Black Friday’s the deadline for retailers to get e-commerce right

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For retailers, Amazon has long been the 800-pound gorilla in the room. With the ongoing pandemic, Amazon has now grown into an 8,000-pound gorilla. COVID-19 has caused consumers to increasingly rely on online shopping at the expense of brick and mortar.

While the shift to e-commerce has been unfolding for some time, the pandemic has ramped it up suddenly and dramatically. That’s been good news for Amazon, which recently posted a 40% revenue boost in Q2 2020, but it’s been bad news for everyone else. Both small and medium sized retailers, as well as Fortune 500 companies, lack the resources to immediately support such a massive proportion of their business through e-commerce. This is evidenced by the fact that large retailers such as Pier 1, Brooks Brothers, Neiman Marcus, Sur La Table and Ascena have all filed for bankruptcy during the pandemic.

There are many other retailers hanging by a thread. If they can’t drive increasing e-commerce revenue by Black Friday and the subsequent holiday shopping season, they’ll also face bankruptcy or go out of business by 2021. And they’ll all be competing against Amazon – a tall order indeed.

Luckily, there is a way for these retailers to significantly improve their e-commerce platforms between now and Black Friday. The solution? Bots. Many people associate bots with malicious activity – security breaches, fake social media accounts, DDoS attacks, etc. However, bot technology can be used for good just as it’s been used for bad in the past. Specifically, performance bots can be used to drastically speed up e-commerce transactions.

E-commerce speed is critical for converting users to paying customers, generating more revenue per session and increasing revenue overall. When page load times are too long, potential customers will abandon their e-commerce session and many won’t ever return to that online retailer. Amazon has the resources and infrastructure to provide some of the fastest e-commerce speeds in the industry, while other retailers, including big brands, lag far behind. But by using bots, these retailers can not only meet Amazon’s e-commerce speeds, they can exceed them by as much as 10X.

Here's how it works: Performance bots are deployed at massive scale to first observe an e-commerce platform’s users to understand exactly how they behave to a tee. For example, they learn that if a user views a certain item, such as a specific type of couch, they’re then likely to view a specific type of throw pillow. Leveraging machine learning, these bots then work ahead of users to request and load pages and content before the actual customer has to. So when that customer looking at the couch clicks to the pillow, the page will load much quicker because the bots have already retrieved most of the elements of that page.

The retail industry is facing a monumental reckoning and opportunity. E-commerce was always the future of retail, but the pandemic ushered that future in faster than most businesses were prepared for. Retailers don’t have to fall victim to Amazon, though. Performance bots are an easy way for these companies to boost their e-commerce speeds beyond Amazon. But time is running out. If these retailers don’t act to improve their e-commerce experience by this holiday season, many more will die by 2021.

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