The IT Grinch: The lack of scalability that ruined Christmas

March 21, 2023
The IT Grinch: The lack of scalability that ruined Christmas

“The holiday season is here, meaning Black Friday is a real test for some retailers. I’ve been thinking about how a lack of scalability can lead to not only poor customer experience, but unflattering sales.”

Whether you play Black Friday like it’s a highly competitive strategy game, or you’re a notoriously last-minute gift grabber, the technologies underpinning high street stores probably don’t cross the minds of holiday shoppers. But these tools are like Santa’s elves- hidden and invisible to us, yet hard at work making the magic happen. For retailers, all systems become mission-critical at Christmas and especially on Black Friday, when the implications of failing to deliver a seamless, omnichannel customer experience are huge.

How can you ensure that you’re providing this critical experience? We’ve outlined a few digital transformation strategies based on the effective management of data analytics alongside a comprehensive Hybrid Cloud strategy that includes Container-based architecture.

Making a list and checking it twice

Emerging digital channels have been a tremendous help for retailers, creating a growing number of opportunities to capture customer data; when every interaction is a collection point, amassing data is not hard, but using it to effectively guide your business strategy can be a challenge. One great application of data in the retail industry is to create a single customer view- a summary of a customer journey collected across channels from card transactions, logins to loyalty programmes or IP addresses. These records can be used to provide customers with relevant marketing information about products or services they’ll need in the future. Customer X might purchase a pair of trainers in November, if the average pair of trainers is worn out in 4 months a retailer can seamlessly anticipate that Customer X will need a new pair around February. What a great time to offer them a discount code on their favourite brand of sportswear!

Whether you’re interested in using Big Data to increase loyalty, or attract new customers, retailers that use predictive modelling can effectively meet the challenges of supply and demand by scaling in response to peak sales times. A proactive approach to managing data is a surefire way to improve customer acquisition and retention to keep ahead of the competition.

Hybrid Cloud is coming to town

Still looking for a good reason to take your business into the Cloud? Many decision makers balk at making this investment, unaware of the benefits they’re losing out on. Even if it’s still ‘getting the job done’, on-premise infrastructure simply can’t scale to meet sudden and dramatic changes in customer behavior. Cloud-based infrastructure and applications can easily provision new services across multiple geographic areas and allow for region-specific scaling.

As its popularity grows in the UK, Black Friday is now the highest traffic day of the year for e-commerce platforms. According to a BBC report, one major online retailer had over 13,000 Black Friday shoppers visiting their site per minute on the last Friday of 2018. Such high volumes of traffic require greatly extending resources without compromising the customer experience- a problem with a Cloud based solution.

Have yourself a merry little Microservice

A key component of a Cloud-Native landscape, anyone looking to build scalable architecture should consider the many advantages of Microservices. By breaking applications down into smaller, single-purpose functions, they can quickly be spun up, and torn down again to meet changing demand. For example, if there is an anticipated 5x spike in inventory searches on Black Friday, a retailer can scale up this specific function of the platform. Working separately from, but in tandem with the enterprise system, lightweight and independent microservices make adding new functions and services (such as web payments) onto an existing platform easy. Through both traditional and mobile apps, integrating microservices as part of a Cloud-centric strategy allow retailers to flex their digital capabilities by quickly responding to shifting market demands.

While nothing can 100% failure-proof your architecture, microservices will contain any potential failures to a single system, limiting disruption and allowing for simpler, target focused problem solving. With Container infrastructure and a reliable Container Management Platform (such as Kubernetes) you can deploy the same image multiple times, and allow for faster runtimes of your Microservices.

2019 saw headlines dominated by news of major retailers going into administration one after the other. And there are the stories we don’t hear- for every collapsed brick and mortar store there are a dozen more silently struggling to keep their doors open. Retailers looking to avoid the same fate must rise to the challenge of digital disruption, and take advantage of the opportunities to innovate and thrive. Unlike Black Friday deals, the strategies discussed in this article aren’t for one day only. Implementing these measures year-round will insulate your organization against future disruptions and create a solid foundation on which to stimulate growth.