By Guillaume Moigneu, Platform.sh
Holiday sales seem to start earlier every year. It’s common to see Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas holiday decorations at big box stores all at once. One key reason for this is that retailers are now launching holiday sales in October, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). The organization’s new consumer survey indicates that consumers are on board with early sales: 44% of shoppers agree it’s better to purchase gifts and other seasonal items now because they believe inflation will continue to impact prices later in the year.
The early holiday shopping season does mean retail brands should accelerate their plans to handle the spike in web traffic. Fastly reported that early sales did indeed drive traffic in 2021. They found that aggregate daily traffic increased up to 27% in the four weeks leading up to Cyber Monday.
Sharp spikes in web traffic and associated transactions place a heavy burden on retailers’ web development teams and underscore the need for a well-planned and coordinated marketing and website management strategy to prepare for the holiday peak.
Here are four best practices to help retailers achieve better web performance and tackle the customer experience challenges that come with peak shopping periods:
Reduce The Friction Between Creating Promotions And Managing Performance
The pressure is on marketing team members leading up to and during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday rush. Campaigns often need to be revised on-the-fly before due to unforeseen circumstances, for example, if a product is no longer in stock, price changes, or the competition offers a similar deal. Meanwhile, website and web app administrators need to ensure flawless performance during Cyber Weekend to eliminate the potential for interruptions or bottlenecks.
Retailers traditionally use a “code freeze” strategy to enforce a cut-off time on website changes, however, this makes last-minute adjustments almost impossible for marketers. Fortunately, there is an answer: using platforms to develop and scale websites. These web platforms enable fast response times, ensuring that web managers can react to modifications without much effort -- even at the last minute.
Resource Capacity For Seasonal Scalability Without The Waste
Ecommerce businesses must be able to handle extremely large website visits per second on the first big shopping weekend of the holiday season. Page load times are directly connected to the customer experience a brand delivers to shoppers, which is a key reason companies should ensure their environments are properly sized before peak times. While companies with their own servers can keep capacity on hand for peak times of demand, brands that don’t have this luxury face economic risks by not having enough capacity at the crucial moment, leading to servers that collapse under the load. One consequence of being over prepared all year long is that 60% to 80% of the capacity is not used the rest of the year. This requires not only large investments in hardware but also resources for operation and maintenance, as well as energy costs, which are becoming increasingly significant. By partnering with platform providers, retail brands can scale as needed, collaborating on the development, scaling, and management of apps, usage, and utilization can be even better managed and optimized.
Optimize Code For Better Performance And Reduced Energy Consumption
The performance and loading times of websites and apps are key in delivering a better shopping experience, leading to higher conversions and sales. For this reason, it is critical to evaluate potential partner solutions for how they handle extreme loads. Some advanced solutions have even been shown to help developers optimize the performance of their websites and apps by showing where specific codes can be altered to improve load times and SEO results. Optimized performance also can save energy. The more data is transferred, the higher the energy consumption.
Centralize Website Management And Increase Transparency
With an increasing variety of applications and programs gaining ground across organizations, centralizing efforts is also becoming increasingly important. Consolidating the development and management of websites and apps on a central platform increases transparency. It also comes with additional advantages for monitoring and automating routine processes. The advantages go beyond simply getting your house in order -- functions based on artificial intelligence (AI) can support managers and administrators in monitoring the applications, identifying performance problems, and even implementing immediate fixes. Streamlining often time-consuming processes means retailers can focus on their customers’ shopping experience instead of the infrastructure.
To leverage the momentum of early holiday sales and offers, brands must put in the time and energy to create a plan that will improve customer shopping experiences while also creating operational efficiencies with real business benefits.