eCommerce is Hard

We live in an environment where every known fact is up for a new release any day.

If we were high school science teachers the only significant change in the space of an entire career is the fact that a new element was added to the periodic table, or a planet is no longer a planer.

Instead today in eCommerce we have items like HTML5 and CSS3.  Named as such because they had predecessors and are guaranteed to have shiny new versions in the near future.  You as a digital professional need to know (and accept) that you can never know everything, and if you aren’t willing to upgrade your own knowlege and skills, you too will become outdated in less time than you think.

We choose eCommerce because of and not in spite of these facts.  They keep us humble.  They inspire agility and lifelong learning.

Sometimes they require us to accept failures.  We can’t always plan for volume, demand, customer engagement.  Sometimes we have to apologize for making mistakes.

In light of the holiday season I am proud of some retailers saying the simple words “We’re Sorry”.

Black Friday is hard.  Cyber Monday is harder.

If your merchandisers did their job you have the right assortment.

If your marketers did their job you have the right traffic.

If your technical team did their job your site can handle the volume.

If you can say yes to all of these statements I congatulate you.  You are rare and precious.

What the reality is for most is that one or two of those statements are true and you are left with one broken item.

Your site went down from volume.

Your traffic sucked because your message wasn’t clear.

You didn’t sell anything because your assortment/pricing weren’t on target.

All of these leave you with two options:

Option 1-Own the issues, apologize to your customers and learn from your mistakes for next year.

Option 2-Pretend they didn’t exist and hope your customers don’t hold it against you.

Most retailers hide under the guise of Option 2.

Today I would like to credit Ann Taylor for choosing Option 1.  Their site couldn’t handle the Black Friday volume.  They tried again and still couldn’t handle it. After a couple of tries they sent their customers an email saying they were sorry and offering an additional discount.

In the end what I will remember as a customer is not the outage, it is the apology and more importantly the discount.  They have pushed my loyalty up a notch just by being honest.

What makes the inner merchant in me happy is the fact that they have also managed to stretch the short window of Black Friday/Cyber Monday offers into an extra few days of sales making next years comps easier to plan for.

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