Commerce

3 Key Commerce Areas the Texas Winter Storm Teaches Us About Being Unprepared

If you’ve been following the news recently, you’ve likely heard something about how Texas has been trampled by unusually cold temperatures and snow this past week. What you may not have heard is how unprepared the state was for this event. What was even more surprising is how unprepared I was.

You may have read a previous post I published about moving to Texas from Massachusetts. As a lifelong New Englander, I pride myself on being able to handle the “worst of the worst.” When I heard that we might get 4 to 6 inches of snow, I really didn’t think much of it because, well, I’m used to that.

During this week, some folks in our community didn’t have power for over 36 hours, had pipes burst, had no heat, and being able to find food was as bad, if not worse than at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. As all this unfolded, I found myself in a very uncomfortable position, as I never thought that 4 to 6 inches of snow would cause such havoc, even in Texas. With all of that said, there are some very important lessons here that can easily be applied to the industry we are all collectively a part of –digital commerce.

You see, I took this situation for granted. In my mind I thought, well I’ve dealt with 4 feet of snow, so what’s 4 inches? However, I underestimated the infrastructure that was in place to handle this – a critical error that could have been avoided. Which is something we all should be conscious of beyond this crisis. Here’s what I mean.

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As it pertains to commerce, we sometimes forget the infrastructure needed to “keep the lights on,” so to speak. Without a solid foundation to build upon, the house that is commerce could come crumbling down.

Here are three critical areas of commerce infrastructure that should never be overlooked.

Digital CSR Coverage

When things “go wrong,” you’ll want to be sure that you have coverage in all channels that your customers are looking to connect. Some customers may want to speak live on the phone, others may want SMS, and some may want to chat live through your site. Regardless of the medium, you need to be prepared to handle an influx in volume of customer requests in an omnichannel approach. The best way to start is to look at the breakdown of customer requests today through your sales and customer sales representative (CSR) teams, specifically looking at trends over the last year. Is any channel growing at an exponential rate? If so, focus your efforts and investment here to be able to answer your customers’ requests in the medium they desire.

The Right Commerce Platform

If you’re using a legacy commerce platform, then there are some potential risks that need to be accounted for. Outside of challenges around site performance – key site workflows and commerce features are benefits and fantastic reasons to upgrade your site – many of the commerce platforms out there today have native features that you may not need at launch, but will be happy to have access to during unexpected times. When trying to decide if it’s time to upgrade your commerce platform, consider the level of effort that’s required to maintain it, let alone extend it. If you’re spending more time trying to again, “keep the lights on,” then it’s time to look at upgrading as a potential solution.

Commerce Site Bandwidth

Last, but for sure not least, the most important area to never overlook is how your site will perform under stress. If you’re a retail business with a lot of promotions and sales, you need to be prepared to deal with the influx in site traffic. The best way to estimate if you’ll have issues here is to look at how your business is set up currently and what types of promotions you run. Does your business have peaks and valleys? Are there peak times for site traffic and ordering? Starting here is a solid way to analyze the current “state of the state” to help guide you towards reliable and sustainable solutions.

Crisis is Inevitable, But Preparedness is a Must

At the end of the day, we have no way of knowing what the future holds. In the words of Oscar Wilde, “To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect.” Expect the unexpected, and plan for it today by addressing the three areas above. For more information on how to “keep the lights” on with your commerce infrastructure, contact our commerce experts today.

About the Author

Justin Racine is a Senior Commerce Consultant with Perficient focusing on eCommerce innovation across multiple platforms and industries. Justin has 10+ years in the eCommerce space, with immense experience in the healthcare and medical space.

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