Over the years online sales have dramatically increased going into the Christmas shopping season, with consumers expected to do 36% of their holiday shopping online this year. Shop.org’s eHoliday survey found that 68% of online retailers expect their company’s online sales to grow at least 15 percent or more compared to last holiday season. Retail eCommerce spending for the entire November – December 2010 holiday season reached $32.6 billion, marking a 12 percent increase versus last year and an all-time record for the season, according to comScore’s report on U.S. Online Holiday Shopping Season, and billions of dollars of consumer revenue are up for grabs again this year.
Countdown to Cyber Monday – NO TIME FOR DOWN TIME
Combined, “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” can make or break an e-tailer’s yearly revenue numbers and enormous investments are made to attract shoppers to online websites through creative ads, social media campaigns, hourly promotions, free shipping offers, and deep pricing incentives. However, often very little is done to prepare websites for the stampede of shoppers that marketing teams have managed to attract. Failure to address web performance optimization means eCommerce sites are not adequately prepared to deal with the huge increase in online shopping traffic. Too much is invested in driving traffic to websites to not sufficiently invest in serving and retaining shoppers once they arrive. This can drastically thwart businesses’ ability to leverage these event-based, short-term revenue gains while building brand loyalty and building user stickiness for the future.
With the countdown to Cyber Monday officially underway this week, you need to ask yourself, “Is my online business ready for the holiday shopping spree?”
Black and Blue over Cyber Monday
Online consumers are frustrated with slow and unusable Internet storefronts that leave users completely anguished. JP Morgan recently reported that online buyers who earn over $100,000 per year represent the most frequent buyers on eCommerce sites and these shoppers are also the least patient of all Internet users. Your customers demand quick, secure and personalized experiences. Attracting and satisfying customers for Cyber Monday is vital to capturing revenue throughout the rest of the year. Slow, unsecure website experiences lead to shopping cart abandonment and detour customers to better performing competitor sites. In addition to web performance issues, traffic spikes will be a common challenge during this holiday season. As shoppers crowd onto your eCommerce site, your web infrastructure will be inundated with requests for images, video, personalized content, and secure dynamic shopping cart transactions. This flood of requests will quickly consume network infrastructure resources and bandwidth. If not addressed, customers will experience slowdowns and inconsistent “availability” of critical shopping pages and applications. This results in user frustration, site abandonment, lost revenue, and, ultimately, damage to your reputation.
Web Performance Matters
With the growing popularity of online sales, this season will be remembered for an exceptional Cyber Monday, which was the first billion dollar spending day in history last year, so you need to ensure your site has enough capacity, flexibility, redundancy, and secure and accelerated delivery of all types of content and applications.
Things you should consider to win your share of online holiday revenues.
- Improve Caching – Brace your site for traffic spikes with an intelligent caching service that adds global reach and unlimited capacity. Elastic, on-demand capacity allows IT departments to delivery performance guarantees without having to overprovision for the “best case” scenario. Guarantee that your site is available for your global users, even during temporary regional brown outs, with a geographically distributed content delivery architecture. Having a global infrastructure that can analyze and distribute traffic based on congestion and popularity is crucial. Not having a solution that addresses this practically ensures that some of your customers will not make it your site.
- Security – Enhance the security and speed of your customers’ transactions. Shopping cart acceleration increases the number of transactions that can be monetized safely and securely. Utilizing a PCI compliant, cloud-based SSL encryption network reduces the burden on your infrastructure while enriching the web performance for your customers. When compared to adding additional geographically dispersed datacenters, this is a much more cost-effective way to ensure your site can handle more secure transactions and reach more customers, no matter where they are located.
- Dynamic Personalized Content – Maximize the performance of personalized applications and content. It’s an industry recognized fact that recognizing your users sooner and providing personal and speedy content will engage your users and increase “up sell” opportunities via recommendation engines or return shopping instances. Fast and available personalized content is a key factor in improving brand loyalty and ensuring return customers throughout the holiday season.
- Purging or Changing Content – Accelerate your ability to update content globally. Creating new and varied promotions is essential to attracting new and numerous users to your website. Many e-tailers plan to offer hourly promotions this holiday season. In order to meet this business requirement, your website infrastructure must be able to “instantly” purge or flush content. Many CDNs can take up to an hour to completely flush their global caches. When selecting a content delivery provider you should be sure that their purge time meets the needs of your business.
- User Session Stickiness – Improve the performance by enhancing your networks’ ability to recognize your users’ transaction sessions in and out of the shopping cart. If at any point your users lose connection and try to return to the site, either manually or automatically, you can guarantee that their session, including the items sitting in their shopping cart, will be maintained. Thus providing a seamless user experience in spite of network failures.
- Monitoring & Failover – Guarantee site uptime with web performance monitoring and failover solutions. What would happen to a site if part of the origin network becomes inaccessible? Adding automatic health checking on the servers and applications in conjunction with a cloud based architecture, can lessen the impact of offline, overloaded or unresponsive servers.
Uptime is key when competing for billions of dollars and the performance of your website directly determines revenues and brand loyalty. Adopting some, if not all, of these things will insure you are prepared for the user experience challenges that accompany a surge in demand. After all, it’s countdown to Cyber Monday and there’s no time for down time.