Black Friday will soon be upon us and it’s no secret that customers from around the world take to the net to find the best bargains, regardless of what they’re after, they’re in search of a sale.
With many consumers choosing to grab their bargains online due to chaotic scenes inside high street retail stores, it is important to make sure your business is A, visible and B, customer friendly and stable.
Black Friday is fast becoming the retail event of the year and so a site that crashes, is slow and overall provides a poor customer experience, is going to spell bad news for your business, especially if your visitors are brand new.
The Good news is there are strategies you can adopt that can mitigate such risks, and these are covered below:
Forecast, Forecast, Forecast
In order to ensure that Black Friday runs smoothly, be sure to forecast. Whilst activity on Black Friday is almost impossible to predict, take analytics from previous years and make a rough estimate of visits or attempted visits to sites similar to your own.
In an exclusive interview with CXM, SimonWeedon, Director of Award winning online retailer Mobile Phones Direct, highlighted:
“On Black Friday 2015, Mobile Phones Direct customers spent 100% more than they did on the Fridays before and after. The shift to online purchasing, particularly on Black Friday means that we have to prepare the website hosting to cope with the influx of shoppers and ensure shoppers avoid the frustrations of website outages.”
As Simon highlights, it’s important to forecast but just be wary of relying too much on projected figures. You don’t want to putall your faith in estimatesbased on the preceding year.
The unpredictability and exponential growth in popularity of Black Friday (and technology usage in general) means that things can still go wrong. As such work out how many predicted visits your site will receive then go way above it. It’s better to have spare capacity than overloaded servers.
Build a queuing system
As an extra step to above, be sure toarrange a queuing system to handle traffic for if or when your own systems are overloaded. Many retail systems rely on numerous third-party services which carry out a range of functions such as feature detecting, remarketing and analytics. This often means your Black Friday experiences are shared with several other websites and your performance depends on variations in traffic to those other sites, including competitors.
If you use a third-party then you must have confidence that they have carried out the necessary tests and planned well but to minimise the risk, remove any third-party single points of failure you can spot.
Test to the extreme
Don’t go into Black Friday without testing your website. Load testing your website will subject it to increased levels of traffic and measure the effects, so you will get an insight into how the site will perform under load and inform you of when it will slow down.
However, don’t leave this test until the last minute as you need to afford yourself plenty of time to make any possible changes if the site does not perform well in the tests as you may need to introduce more capacity. And whilst making changes to the site, ensure that the web gurus are liaising closely with those responsible for planning any promotions as communication is key to a successful day.
When making those changes, try to make your website one that runs fast. Exploit browser caching, more visitors will be able to load static files directly from their own browser cache and not from you if you allow those files long cache lifetimes. Not only will this allow for a more pleasant experience for visitors and in turn increase your sales but it will also mean less pressure on your systems.
Another way to make sure that your site runs fast is to reduce page size as smaller web pages generally load faster. You can do this by optimising pictures, minifying text and removing any completely unnecessary content.
Not many sites follow this as retail sites tend to overload their pages with numerous poorly optimised ads which add page weight that does not need to be there.
By following the steps above you can ensure a smooth experience for your customers, who will be so impressed by your page speed and site stability, they return again and again.