allows the customer to effortlessly switch floors and zoom in on a specific point of interest such as a Black Friday sale.
4. In-Store Pickup
Another possible retail use for Google Maps Platform during the holiday shopping season is in-store pickup. A customer making an online purchase and proceeding to the checkout to select a shipping option is then greeted with a message saying that the item is available for in-store pickup. If the customer selects this option, he or she will be directed to the closest location with the just-purchased product in stock. A large global retailer has been successful using this tool throughout the year to ensure customers receive their order in the fastest way possible.
Getting Ready for Black Friday and Cyber Monday
Before a major shopping event like Black Friday, you’ll need to start planning and preparing well in advance. Taking the time to create a project plan for your developers and operations staff will help keep everything running smoothly.
Start the capacity planning process early in the year to fully prepare for an increase of visitors to your website during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Begin this process by determining your goals and strategies for the holiday shopping season. Analyze your existing data needs and tech infrastructure to determine how they need to be scaled during this time. After the data is collected, establish program management — and plan the architecture and how it will scale. Your plan should be cross-functional and have the ability to be executed by everyone from engineering to operations along with other business stakeholders.
With a plan in place, it’s now time to focus on getting ready for the holiday shopping season and this peak traffic event. At this stage, begin reliability tests of your system for scalability, including load testing to handle peak traffic. This will ensure that your site will be able to handle the increase in customer traffic and sales. It will also help you determine which procedures to put in place for operations and support — and how to effectively address any issues that may arise on that day. During this practice stage, consider it a test for both your system and your operations. Create your backup plan, and prepare for a day of monitoring from the information gathered through your preparation.
When Black Friday finally arrives, you and your website will be fully prepared to handle the increase in traffic and sales. All of your planning and preparation will lead to a successful holiday shopping season without any downtime for customers, so you won’t risk losing potential sales. Consider creating a war room for Black Friday to monitor your incoming traffic throughout the day. Now that you have a plan in place and have determined your cloud needs, this peak event should be just another day for your technology infrastructure team.
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