During this festive season of Dussehra and Diwali, Indian retailers are predicted to generate US$9.2 billion in online sales, according to Forrester.
The COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns have transformed buying behavior, with consumers losing their inhibitions around online purchasing and gaining confidence in the choice and convenience that online shopping offers.
For retailers, it’s a welcome boost but one that has imposed critical pressure on websites and digital assets. With 52 percent of Indian tech leaders reporting that they experience outages multiple times each day, according to New Relic’s 2021 Observability Forecast, there's a huge amount of room for improvement.
All the more, in the lead up to the peak retail season during Navaratri and ushering in Diwali festivities, it becomes even more important to ensure a smooth sales process.
To ensure that tech teams can handle a spike in demand and guarantee a smooth customer journey, there are several key steps to take, including the following recommendations.
Double Down on Delivering Superior Digital Customer Experiences
Ensuring swift response times should be at the top of the list when it comes to creating the best customer experiences. If it takes more than a few seconds to load a page, customers tend to switch to another platform or a transaction simply won’t go through. This is why DevOps can play a major role in terms of testing the customer experience ahead of time and are making sure that even during peak volumes, load times are within industry standards and customer expectations.
To do this, engineers need to build full observability into the customer journey and see exactly what is going on. Observability goes beyond monitoring to proactively collect, visualize, and apply intelligence; creating a visualization of an entire software environment. It helps tech teams to understand the behavior of their complex digital systems in a streamlined way. If engineers don’t know what customers are experiencing and why, they can’t fix issues. Across India, the most common use case for observability is to support digital transformation efforts to improve customer experience and gain a competitive advantage (61 percent according to the 2021 Observability Forecast research).
Understand Your Full Software Stack
Modern software stacks are increasingly complex. But it’s not just your own stack you need to worry about: any third parties you connect with represent potentially weak links in the chain. Many services have to make interactions with third-party tools (for things such as delivery) and when the payment has to be made via a third-party platform, there’s a lot of back and forth between the systems. There’s no point in having your website functioning flawlessly if your payment provider goes down. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that your partners are also sufficiently resilient in being able to support sales.
Another issue is that while you can optimize your own stack, you can’t do much about the underlying telecommunications infrastructure. The majority of India’s population lives in non-metropolitan areas. In metros, the load times are quite quick but in regional locations, government data shows that internet speeds are still not on par with metropolitan areas. This makes it all the more important for an app or website to be as responsive as possible so that it doesn’t add more waiting time.
Replace Manual Monitoring with the Power of Observability
Across India, software and systems interruptions are largely uncovered through multiple monitoring tools and manual checks and tests. Only 11 percent of respondents from India have one observability platform as a single source of truth, according to the Observability Forecast research.
Many organizations are dealing with tool sprawl which is expensive and cumbersome. Additionally, most older, legacy tools can no longer cope with the speed, volumes, and diversity of data in today’s complex IT environments.
By using artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate and enhance monitoring, IT teams can cut through the ‘noise’ and get clarity on which events are actually impacting end users. Issues can also be pinpointed ahead of time, allowing for outages to be prevented.
Downtime is expensive enough for any business, but for retailers, it can be catastrophic. According to Top10VPN, which tracks the financial impact of internet shutdowns, India was the most economically impacted nation in 2020 with US$2.8 billion lost due to these website shutdowns. And then there are intangible, longer-term losses, such as customers going elsewhere in the future, brand reputation damage, and a loss of confidence among partners and suppliers.
India is leading the globe in relation to the importance of observability with the research showing that 75 percent of respondents believe that observability is ‘very important’. This is a very encouraging sign. Given that the festive season is a time when everyone is shopping and every retailer is trying to grab buyers’ attention, it’s vital to provide a compelling, seamless user experience. Observability not only enables this, but it also helps increase speed to market for new products by 57 percent, according to the Observability Forecast. Features to further enhance the user experience can be tested much more easily and rolled out more quickly.
Ultimately, having observability is not just about being responsive to change, but about looking to the horizon and seeing what’s coming down the pipeline and how you can embrace change ahead of time.