Top issues most likely to spark Black Friday eCommerce errors

23rd November 2018

Set your business up for success this year with our Black Friday tips

With the countdown to Black Friday well and truly underway, retailers will be hoping that their eCommerce platforms are robust enough to handle the traffic volumes they’ve been planning for over the last twelve months.

According to retail researcher Salmon, UK consumers are forecast to spend almost £2.5bn online on 23 November alone – almost 50 percent of the total expected figure for the day. In fact, almost a quarter of the 2,000 consumers surveyed intend to bring forward their Christmas shopping to take advantage of Black Friday offers.

Interestingly, Salmon’s peak trading expert, James Webster, had much to say about ensuring that online retailers have ‘proper peak operations systems in place to cope with the demand’, cautioning that those who didn’t, risked being out-performed by ecommerce leviathans like Amazon who focus heavily on this pre-Christmas sale period. Mind you, even Amazon isn’t immune to performance problems – a recent Prime Day outage, purported to be the result of overloaded servers, was estimated to have cost the company millions of dollars in lost sales.

The top issues most likely to damage Black Friday conversions

It’s not simply the out-and-out crashes that damage your brand (albeit these have the greatest negative impact from a PR and social media perspective). There are a whole host of errors that prevent your customers from completing transactions, harming brand loyalty and your bottom line.

Update: 23 November – see our Report of the UK website problems on Black Friday

Here are the most common Cyber Weekend error causes to watch out for.

  • Slow third-party content. Sluggish performance is often the biggest bugbear for Black Friday shoppers. Third-party content accounts for the majority of performance issues, so ditch any superfluous components or calls that could impact page load times. Consider paring down your site to remove non-essential functionality and content, to avoid unnecessary slowdowns.
  • Integration of mobile and PWA functionality. Be careful when integrating mobile or PWA functionality with your site, to ensure that it doesn’t clash with legacy web page functionality or page components. If this is the case errors can occur preventing transactions under certain conditions. For example mobile users able to see buttons but unable to click them.
  • Backend database changes. Making changes to backend SKU-databases and product database technologies can cause glitches that ripple through as new corner-case errors in your web-page – when it comes to querying the database.
  • Heavy page weighting. This has a big impact on page load times, so look out for page ‘bloat’. Make sure to remove unnecessary images as well as compressing those you want to keep and ensure to minify JS and CSS.
  • Missing prices and pricing errors. Be particularly wary of third parties supporting ecommerce stores selling globally. Update: On Black Friday the internationalisation-retail-partner ‘BorderFree’ failed, which resulted in their retail clients serving pages with missing prices. Prices are injected into the page via AJAX by the BorderFree service so retailers don’t have to worry about currency fluctuations, delivery costs and so on. It’s important to monitor for pricing discrepancies.
  • Poor API performance. APIs are critical to web performance. API reliability and responsiveness can be affected by a spike in server load at peak times as well as network issues and poor caching and compression. Potentially damaging your UX and even causing your website and other dependent applications to fail. To ensure a reliable UX, it’s essential to manage, monitor and secure every API by scheduling a regular testing regime.
  • Untested server scalability. Server scalability issues were purportedly a possible cause of the Amazon Prime Day outage. The key to avoiding downtime is to effectively balance your loads and make your backend as scalable as possible. We commonly see unexpected server scalability issues with specific ecommerce platforms. You may have server scalability in place but does it really work when it comes to the crunch?
  • False sense of security with Agile confidence. Agile encourages Unit Testing and running integration and system testing earlier in the Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC) but the complexity in production means that testing within SDLC sometimes misses corner-case errors. To ensure no degradation to UX it’s important to test from your customers’ perspective early on in the product life cycle.

Keep things simple

Retailers may worry that a pared-back site with fewer bells and whistles may not play well with an audience used to navigating through sophisticated options. But bear in mind that glitches not only cause delays but are often responsible for losing sales – and damaging reputations.

The only way to be sure the errors and corner cases we’ve outlined won’t impact your Black Friday sales is to integrate load testing early into your peak preparation and monitor key journeys on an ongoing basis. We’d love to show you how thinkTRIBE can take the strain out of preparing for any peak demand period through a fully managed service that’s tailored for your operation, so do get in touch – or check out our performance monitoring and load testing services.

In the meantime, why not download our checklist to help you prepare for the Black Friday onslaught?

Download thinkTRIBE’s Black Friday checklist to help you prepare