As the world adapts to the new normal of social distancing and self-isolation, IT teams are being confronted with their toughest test to date.

Steve Long, corporate chief technology officer at AppDynamics

COVID-19 has turned business and life as we know it upside down, putting a strain on the essential retail companies we rely on for food, cleaning supplies, medication, clothing and so much more.

Business applications that power grocery stores and pharmacies are experiencing intense user overload. That is because requests for curbside pickups and home deliveries have skyrocketed as consumers search for ways to stay safe and secure in their own homes and avoid human contact at all costs. But as the world adapts to the new normal of social distancing and self-isolation, IT teams are being confronted with their toughest test to date—a genuinely digital-first ecosystem.

Embrace the challenge

When it comes to navigating a crisis, the most common practices we often revert to are “doing the best we can with what we’ve got” or “making the most of the resources we have on hand.” Those expressions can be true, but now, it’s more important than ever before for retailers to implement strategies that put the customers first by ensuring strong, consistent digital experiences.

For the first time, the path to digital business is no longer a luxury—it’s a necessity. As we all collectively confront the harsh realities of the world, I have three tried-and-true strategies to help retailers make the most of the digital experience and provide customers with one constant variable during all the chaos—trust in their applications.

Retailers should tap into real-time data analytics

Perhaps the most vital aspect of any business strategy in the 21st century (global pandemic aside) is access to real-time data. By tapping into real-time data analytics, organizations and IT teams can better pinpoint where customers are hitting IT snafus in their shopping journey and remediate those issues before they can lead to widespread outages—or worse, customer complaints.

Research has shown that when digital services don’t deliver a first-rate customer experience, the impact on retailers is more than profound. 50% of consumers will pay more for an organization’s product or service if its digital services are better than a competitor’s. In today’s world—where access to digital services is one of the few ‘normal’ resources in consumers day to day lives—consistent digital performance is more than vital, it’s essential to keep customers happy.

Leverage tools like AI and ML to make the most of your monitoring

When it comes to streamlining efforts within IT teams, the second key strategy for long term success is to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) where available, to better  identify the root causes the moment digital issues arise. For example, say your grocery ordering app freezes mid-transaction, or an error page appears when you try to refill a prescription with your Rx app. By leveraging AI and ML, your IT systems can quickly remedy those issues, saving IT teams time and resources that could be better spent creating new services that will further improve the customer experience during critical times.

Consistently monitor the health of your application

Finally, as digital services become the primary point of engagement between shoppers and retailers, ensuring you are consistently monitoring the health of your application will lead to higher customer satisfaction and engagement rates long-term. By consistently assessing the overall view of the user experience, retailers can better prioritize solving the issues that matter most to customers, and therefore correct those problems before they can affect the end-user. We know that 65% of consumers rely on digital services to make them feel more in control and empowered in their day to day lives. So as retailers, IT teams and business leaders, it is our job to ensure we are providing customers with the best digital experiences possible, so that they feel empowered (and less stressed out) by the user experience.

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Long term, adopting strategies that put consumers’ most urgent needs first will impact not only retailers’ brand reputations and customer loyalty, but also their bottom lines. As brands struggle to find footing in this period of unprecedented uncertainty, it is more imperative to prioritize the end-user (and the digital experience) than ever.

AppDynamics is an application performance management and IT operations analytics company. 

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