Going for gold
Online businesses have been on something of a rollercoaster ride over the last six months, as consumers have embraced the shift to virtual shopping with surprising enthusiasm. Yet, although the ideological switch to ecommerce was the only logical move for retailers looking to preserve their profits in unprecedented times, we know it’s an exercise that’s brought its own technical challenges.
Brands whose profiles have soared during lockdown have also had to rapidly expand their web capacity and streamline processes in order to accommodate many times the usual traffic levels – or risk missing out on a market that simply won’t wait. And, while customers have cut retailers some slack as logistics operations were escalated, the we’re-all-in-it-together honeymoon period is most definitely coming to an end. Expectations are high and under-performance isn’t an option.
With summer behind us and the so-called ‘golden quarter’ on the horizon, how can businesses guarantee a fast, error-free experience?
Getting it right – every time
Your user experience (UX) is paramount. It helps define the way customers feel about your brand. It’s a broader issue even than speed and availability. Enabling browsers and buyers to move through your site smoothly and easily – without enduring unacceptably long page load times (that are way shorter than you think) or encountering product selection glitches – is an essential part of the social contract. Your outstanding range or exceptional fulfilment record will count for nothing if customers abandon their baskets before checking out.
Even if your site copes relatively well with regular and predictable traffic patterns, it may creak and groan under peak demand. Those third-party components that are so key to delivering greater personalisation? Truth is, they can impede performance during busy sales periods – and won’t necessarily be detected by measuring footfall or monitoring the UX via internal systems and in-browser tools.
Spotting problems before they become deal-breakers
Employing an effective load-testing solution will help you assess how your website performs under a range of conditions, identifying the pinch-points and bottlenecks that could impact the UX. It’s the kind of analysis that can only be achieved by using testing protocols based on real user data traffic, replicating actual customer journeys through your site. The best load tests cover a variety of journeys that explore different search and shopping routes on a range of devices.
Naturally, it comes at a cost. But retailers will surely pay the price of opting out of the testing process if an expensive marketing campaign fails to deliver expected results due to a disappointing UX or an unresolved page error. If you’re implementing a major web development, introducing a new application or planning an infrastructure change, you’ll need to have the utmost confidence in your web performance. And, in our experience, you simply can’t bank on success without proof of performance.
What we recommend:
- Testing early and testing often. Identifying major performance issues is less costly and more useful the earlier it is executed. If you’re relying on slotting in a quick test in the final stages of your project, you’re risking an expensive resolution that could disrupt your entire timeline.
- Scheduling load tests well in advance of any big marketing push. If you’re expecting more traffic – around Black Friday or New Year sales, for example – you want to be certain you can deliver on your performance promises. Get it wrong and you could lose your window of opportunity altogether.
- Focusing on delivering an exceptional UX all the time. Plenty of big brands have been caught on the hop when an unexpected celebrity recommendation or influencer pick has created a spike in demand.
ThinkTribe has the solution
No-one can predict every twist and turn in the market – if we’ve learned anything in 2020, it’s to expect the unexpected. What is an enduring truth, though, is that customer loyalty is hard won and easily lost. If you can provide an exceptional customer experience that represents your brand values, you’ll have the best chance of entering the next decade in great shape.
ThinkTribe’s load testing service will help you:
- Plan for peak times and new releases
- Pinpoint the root cause of performance problems
- Gain valuable insights and improve reliability
- Bridge the gap between business and tech teams
- Quickly resolve problems with expert input
Incorporate testing as part of an ongoing site optimisation programme – rather than a last-minute knee-jerk response to peak traffic crises – and you’ll enjoy improved performance all year round.