by Tom Shackleton
Entering the office on a morning to see a big increase in visitors to your site is a rewarding and exciting feeling for any eCommerce merchant. You work hard to increase sales and build a strong brand, so seeing rising sales is fantastic.
However, handling demand spikes poorly can be potentially damaging to your business. You don’t want to disappoint customers with a slow site or slipping delivery estimates, so you need to handle demand spikes effectively.
If you’re to cope with increased orders and take advantage of higher demand, you’ll have to anticipate, prepare for and react to demand spikes. Here’s how:
Anticipating Demand Spikes
If you’re to prepare well for increased sales and higher visitor volumes, you’ll first need to be able to identify where demand spikes could potentially occur.
This means good analysis and communication. You’ll have to be able to monitor demand and anticipate how demand for your products will change over time.
Use Past Sales Data
Firstly, use your past sales data to spot where spikes have occurred in the past. Some of these may not be replicated again, as they may have been due to one off events or marketing campaigns. However, you’ll be able to spot some trends in your sales data and identify times that could place stress on your eCommerce store.
For example, you can pick out sales spikes for events like Black Friday and use them to gauge sales volumes for next year’s event. You can also look for seasonal trends such as Christmas shopping and see which days put the most pressure on your systems.
Look at Industry Trends
As well as your own data, it’s also worth looking at industry data and trends. These can include general sales trends, but also things like press attention and product launches.
Monitoring industry news for media attention is a great way of anticipating trends. Have your products been featured in a magazine article or by an influencer? Then you’re probably going to see an impact on demand.
Communicate with The Marketing Team
One of the easiest ways to anticipate demand spikes is simply by communicating with your marketing team. You need to be aware of any planned marketing activity and be able to prepare.
Liaising with your marketing team will give your a much better picture of potential demand. After all, increasing your sales is the ultimate aim of your marketing campaigns, so what’s the use in attracting loads of extra traffic if your site can’t cope?
Preparing for Increased Demand
Once you’ve managed to identify where potential demand spikes could occur, you can begin to plan for the increased demand. Great preparation should leave you ideally positioned to make the most of your high traffic and leave you with plenty of new, happy customers.
Scale Up Your Hosting
You’ll want to ensure that your hosting can cope with the increase in traffic, so scale up your hosting package if necessary. This can give you the extra capacity to handle higher demand and make sure that customers don’t notice any difference.
Talk to your hosting provider about a scaling option that would work for your store. They should be able to advise you of the best way to prepare for additional demand and keep it affordable.
Of course, if you have a fully hosted platform like Shopify, your store will automatically adapt to a traffic spike without any extra cost for your store.
Prepare Your Stock
What good is having all of those extra visitors if they have nothing to buy?
Make sure that you order extra stock well in advance to cope with your anticipated demand spikes. If you’re using past data, you should be able to make an informed decision on how much stock to order and enable yourself to cover demand.
It’s also a good idea to communicate with suppliers and put re-stocking arrangements in place, just in case your demand spike is even bigger than anticipated. Keeping your suppliers in the loop should help them to fulfil your orders more quickly.
Reacting to Demand Spikes
For all of your preparation, sometimes you can’t predict spikes in demand. A product could be featured in a blog, news site or just become a hit. Here’s how to react to your demand spikes, both anticipated and out of the blue:
Make Customers Aware
First things first - make your customers aware that you’re experiencing high demand. This could be through a message on your site, social media post or both.
If your delivery times are likely to fall back, make sure that customers are informed, and that you manage their expectations. You want your customers to be informed, but also aware that you have the situation under control.
You could even use higher demand to your advantage and create a sense of urgency for customers, letting them know that stock is limited.
Contact Hosting Provider
Contacting your hosting provider and informing them of the situation is a good idea at this point. They may be able to scale up your hosting package for a short period of time to help your store stay online.
Even if there is nothing they can do to help immediately, keeping your hosting provider informed of the situation will at least enable them to monitor your site and potentially stop it from going down.
Monitor Your Performance
In a high demand situation, you should be monitoring the status of your store on a regular basis. Having constant updates on shipping status, traffic volumes, site speed and other metrics can help you react quickly to issues as they arise.
Monitoring your performance will also allow you to update customers on the status of their orders. If you are experiencing delays in processing orders, ensuring customers are up to date can be the key to maintaining a strong brand image.
They key to dealing with spikes in demand is preparation. If you prepare well, you can take full advantage of your increased site traffic and use it to lift your brand to the next level. If you are unable to prepare, be sure to monitor the situation and manage expectations.
Whichever the case, following the points in the article can help you navigate periods of high demand successfully and reap the rewards of all of that hard work marketing and growing your business.
What to know how Statement can help you manage demand spikes within your eCommerce store? We began Statement as an internal team of an established, growing online retail brand so we know all too well about spikes in orders (and also concerning dips in orders!). Get in touch and we’d be happy to meet with you and discuss anything you may need.