From novelty hats and Guinness beer, to street parties and dyeing rivers green, St. Patrick’s Day has metamorphosed from a holy day of obligation into a reason for celebration around the globe.
While the holiday may not have the all-encompassing consumer appeal as Christmas, there’s no denying that St. Patrick’s Day is becoming big business. And, thanks to this transformation, it is a day full of commercial opportunities – but only for companies certain they have the systems and staffing in place to make the most of the increased demand.
In 2016, a record 2 million people took part in officially organized events around Ireland to mark its patron saint’s day. The day was also responsible for a 25 percent uptick in tourism, particularly from the U.S. – where there is a rich Irish heritage.
And, according to the National Retail Federation, in 2018, consumers in the U.S. will spend $5.9 billion celebrating on March 17. Additionally, around 60 percent of Americans will be involved in the festivities in some way.
“With winter hopefully winding down over the next few weeks, consumers are ready to start celebrating spring with St. Patrick’s Day,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “The holiday falls on a Saturday this year, so Americans will have more time to splurge a little as they get together with friends and loved ones for a day of festivities.”
For many businesses and retailers, St. Patrick’s Day has become their new Cyber Monday or Black Friday – a make-or-break moment of truth where customer service, inventory levels and internal and external systems must perform at their optimum levels and with speed and agility.
The most extreme case is Living Shamrock, a company in County Kerry, Ireland. Living Shamrock is one of the world’s largest growers and suppliers of Ireland’s national emblem – the shamrock – shipping the plant around the world. It starts ramping up in September to ensure it can meet global demand over one solitary week in March. St. Patrick’s Day accounts for 99 percent of its annual business.
But even with such an obvious peak in demand, the company uses historical data and monitors trends to ensure their demand is met each year.
“Accurate forecasting, based on data and statistical modelling, is crucial in anticipating how many trained staff your company needs to respond to increased customer demand,” explains Mike Small, Chief Client Officer for Sitel Group in the U.S.
And those staffing levels aren’t restricted to the point of sales or order validation. Companies will also have to increase their customer service to deal with a spike in requests and queries from checking opening times to finding out if an order has been dispatched.
“For companies that outsource their customer experience to Sitel, we ensure a seamless ramp up by not only increasing the number of agents available to handle customer requests, but also by dividing agents into teams dedicated to covering specific in-bound or out-bound requests for the greatest possible efficiency and the shortest possible staff training times,” said Small.
But St. Patrick’s Day also differs from Cyber Monday in that it is very much mobile first.
“It’s easy to imagine a person at home, looking at three different screens tracking deals as they go live on Cyber Monday,” explains Nicolas Raffin, founder of Novagile, Sitel Group’s dedicated software venture. “But, most people will be out and about on St Patrick’s Day, so getting their attention or engaging them is a very different challenge.”
According to Forrester, two in three consumers will quit a mobile browsing session if a company’s mobile site fails to load within three seconds over a 3G connection. Luckily, there are tools available to stress test a mobile site to make sure it can handle increased traffic and that it is built to load quickly with minimum latency, such as Google’s Lighthouse. However, there are much more effective ways of getting people’s attention on St. Patrick’s Day, especially for companies that want to dip a toe in the green waters with offers or campaigns.
“As well as simplicity and familiarity, the SMS is as mobile as its recipient,” said Raffin. “It can serve every step of the customer journey, can be used to drive a marketing campaign, nudge recipients towards conversion, send timely notifications and it’s a conversational channel.”
What’s more, it is a great tool for sending location-based offers and information, such as waiting times at a restaurant or a special deal and a validation code for those near certain stores.
“At Novagile, we have a multi-protocol conversational module that gives brands the power to automate and control conversations via SMS, chat or messaging apps,” said Raffin. “With our tool, we are able to step in and manually steer conversations as customers move further down the path to purchase. How conversations play out and the directions in which they guide prospects can be modelled and programmed in advance.”
So, whether you sell shamrocks, green beer or offer traditional Irish music lessons, with the right processes in place, this year’s St. Patrick’s Day should be a happy one. Sláinte! (Good health!)