With online retailers offering their best deals even earlier this holiday season, the competition will be fierce. Despite varying degrees of success within the retail sector over the last 20 months, there is a universal appetite to take advantage of this busy time. For some, this is a chance to reinforce the massive gains they’ve made during the pandemic, while for others it’s an opportunity to claw back some of the damage inflicted during this difficult period.

Canadians are demanding a new level of digital experience

However they’ve fared during the pandemic, it’s important that retailers recognize that consumer attitudes towards online shopping have changed drastically. People have had no choice but to rely on applications and digital services in almost all areas of their lives and, as a result, their expectations for these services are at an all-time high. They’ve seen the incredible types of digital experiences offered by some retailers and they’re now wanting this every time they engage with a brand online.

A recent report found 60 per cent of Canadians’ expectations of digital services have changed forever and they won’t tolerate poor performance anymore. Perhaps even more alarming for retailers was the fact that half of Canadians (51 per cent) stated that brands have only one shot to impress them and that if their digital service doesn’t perform, they won’t use it again. What happens is they simply delete the application and immediately switch to an alternative provider. For retailers, that hard-won brand loyalty that was cultivated over many years can now disappear instantly.

‘Tis the season for gratitude

On the flip side, the same research found that online shoppers have become far more likely to acknowledge and appreciate those brands that are able to deliver the optimal digital experiences they have come to expect. Over the last 20 months, people have come to rely on applications as a lifeline to normality during these troubled times, and they’re acutely aware of the efforts that some brands have made to improve their digital services to support customers during the pandemic. And significantly, 62 per cent of Canadians stated that they now feel more loyal to brands that have gone above and beyond with the quality of their digital service.

With product shortages and ongoing concerns around supply chain issues this holiday season, the sense of gratitude that consumers will feel towards any retailer that can provide a faultless experience will grow.

The key to driving customer loyalty is now IT performance

Retailers have an unprecedented opportunity to establish trusted and sustainable relationships with their customers if they’re able to provide them with applications and digital services that make a real impact for them over the holidays.

But in order to unlock this opportunity, retailers must ensure their applications and wider IT infrastructure are able to stand up to huge spikes in demand during this peak shopping season. They simply cannot risk their applications performing at anything less than optimal level, let alone suffering the type of high-profile outages that have hit some retailers over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday period in years past. Recent cloud and social media outages should serve as a timely and stark reminder of the importance of faultless digital experience.

Retail leaders need to recognize that their technologists require new tools and fresh approaches in order to manage and optimize performance across what is now a far more complex IT environment. The traditional monitoring tools that are still being deployed widely across the retail sector simply don’t give technologists the insight they need to quickly identify IT performance issues and to fix them before they impact customers.

In fact, a recent poll conducted amongst global IT decision-makers in the aftermath of Facebook’s service disruption in October found that only 27 per cent of technologists feel entirely confident that their current monitoring tools are adequate to manage IT performance and deliver seamless digital experiences.

Instead, retail technologists need to have a single, unified view of IT performance, right across the IT estate – which is called full-stack observability. Alongside this, they need to connect IT performance data with real-time business metrics. This is the only way technologists can cut through the data noise and pinpoint the issues that could cause serious damage to the customer experience (and, ultimately, to the business itself).

The stakes have been raised for online retailers this holiday season. No longer are they simply battling to secure consumer dollars; instead, there is a bigger, longer-term prize up for grabs. Customer loyalty and trust hinges on their ability to consistently deliver faultless digital experiences.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
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Joe Byrne
Joe Byrne is Vice President of Technology Strategy and Executive CTO, AppDynamics, a part of Cisco. His primary focus is on working with customers and prospects on APM strategy and helping with digital transformations. He also works closely with Sales, Marketing, Product and Engineering on product strategy. Prior to AppDynamics, Joe held technology leadership roles at Albertsons, EllieMae and Johnson and Johnson.