8 Tips for Retailers for a Smooth Holiday Season

Holiday sales can account for up to 50 percent of the annual revenue for a retailer, so it is crucial that retail information systems be performing at their best. Both consumer-facing and backend technologies become more intertwined as retailers become more digitally focused, availability and resiliency are the foundation of a great holiday retail season. Here are 8 tips to ensure that your network and applications are in tip-top shape for the holidays!
1. Bring Marketing and IT to the same table.
Scalability is always good, but it helps to know just how much scaling is needed. Tighten collaboration between Marketing and IT. If Marketing shares its plans for new promotions, special offers, and ad campaigns, systems and applications can be prepared for heavier traffic.
2. Double check your supply chain.
Sales aren’t just about a customer picking up an item in your store or clicking on a product online. Sales involve your suppliers, warehouse, distribution systems and logistics applications as well. A disruption anywhere along the supply chain can devastate your holiday retail season.
3. Pay attention to your backend and your workload.
Front end systems get a lot of attention when it comes to availability and resiliency, but you should also assess your backend network, storage, and backups to verify that such systems can scale. Can you balance the workload by splitting transactions between different facilities? If a primary facility goes off-line temporarily, can the other facility handle the full load without crashing?
4. Put redundant payment processing systems in place.
Nothing should stand in the way of a customer making a purchase! If your primary payment processing system goes down, processing should switch seamlessly to a secondary system.
5. Accelerate digital transformation.
A recent survey found that 90 percent of IT decision makers in the retail sector believe that digital adoption is critical in remaining competitive. Create opportunities to introduce new digital tools, confirm that mobile apps and other new technologies are performing as expected and haven’t compromised security, and integrate your network and legacy applications properly.
6. Update your disaster recovery and business continuity plans.
This is not just having a tape backup, but rather having processes, people and plans in place to keep the business running no matter what happens. Ensure that any new systems or applications being launched for the holidays are included in the plan. Also, does your plan encompass potential problems in your supply chain? It should.
7. Test your disaster recovery plan.
Performing a disaster recovery test may sound like more trouble than it is worth. It is not. Disaster recovery tests give people the “muscle memory” they need to respond in a crisis with confidence and skill. Tests also reveal gaps in the disaster recovery plan that affect business resiliency.
The final quarter of the year is critical for your retail business. Losing even a few days could mean the difference between ending the year in the red or in the black. Use these tips to keep your systems available and your business resilient all through the holidays!
Adjoa Taylor is a senior product manager at Sungard Availability Services (Sungard AS)