Ecommerce Holiday 2017: Performance is a Must

Time to gear up for the holidays.  According to eMarketer, the holiday season will see retail growth slow to 2% overall, while ecommerce sales climb 15.8%.  That means you have opportunities to sell more to existing customers and gain new ones. Will your site perform when it needs to?  Now is the time to ensure it does.

First, you need to understand what you might face.  Identify the percentage of overall revenue earned during holiday last year. It’s generally good to use that number for your initial modeling.  Then, grab your funnel metrics (traffic, AOV, conversion rate) and play out some contingencies.  If you saw the same percentage increase for holiday revenue this year, what would that mean for your traffic spike.  And if the prognosticators anticipate 15.8% growth, how does that compare with your number?  What else in your world is influencing your holiday sales?

Be prepared to handle a traffic spike that falls within a certain range. As you should realize by now, sites can only accommodate a certain amount of traffic before you see degradation in page load, cart performance, etc. Your code needs optimization, and your infrastructure needs to be either:

1. substantial enough to handle your largest spike (old school thinking, but sometimes the only option for older sites), or
2. flexible enough to tune up and down on demand.

You also need to deliver an experience in line with your audience’s expectations.  They need to be able to find the product(s) at a price they would expect.  Can you deliver that?  If there is something special about your product that makes it more difficult to acquire, are you making it obvious to your customers?  Review your analytics to understand where visitors bounce, and become familiar with what they search for.  Make sure you’ve tweaked your search to optimize results for the products your visitors want, and make sure you surface the more popular items through techniques like Featured Products, Custom Landing Pages, or Most Popular categories.

Additionally, you need to practice and convey adherence to secure transaction practices. There have been too many public breaches of reputable websites, so people are now less trusting.  Aesthetics, site speed, and payment options (particularly offsite options like PayPal, Amazon Pay, Apple Pay) typically engender more trust.  Sites that don’t conform to people’s expectations for secure shopping will not convert as well as sites that do.

To address performance, ask the following:

– Can you handle the increased traffic?
– Will your pages load reasonably for your customers?
– Is the user experience meeting the standard that your customers (or you) would expect?
– When considering your responses, were you thinking about your desktop or your mobile experience?
– Will/should your audience trust you to deliver a secure transaction?

Then, consider the following basic steps:

– Code Review/Profiling and Remediation
– Pre-Holiday Load Tests and Infrastructure Adjustments (think about ways to handle short bursts)
– Full Page Cache
– Image Optimization
– Mobile Experience Enhancements
– Improved Navigation
– Search Optimization
– Offsite Payments

It’s a simple calculus. What can you offer your customers this season that will convince them to buy your product instead of someone else’s?  Part of the equation needs to be site performance.

Want to discuss this further? Have questions or comments? Contact us.

Written by: Jon Klonsky, Principal and Founder