Anthropologie’s Spring 2013 Tag Sale kicked off with a bang. The sale that was supposed to be routine, turned into a business nightmare with significant impact on the customer base, support professionals, and the brand’s reputation. The sale highlighted a 20% discount on their housewares products, but instead, each item in that product line was marked down to $20. Now this may not sound noteworthy to those who are unfamiliar with the brand, but a quick Google search of “Anthropologie Sofas” will highlight the expense of their premium housewares. On Effortless Anthropologie’s blog, customer expressions ranged from being overjoyed to showing immediate concern. Some were optimistic about receiving their discounted goods and others were apprehensive if they would be charged the true price of the purchased items. Customers dubbed the mistake, “The $20 buck F*** Up.” While the customers became disappointed, the business clamored to save the brand’s reputation.
Many consumers only see the face of e-commerce when they shop online. What they overlook is the architecture behind the scenes to deliver a streamlined “ordered-to-delivered” process. The brand’s integrity is at stake when they are marketing housewares priced at $20. An input error made behind the scenes, reflecting the $20 price on their website, is not a simple error to resolve. Within hours, hundreds of customer orders were placed reducing the amount of inventory available. The time (and labor) needed to alleviate the situation was intensive and required a holistic approach by all support functions within Anthropologie. The Customer Call Center was contacting numerous customers regarding the error made and IT teams were scrambling to make sure wrong orders were stopped while still being able to process correct orders. The biggest lesson learned about this mistake was how it directly affected me.
Urban’s Reno Fulfillment center satisfies customer orders placed online and I am responsible for making sure orders are properly fulfilled within a timely period. I am given tools to analyze customer demand and I must manage the labor required to meet daily production goals. On this day, and after evaluating customer demand, my analysis concluded the daily demand was light and we were overstaffed. We had just gone through a hellacious week requiring overtime and members of the team were looking forward to having an early day. What happened next was unbelievable. I had just left the production meeting, approved a few people to go home for the day, and started to reassess customer demand. In a span of less than 30 minutes, more than 3,000 new customer orders showed needing to be processed. Demand was now heavy and our numbers were decreased. I later learned all Anthropologie orders were put on hold until the issue was resolved and releasing these orders was what drove demand. Needless to say, I was tremendously impressed and applaud our outbound teams as they were able to process a significant portion of the demand before the end of shift. The company had several lessons learned on this costly mistake, but communication between all segments is a must.
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