It’s the most wonderful time of the year – and the busiest for e-commerce merchants. The 2022 holiday shopping season is underway with online sales forecast to grow by 12.8% to 14.3% over last year, reaching $260 billion.
Even with rising inflation and ongoing inventory concerns, consumers are planning to spend this holiday season, which means higher traffic to websites and mobile applications. This is good news for your e-commerce business, if you are prepared.
Major shopping events like Black Friday/Cyber Monday can put intense pressure on a business’ digital infrastructure, in the worst case, causing a costly website crash. But surges in traffic are no longer limited to the traditional days that follow Thanksgiving. Black Friday deals are starting earlier and earlier with some major retailers launching seasonal promotions in the first half of October.
This trend is requiring online merchants to plan ahead and ensure their infrastructure is ready to support extended, if not unpredictable, periods of higher traffic throughout the busy season. Those that do will be able to deliver a seamless digital experience that holiday shoppers expect and position their business for success this peak season and beyond.
Here are three key strategies to help you prepare:
1. Improve your website load times
The longer it takes for your website to load, the more likely you’ll lose the customer. Research shows that web users expect a site to load within two seconds, and over half of mobile users will abandon a site if it takes longer than three seconds. Among those who find load times lagging, 79% will avoid returning to the site, and 44% will warn off a friend.
In addition to loading pages quickly, e-commerce websites must also direct traffic – especially mobile traffic – to the information users are looking for as efficiently as possible. Tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights and GTmetrix test the speed of a site, offer an empirical score and provide tips for accelerating load times. It’s better to rely on an objective evaluation rather than assuming your site is fast enough.
2. Protect your site from downtime
Black Friday/Cyber Monday traffic surges are notorious for over-stressing servers, leading to outages and lost revenue for merchants. Make sure the servers that host your website are able to handle peak traffic while maintaining fast load times. Paying a little extra for a dedicated server is a worthwhile investment if you know how much additional traffic your website must handle. If your capacity needs are more fluid, cloud hosting is a good option, providing more resources and even auto-scalability for peak periods.
A content delivery network (CDN) is another 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. Keep customers safe
With security breaches regularly in the news, shoppers have grown increasingly cautious about providing personal information. They want to know their data is being protected. Hackers are also in full force during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday period, looking to make the biggest steals.
This is why you need to spend time evaluating your network environment for vulnerabilities where a hacker could gain access to customer data. Also ensure that all firewalls, antivirus logging programs, intrusion detection systems and remote access portals are activated and optimized for maximum effect.
If we’ve learned anything from the last few years in the pandemic is that consumer behavior is constantly shifting. E-commerce merchants that plan ahead and have invested in technologies that balance speed, scalability and security will be better able to anticipate and respond to changes in demand, giving them an advantage – and reason to celebrate – this holiday season.