How to prepare for peak selling demands on your website
During high shopping periods in the calendar year, you don’t want to be one of the many online stores that crash. You need to be sure your online solution is prepared to handle a large number of orders. Your customer experience is your highest priority. This means fast response times and a stable system are critical in order for your customers to find the best deals you are offering.
In the run-up to the next peak sales season, Black Friday, Forbytes would like to share our own experience and offer tips on what we have done to help our partners make the most out of Black Friday and other peak selling periods.
Simplicity makes it easier for a customer to buy
Your to-do list begins with early planning and preparation, 3-4 months before the peak sales season. For spring sales you need to start in January, and for Black Friday start in June/July. To give your customers a great shopping experience and to simplify the buying decision, you need easy navigation, segmented information, recommendations and a well-structured site. These are small steps to increasing conversion rates. You may also consider launching a separate Black Friday or Spring Sales landing page, making it easier for your customers to find your deals.
A happy customer is a returning customer. A transparent and flexible returns policy makes the shopping experience more comfortable. This is especially important during Black Friday when people make hasty buying decisions. An uncomplicated returns policy reassures your clients and inspires trust, increasing conversion rates.
Give customers the option to checkout without having to register masses of information. Having a “proceed as guest” option will allow one-off customers to purchase while they are still on a buyer’s high.
Our partner’s experience shows that a free shipping charges policy encourages customers to not only buy more items, but higher value items. A picture-perfect situation for shoppers is no registration at checkout, free shipping and no minimum spend amount.
Cross device shopping experience is essential. Your customers must be able to reach you via their smart phones and tablets. If they cannot reach you they will go to your competitors.
You can and must capitalise on the adoption of responsive mobile shopping with site optimisation for mobile devices.
Your customers will still have questions, even with a user-friendly, structured and responsive website or mobile app. That’s why having customer support in the form of an integrated live chat or chatbot can be a game changer when used correctly (preferably in real time).
Some technical tips
Load testing should start early and be repeated to ensure your system can handle more than your expected number of visits and orders during peak periods. Your development team must be able to identify and rectify any issues related to the speed and stability of your site. We recommend your initial load testing for Black Friday should start no later than July.
Knowing your key performance indicators (KPIs), such as orders-per-minute, visits-per-minute and anticipating your expected order for the forthcoming season, is an essential input to the planning for managing loads on Black Friday. With this information, you can prepare your hosting environment with extra resources.
To ensure stability and high performance, you need to implement a code freeze 2-3 weeks before your peak sales season. This is because any changes to the live environment increases the risk to performance. If your business is dependent on sales over this period, your focus must be on ensuring that what you have is stable and works well.
Today’s users expect swift access to information. With rising traffic, user’s experience is equally important, since it means more purchases and a happy customer. In order to improve the performance of your e-shop and shorten data access times, it is recommended to use caching. Items/entities caching is a capable instrument which can help scale resources down, free up more space on your servers and maximise your store’s operational speed.
Auto scaling automatically adjusts the number of compute resources based on your website needs at a given time. That is why your development team can make use of the tool for handling traffic peaks. Well-tailored auto scaling configurations make it possible for the servers to receive sufficient resources in order to satisfy the number of page requests and processing jobs.
What the development team should do on Black Friday to prepare for next year
This coming Black Friday is the starting point in preparing for Black Friday 2018. Gather information on orders and visits per minute, total orders and visits over the Black Friday weekend. Your technical team can use the alerting systems like Icinga, Boundary, New Relic, and many others for load monitoring, so that nothing is left to chance and you are ready for big sales.