Is Your Website Ready for Holiday Season Traffic?

load timesThe 2017 festive shopping season promises to be one of the biggest ever, particularly for online retailers. Total sales are projected to grow by 16.6 percent over last year, with online sales comprising 11.5 percent of all holiday shopping.

The period before, during, and after the holiday season is a huge sales opportunity for you. But if your e-commerce website is not ready for the influx of traffic, it can be a lost opportunity. Slow load times, broken links, and a poor user experience are unacceptable to shoppers expecting to find greater convenience and selection by going online.

Websites that cannot handle the surge in traffic immediately lose on sales. Worse, they damage the reputation of the brand and disappoint customers who may have otherwise become loyal fans. Optimising your website to accommodate more traffic is a sound goal for both the short and long term, and there are a few great strategies to keep in mind for getting your website ready:

1. Accelerate Website Load Times

Research reveals that today’s web users expect a website to load within two seconds, and they will abandon a site after waiting just three seconds. Of those who find load times lagging, 79 percent will avoid returning to the site, and 44 percent will warn off a friend.

E-commerce websites must load quickly, but they must also direct traffic – especially mobile traffic – to the information users are looking for as efficiently as possible. Tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights or GTmetrix test the speed of a site, offer an empirical score, and provide tips for accelerating load times for your website, so it’s a good idea to rely on these objective evaluations rather than assuming your site is fast enough.

2. Protect Your Website From Downtime

Sites that run off a shared server are notoriously vulnerable to both contention and security issues, and this is critically important especially during this busy season. When every website is overstretched, sites that are tapping into the same pool of resources quickly drain that pool dry. Additionally, even if your website is doing everything right, it could still be compromised by issues affecting another website on the server.

Paying a little extra for a dedicated server is a sound investment if you know how much extra traffic your website must handle. If your needs are more fluid, cloud hosting is a smart solution. Because this option means you can customise available resources based on your needs, your website’s performance stays at its peak, as scalability is nearly limitless. Instead of dealing with downtime, your website can effortlessly accommodate spikes in traffic.

A content delivery network (CDN) is a highly beneficial tool to include in your strategy for handling peak traffic. By investing in a CDN service, your website can benefit from massive increases in speed, scalability, resilience and security, as well as huge savings on bandwidth cost, and reduced load on your web server.

3. Build Trust Through Security

With so many competing options available online, consumers will search for an alternative if they believe it’s unsafe to shop on a specific website. With all the high-profile data breaches in the news recently, the price break offered by any retailer is outweighed by the security concerns raised by the retailer’s website.

Switching your site to HTTPS is a relatively easy and low-cost solution. Unlike traditional HTTP sites, information routed through HTTPS is encrypted. Moving to a more protected platform reassures customers, encourages more conversions, and helps prevent the catastrophic consequences of a data breach over the holiday season. In addition, having a HTTPS ensures your website is ranked higher than HTTP-only sites in Google and other search engines.

Justifying website upgrades is a relatively easy equation. Simply calculate the cost of any new hardware, software, or services that you plan to put in place. Then compare that to the cost of 1,000, 100, or even just 10 lost sales. It quickly becomes clear that accommodating seasonal traffic makes sound financial sense. Start putting strategies into action before traffic picks up even more.

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