Engagement Director, Christopher Bousquet, Outlines a Successful Ecommerce Holiday Readiness Strategy (continued)
In Phase I of our Ecommerce Holiday Readinesss blog series, we laid out the initial steps of reviewing, planning, projecting, testing, and coordinating across all teams and partners that touch your retail site. If you are still thinking that March is too early to start prepping for the holiday season, and that you only need a couple of months of focused efforts, that could be true.
But, the question to ask is “Will this be the only effort my teams will work on and see through inside two months?”
The answer is likely “No”.
So as spring comes upon us, this might be the right moment to begin thinking about your approach to Ecommerce Holiday Readiness. With more than 20% of the year’s annual revenue on the line, it is so important to have the time to be thoughtful, detail focused, and ensure that the time is taken to enter Holiday 2023 with the utmost confidence.
As we discussed in Phase I, successful planning and load testing efforts lead to a Code Freeze period that will see the promotion of code level site changes to production environments pause until the holiday period concludes. Small fixes or emergency fixes might continue. Though standard code promotion is paused, this does not mean development work stops. Typically, work will continue, but hold back on production release until after the holiday period is over. This is done to ensure that risk to the tested and proven site is at an absolute minimum during this critical time.
We recommend Code Freeze be a minimum of two weeks prior to the Holiday period, but take into strong consideration the Code Freeze policies and scheduling of key partners within your architecture. It’s important to know the schedules of your partners to understand when their support for your development workstream will pause and restart.
With all the planning and prep work for the site done, focus should now shift towards support and response coordination. Common “up time” guarantees from partners are typically around 99.98%. So, we are turning our focus towards the 0.02% chance of an incident.
Common “up time” guarantees from partners are typically around 99.98%. So, we are turning our focus towards the 0.02% chance of an incident.
The Service Level Agreement (SLA)
As Code Freeze nears, we need to reach out to all of our key partners to review each individual Service Level Agreement and take the time to update both contact lists and escalation paths. This effort should update the Standard Operating Procedure documents for all internal teams so that every team member who might respond to an incident knows who to contact and how best to contact them. This document will also inform leadership to the steps and actions folks will take in the event of an incident based on its severity. These documents are the insurance policy covering the online store(s). The level of detail and adherence to the process gives a BIG confidence boost to those working hard to make this year better than last.
The Internal Responders
Parallel to landing up-to-date SLA details for external partners, we need to establish the same for our internal partners. We need to take a moment to engage our cross functional teams to define who will be on call, when, and how to contact them. We also need to establish the primary responders and supporting backups. Lastly, we need to coordinate the multiple SLAs across teams to ensure coordination and, at a basic level, that folks know their roles and how to engage in the extreme of a responding moment.
We finished the planning, executed the testing, and have folks in place. The last piece is to fine tune the monitoring. Synthetic and Real User Monitoring tools are invaluable and the folks that oversee these tools are critical to a successful holiday season. In these final weeks of prep, we are leaning on these folks to optimize alerts to balance the reduction of false positives with the pinpoint accuracy of alerting to an issue at the earliest possible moment. Touching base with these folks daily is a must and so is test running their set ups to ensure complete confidence in any alert that might trigger during the holiday period. Think of these test runs like a “fire drill”. Bonus points for dry running the steps defined in the SLAs alongside the testing of the monitoring tools!
The Customer Service Team (CS Team)
As critically important as the folks running monitoring tools are to the Holiday Readiness effort, the CS Team is the flip side of the coin and equally vital. Live traffic will always be the x-factor and a frustrated customer will often alert a CS Team rep where a monitoring tool cannot detect. These hard-working folks need to well informed of the SLA defined for Ecommerce and be fully aware of the escalation path for site related concerns. The team is made even stronger when provided a script of common questions to ask a caller/live chatter that can provide detail on top of the concern raised to increase the chances of recreating the issue for remediation.
Pixel’s Got Your Back.
Phew! We made it through Phase II. As you can gather, there is a lot of work to be done. We encourage an early start and a step-by-step approach that starts with a solid plan and involvement from all teams from the beginning. If you are feeling overwhelmed and need help tackling your Ecommerce Holiday Readiness strategy and execution, PixelMEDIA Managed Services and Partnerships are here to guide and support every stage of the process.
– Chistopher Bousquet, Engagement Director, PixelMEDIA