Start thinking ahead for peak period web traffic
With the sun shining, Wimbledon fortnight underway and bottles of Pimm’s flying off the shelves, Christmas is just about as far from shoppers’ minds as possible. Not so for retailers, though, who are fine-tuning product ranges and planning promotions that will hopefully bring in the profits when tennis racquets have been swapped for skis and speculating on the odds of snow falling on the 25th of December is the stuff of newspaper headlines up and down the country.
According to a recently released report by the Ecommerce Foundation, eCommerce turnover in the UK is expected to reach almost £180 billion by the end of 2019. Hand-in-hand with the growth of eCommerce transactions is the move towards mobile – most long-term forecasts predict that in the next 20 years or so, 95 percent of purchases will be delivered via e-commerce – which brings with it a host of consumer expectations about speed and ease-of-use that are setting challenges for retailers looking to exploit this trend.
Targeting easy wins in the golden quarter
For most retailers, sales peak in the last quarter of the year – especially in the weeks that fall between Black Friday and Christmas. It’s an opportunity that can generate a significant percentage of annual online sales, but it can also be a full-on challenge for the marketing department who are driving sales promotions and for IT decision makers charged with ensuring that consumers continue to enjoy a trouble-free experience on any device, even when footfall skyrockets.
A key takeaway from the last few years is that because marketers are funnelling shoppers to a broader buying window – a long weekend, rather than a single day like Black Friday, for instance – with promotions extended across several days, performance issues can arise throughout the holiday shopping season. It’s a problem that affects big brands as well as small fry and can tarnish reputations as well as hitting the bottom line.
Underperforming in this golden quarter is unthinkable – but what are the key issues and how can you best plan for your peaks?
Identify bottlenecks and simplify the process
When web traffic is high, performance can be hampered by the very things that usually make your site appealing – image-rich content, additional media like videos and the use of third-party products. If you can, streamline and simplify where possible – switch off unnecessary functions and implement a third-party queuing system as a failsafe to prevent a total meltdown.
The best way to prepare for peak traffic, though, is to invest in a realistic testing programme to allow you to fully understand how your customers’ behaviour will impact your site at peak. Prepare a thorough load test plan months before any big marketing push and build in enough time to implement, test and fix content before you press the promotional button. At thinkTribe we always analyse the previous year’s performance to create an accurate Load Test Model and use it to flag issues that could impact the customer experience. We also recommend testing early and often – it saves time and money in the long run.
Improve performance all year round
Keeping on top of performance isn’t just about load testing, though. Monitoring and measuring the ongoing health and reliability of your site is crucial all year round. Synthetic monitoring replicates real-life journeys and can proactively identify glitches and diagnose website errors before they start impeding traffic. Importantly, synthetic monitoring can pinpoint functional issues in quick order – such as the inability to complete a checkout process.
By planning ahead and focusing on delivering an optimal customer experience, savvy retailers can capitalise on the golden quarter to increase conversion rates and boost online revenue in the run-up to Christmas. If you’d like to learn more about how thinkTribe could help you prepare for peak demand through a fully managed service that’s tailored for your operation, get in touch.