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Thinking of snow in summer

Why would you be thinking about snow in summer? As Christmas, Black Friday, and other surrounding holiday festivities are some of the busiest shopping days annually, it's crucial for retail to be well prepared. Popularity of e-commerce also rose, with increasing amounts of retailers and consumers going digital. According to Statista, 50 to 70% of Nordic customers shop online. In 2018, over 50% reported to have bought Christmas gifts via the Internet. In the year after that, Swedish citizens were the top consumers of the Nordic e-commerce market, spending approximately 95 billion SEK. Lastly, it is expected that global online retail sales hit $4.9 trillion by the end of 2021. 

In the past few months, we have seen some businesses thrive, and others perish under the shifting dynamics. After the initial outbreak of the coronavirus, online shopping rose by about 60% according to GlobalWebIndex. With these numbers in mind, retail business owners have to start preparing for the busy holiday season. The question is: how do you keep yourself ahead of the game? 

  Not to sell but to serve

Keeping customers engaged is no small feat. In these rather unusual times, brands need to make sure they stay connected with their customers. As Chris Beer, author at GlobalWebIndex, put it: ‘brand purpose is no longer about brand health’. Brands must find new ways to show empathy with their customers, remember their values, and make them feel connected. The objective for online retail should not be to sell, it should be to serve. Projecting social and environmental responsibility, supporting your reputation and building trust for the new shopper are essential.

A good example of a company that gives meaning to this strategy is Picnic. Picnic is a fast growing online supermarket in The Netherlands, which delivers groceries to your front door. During the starting phase of the coronavirus, in collaboration with various Dutch hospitals and other care institutions, Picnic introduced the special care list. With an availability of about 500 time slots per hospital, employees in healthcare got priority when they would make a delivery order. This was to ensure that after a long day of work, healthcare employees would not be at risk of being put on the next day when all available delivery time slots were already filled. This kind of social responsibility is what will be part of ‘the new normal’ in retail.

 Preparing for peak loads

As online shopping is on the rise and new customers are finding their way to your brand, the big question is how to anchor this new normal sustainably while preparing yourself for the busiest time of year. When it comes to preparing your platform in terms of reliability and stability, Google Cloud offers several solutions. With Google Cloud Platform (GCP) online retailers reach full availability during peak loads. It allows companies to reduce costs in infrastructure. Besides, GCP offers you a dynamic architecture and scalability to grow. By being able to scale the space needed for your platform, you can be flexible in offering goods, while maintaining a secure, safe, and crisis resistant environment. And this will be extra important for the upcoming holiday season, with business as unusual.

 Taking a leap: Lush Cosmetics

Lush Cosmetics is an inspiring example of a retailer that is taking the lead. Not only with GCP, but also with its social responsibility. From day one, Lush has put an active emphasis on reducing its impact on the environment. To meet customer expectations, Lush tries to come up with creative solutions to positively impact the world. By implementing sustainable packaging, recycling products, and reducing energy consumption in production, Lush tries to do their part in solving for a better world.

Two years in a row on Boxing Day, the British cosmetic company found its website overwhelmed by peak demand. To prevent another outage, it decided to migrate its global e-commerce site to GCP in only 22 days during December, the retailer’s busiest month. Thanks to a successful and speedy migration, the Lush website handled its first Boxing Day with no instability or outages, while in the longer term, Lush has cut hosting costs by 40% as a result of migrating to GCP.

So how did Google Cloud tools add value to a smooth migration process? We offered an intuitive interface over tools for speedy deployment, rapid feedback and easy modification that proved core to meeting this tight timeframe. The project team used G Suite to collaborate and share information quickly and easily. With rapid VM deployment on Google Compute Engine, whole environments were provisioned and destroyed in minutes, so the team could test and deploy at speed. By using Google Cloud SQL and other managed services on GCP, Lush took back control of its infrastructure while optimising its systems for effective scaling.