Achieving high availability for eCommerce sites all year round is key to maximising revenue. However, performance is never more tested than during the Black Friday period. And with sales predicted to rise this year, maintaining high uptime is more crucial than ever.
Black Friday Downtime in 2015
Last Black Friday, online sales reached £1.1 billion in the UK and the following three days doubled that figure. This was up by 36% on the previous year, while in-store sales experienced a 4% decline. This was reflected in news coverage, as scenes of bargain-hunters queueing up outside department stores were nearly non-existent. Shoppers seem to be realising it’s easier to access Black Friday deals from the comfort of their own home.
However, not all retailers coped with the sudden increase in online traffic. A fifth of all retail websites in the UK experienced downtime before 9am. Argos was said to have suffered the most, with load time slowing to over 3 seconds. Meanwhile John Lewis struggled to cope with record-breaking online traffic and experienced downtime expected to have cost them £2.8m in lost revenue. To ensure you don’t suffer the same fate, be prepared for Black Friday traffic with our tips for high cloud uptime.
1. Limit Functionality
Visually appealing websites packed with rich-media content may be good for engagement, but they can limit your performance during peak traffic times. As a contingency plan, make a list of all non-essential features that you could temporarily remove or disable if the website starts to struggle. To ensure you’re not making rushed decisions on the day, plan ahead and prioritise which features should go first. For example, a live chat feature is good for website engagement, but not essential.
2. Allow for Queuing
Although this may seem counterintuitive, a recent study found that 86% of consumers would rather wait in an online queue than have a website crash on them. Furthermore, over half of consumers who had experienced a website crash during a purchase said that they would have rather waited more than three minutes in a queuing system.
3. Invest in a Content Delivery Network
Studies have shown that if your site doesn’t load within 3 seconds, 57% of visitors will abandon it. This sluggishness is particularly harmful for eCommerce sites as every one second delay results in a 7% decline in sales. Although this loss is damaging at any time of the year, it will be worse if it falls on Black Friday when a predicted £16,087 will be spent every second in the UK.
A Content Delivery Network (CDN) caches website content in a network of servers to then deliver it to users at their geographical proximity. By doing so, CDNs can ensure a seamless and highly responsive experience for global users. Once you have a CDN in place you can test its effectiveness by producing a website performance report.
4. Disaster Recovery & Cloud Backup
Although website speed is bad for abandonment rates, a crashed website entirely destroys your chances to convert users. In this instance you will need an effective disaster recovery plan (DRP). Cloud-based DRaaS solutions can be implemented to produce an almost instant replication of your systems in the event of any disruptive incidents. This self-healing system can take care of itself so you can focus on marketing and sales opportunities to maximise Black Friday sales revenue.
5. Monitor Website Performance
During Black Friday, it's important to obtain valuable data on how your website is handling the high volumes of traffic to aid future decision-making. This can be in the form of website performance reports. This includes tests that can give you insight into how quickly your website loads and highlight areas of improvement.
In addition, we recommend putting together a dedicated team of developers to monitor your website in the lead-up to, and during, Black Friday. Not only can they ensure your website is set up correctly, they can work in partnership with your hosting provider to load test your site prior to the big day and act upon issues should they occur.
At Melbourne, we specialise in providing high availability eCommerce solutions, excellent disaster recovery and 24-hour support specific to your needs. This dedication has resulted in many success stories of websites experiencing high cloud uptime. To see how we can help you prepare for Black Friday, and peak traffic times in general, visit our eCommerce hosting page.