24x7x365 availability is a strategic necessity if you want to reach a global customer base.
Buying habits have never been static, but developments in internet technology have accelerated the pace of change. And by opening the global marketplace to almost any business, the shift in recent years has been more dramatic than ever.
Here are some of the main trends for business to be aware of… and capitalise on.
The Vampire Economy
By entering the global marketplace, businesses are now expected to be available day or night, seven days a week. This has created a self-propagating cycle: customers now expect to be able to buy what they want, when they want, even if that means placing an order with an overseas supplier simply because they are available outside traditional UK trading hours. In order to manage this competition, businesses must be available 24x7x365.
And as more services become available around the clock, customer expectations are that all businesses offer similar out-of-hours support. If your company is unable to cater for these “vampires”, you will lose out to your always-on competitors.
"Companies cannot carry on with business as usual. There’s no such thing any more."
The Remote Economy
Customers not only expect your business to be available whenever they want – they also prefer to contact you without having to physically get to you. As such, there is an increased expectation that orders for goods and services can be fulfilled remotely.
In order to keep up with the Remote Economy, businesses need to modernise ordering systems, taking as much of the process online as possible. This is also true of companies dealing in bespoke goods, with Warby Parker in the US being a good example. This online optician provides a "try at home" service for glasses frames – as well as retail locations where shoppers can “drop in” for an eye test, or for after-sales service.
If you have a valid prescription, why would you not try a product in the comfort of your own home? Increasingly, retailers and service providers are having to build convenience into their offering – preferably deliverable remotely.
Instant order fulfilment
Sitting behind the Vampire and Remote economies is the supply chain, itself steadily increasing in importance. Shoppers know that a lag between order and fulfilment is inevitable when ordering online – but they don’t like it.
Consequently, retailers are being forced to optimise and streamline their supply chain to decrease that lag. For example, omnichannel retailers are increasingly deploying click-and-collect type services so that the only delay is how long it takes the customer to get to a store.
Others, like Next, are extending the order window; customers can place an order online up until midnight, and take delivery the very next day. Amazon, always seeking to push boundaries, is even offering same-day delivery in some parts of the UK, creating the illusion of instant fulfilment.
Spikes in demand
Where retail was once heavily tied to Christmas sales, the creation of new calendar dates – Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day – has helped to increase sales year-round. At the same time, retailers have created artificial peaks in demand that need to be managed carefully if they are to deliver a consistently high quality of service.
Website crashes are considered inexcusable by consumers, particularly as businesses can increasingly manage surges without significant impact on performance. The advent of on-demand, fully-scalable cloud infrastructure means that any business can make the required changes – and most ecommerce sites are being redeveloped to take advantage of these capabilities.
The new globalised market offers customers increased choice of potential suppliers, as well as creating the Vampire Economy. As a result, your business must fight harder than ever to capture their attention – and their spend.
Personalisation – building customised offers using previous purchase history – is the current standard for most digital marketing. But when everyone does something, its persuasive power is reduced. The next evolution?
Under this new model, insights about the customer and their preferences are still combined to create personalised offers. However, tailored deals are delivered to the customer in real time on your website. So for example, previous purchase history shows that your customer bought a new kettle six months ago - that insight can be used to drive a display ad campaign promoting a descaling solution. Something that they actually need, about the time that they will need to use it.
Naturally, the infrastructure behind your website needs to be updated to make this possible, using Kubernetes-based containers to spin up services on a per-session basis for instance. This way a custom session can deliver custom content without impacting overall site performance. And because these Kubernetes containers are hosted in the cloud, they can be created and destroyed as and when required, maximising personalisation potential and minimising running costs.
It’s time to go all-in
It is now commonly accepted that Cloud platforms are the way forward for most businesses. But this recommendation comes with a caution: ensure you have the right go-to-Cloud strategy in place first.
Without fully aligning IT plans with the overall business goals, companies will be unable to define the infrastructure they need. And they won’t be able to define the correct Cloud system to support those goals.
But it doesn’t stop there. Businesses also need to define a managed migration plan, and to realistically assess and how ready (or not) their estate is for the Cloud.
The reality is that established companies cannot carry on with business as usual. There’s no such thing any more. The new economic models and changing customer demands mean that all businesses need to be totally accessible and instantly approachable. For this to happen, a rock-solid, fully scalable IT infrastructure is needed.
To keep up with changes in the global marketplace, businesses must:
- Be available 24x7x365.
- Simplify order fulfilment.
- Make traditionally offline services available online.
- Deliver hyper-personalisation to encourage repeat visits and purchases.
- Ensure their go-to-Cloud is fit for purpose.