Black Friday Is Almost Here. If Your Web Site Is Not Ready, It’s Your Fault

The “Holiday Seasons” is approaching and hopefully you are going to have a lot more traffic to your web site. Maybe NOT as much as Amazon.com, Wal-Mart, Target, Staples or thousands of other BIG e-commerce sites. But during the holidays, if you’ve been marketing your products and services well throughout the year, you should start to consider how email marketing, postal mail and social media marketing can drive increased traffic to your web site.

When that burst of traffic comes, will your web site crumble or will it be resilient and perform strong.

Apica, a load testing and performance-monitoring provider for cloud and mobile applications, shared its ‘Top 10 Tips’ for ensuring E-commerce sites are ready for the fast-approaching online holiday shopping season.

“For e-tailers, the online holiday shopping season is a ‘can’t miss’ opportunity. Yet, many overlook testing for increased load and performance issues, as evidenced by Target recently. E-retail competition is fierce; if a customer experiences problems on the site, the competition is a mere click away,” said Sven Hammar, web performance expert and CEO of Apica. “An online site with slow performance – or even crashes – is tantamount to slamming the door in a consumer’s face, something that would never happen in a ‘brick and mortar’ situation. You’ve got to wonder, why do businesses risk letting it happen online?”

“User experience is, as the name implies, in many ways more about human beings than it is just about technology. For instance, when a customer is in your physical store and has an unpleasant experience, the customer is very likely to be quite explicit in his or her complaints. But, what about the online customer who ‘clicks away’ in frustration because a page won’t load or shows an error message? These are just a few of the many unknowns, the silent events that can create ill will and brand disaffection, as well as lost, transaction-driven revenue,” said Dennis Drogseth, Vice President at Enterprise Management Associates. “Any company seriously trying to sell online should be prepared to capture those ‘breadcrumb indicators’ of human experience across peak activity levels, as well as normal, day-to-day volumes.”

According to research firm comScore, in 2010 E-commerce B2C product sales totaled $142.5 billion, representing eight percent of retail product sales in the U.S. Forrester Research estimates that the U.S. online retail industry will be worth $279 billion by 2015. The lion’s share of online sales takes place during the holiday shopping season that kicks off on Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving. Is your E-commerce site ready?

1. Put vanity aside and reduce the amount of high-resolution images and video on your site in order to minimize response times. If you’re too in love with the bulky images, then be sure and invest in systems that can handle short response times despite a high-resolution content.

2. Consider using a CDN / Accelerator service to accelerate the delivery of rich content such as images and videos to customers. These services aren’t terribly expensive and the upside is huge.

3. Cache as much static content as possible in the browser. If the page content doesn’t change, customers won’t have to download it again from the network the next time they hit the page. This is a cost-effective way to speed up web traffic and gain performance improvements.

4. Evaluate the various external services on your site that you have no control over. Many companies use external content indiscriminately on their sites, free services such as Bambuser, etc. Keep in mind that external content is rarely optimized.

5. Periodically test, monitor and optimize your site to ensure a great consumer experience. Web testing companies can test and optimize your site, simulating peak loads by using ‘synthetic traffic,’ and then suggesting improvements. These companies often offer complimentary surveillance services.

6. Guide the customer throughout the buying process in a logical and customer-friendly manner. Have clear and visible choices above “the fold,” i.e., the visible part of the site you see without scrolling.

7. Be sure and use smaller, quick-loading landing pages for temporary promotions.

8. Build discipline and process into your testing and monitoring efforts. Assign an in-house testing team, or hire an outside service. Take baseline benchmarks and test during specific hours to lower variables, for example.

9. Use your analytics tools to identify the top three-to-five business processes customers are conducting on your site, and maximize them for peak performance.

10. If Paris Hilton is seen wearing your product, this should be a good thing! Plan for the unexpected to ensure that your site can handle a massive influx of customers without crashing. Conduct a risk analysis using load testing and external performance measurements of service quality.

 

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Ramon Ray, Editor & Technology Evangelist, Smallbiztechnology.com . Editor and Founder, Smart Hustle Magazine Full bio at http://www.ramonray.com . Check him out on Google Plus, Twitter or Facebook

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