You spend months planning for the big day, but could it all be for nothing?
Whether you’re releasing a new makeup collection, a limited-edition sneaker, or a long-anticipated, next-generation gaming console, your goal is to have your product launch make a splash.
But imagine if the hype overwhelms your site. Visitor levels spike and your shoppers can’t check out. Bad bots add even more strain. Your site slows and then grinds to a complete halt.
You become a victim of your own success, and there’s no worse feeling.
To ensure your finest hour doesn’t turn into a flop, it’s critical that you ask the right questions in the planning phase. Here are five that need to be top of mind:
1. What are your goals for the launch?
As the adage goes: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” When it comes to product launch planning, you need to establish your expectations early on.
Discuss your core messaging and create buyer personas to better understand your target audience. Set specific, targeted measures around all parts of your release: collaborations, customer outreach, sales, order fulfillments, etc.
Above all, make sure these goals are SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. One goal, for example, can be to improve sales by increasing conversion rates by 5%, results which you can track in Google Analytics.
Keeping these goals in mind during preparation ensures you have a clear understanding of where you’re headed and what steps you may be lacking to create a better customer experience.
2. How are you reaching your target audience?
Promotion is a critical part of any product launch or collection release, and retailers need to have a clear communication plan in place.
But how do you plan to spread the word to your target audience? 96% of potential customers aren’t ready to buy after first clicking an advertisement, so reach out your audience through several channels. These could include social media promotions, email marketing, and influencer collaborations.
Email marketing in particular is one of your best advertising bets, with 72% of shoppers preferring to receive promotional content through email. Use it to spread the word about your event or even provide customers with exclusive offers.
That’s what jewelry designer Mejuri did as part of their customer loyalty program, letting email recipients preview sale items and buy at a reduced cost a day before the general public. The email campaign was a smash hit, creating a sense of urgency and rewarding loyal shoppers.
Influencer marketing is also effective because it uses psychological pulls like word-of-mouth and social proof, which 74% of shoppers see as a key factor in their buying decisions. If you choose to work with influencers, coordinate their work with your marketing team to develop campaign messaging and ensure your website is prepared. Failure to do so can spell disaster.
Take, for example, Sunny Co. Clothing, a California-based retailer that worked with several influencers to advertise its products, including a $65 Baywatch-inspired swimsuit giveaway. The campaign obviously drew mass interest, but their website wasn’t ready for the buzz. This led the company to change giveaway rules midway through, leaving their customers furious.
We’ve also seen collaborations done right. When online retailer Easho started working with influencers, the increased brand awareness led to unprecedented traffic to their website. However, with a virtual waiting room in place, they were able to create a stable, positive customer experience and cement their brand as a go-to destination for bulk home goods shopping.
All in all, you need a product launch communication plan in place that your website can support when interested shoppers come running.
3. Is your customer service team ready?
Your employees are your best tool in your product launch preparation. Make sure you’ve got all hands-on deck before you goes live, and before any potential chaos ensues.
Your customer service team has to be empathetic and patient to give your shoppers the best experience possible. But don’t make promises to customers that your business can’t keep. Because buyers are likely to reach out if your event misses the mark.
Sometimes it’s because a great idea goes awry. In April 2020, fashion retailer Draper James offered a free dress giveaway to hard-working teachers. The company was quickly overwhelmed after nearly 1 million teachers entered for just 250 dresses, and their team’s attempts to backtrack the giveaway into a sweepstakes made matters worse.
In the end, Draper James received heavy backlash on social media and the company even faced a lawsuit for misrepresenting the giveaway.
While this is a more extreme example of what can happen when angry customers take to social media, don’t underestimate the brand damage that can be done if shoppers aren’t satisfied. After all, almost half of online shoppers will tell their friends and family about a bad shopping experience. Is that a risk you want to take?
On the big day, make sure your team is prepped on your product messaging, and continuously monitoring social media and caller lines for any signs of dissatisfaction, responding as soon as complaints come up.
4. Are you using bot protection?
Sometimes your product launch can get unwanted attention in the form of bots. At Queue-it, we’ve seen that with limited releases like sneaker drops and with much-anticipated launches like last year’s next-generation gaming consoles.
And these tricky bots have many different methods of attack. They use their speed advantage to blow by human shoppers, often milliseconds after sales start. In addition, they have a volume advantage to circumvent customer purchase limits.
They can also hit websites with stolen card fraud, account takeovers or create fraudulent new accounts. Brute force attacks orchestrated by bots are also a common reason for website crashes. And during product launches, every minute of downtime is real money down the drain.
To combat these bad bots, many retailers – namely in footwear – turn releases into raffles, where shoppers enter a contest to win the right to buy a product. While raffles can be effective because they tie purchases to some form of identification in the physical world, they can also deflate the hype around a popular online launch. If this is the route you want to take to boot bots, it’s important to consider the drawbacks.
Currently in the U.S., there is no law against automated, bot-powered reselling as there is for products like concert tickets. That means retailers are essentially on their own when trying to protect themselves and customers from scalper bots.
In order to make sure bots don’t sabotage and steal from real customers, your business needs to fight back by investing in bot defense measures. Especially solutions that neutralize their speed and volume advantages.
5. How much traffic can your site support?
It’s 2021 and online retailers continue to crash during product launches. Something’s got to give.
Before the big day, you need to know how your website performance is affected when customers visit your site, namely your checkout payment systems and inventory pages, which are prone to traffic bottlenecks.
Your customers expect your website to be fast and operational on launch day. With up to 40% of website visitors abandoning a website that takes longer than 3 seconds to load, there’s little room for error.
You can scale up your servers if you know how much traffic you can support and what time shoppers arrive. But what do you do in the event of sudden spikes of interested buyers hitting your site?
Having a virtual waiting room in place ensures your site stays online, no matter how high the demand or how suddenly it hits your website. A virtual waiting room can also protect against bots by soft-blocking suspicious traffic or limiting queue numbers to one per validated person.
The stakes are high and taking the time in 2021 to prepare for your product launch is time well spent. If you can answer these five questions, you’re on the right track to providing the customer experience your shoppers deserve on the big day.