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We all know how important Christmas time is to online retailers—over 25% of annual ecommerce sales in Germany are made during Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the rest of the holiday shopping season. But surges in online traffic can overload your website or app, causing crashes that risk sales revenue and brand reputation. How will your website or app cope this Holiday Season? We’ve made a list for you to check twice. Take these 5 steps and you’ll be on your way to a profitable holiday season.

Notebook and Christmas
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Identify bottlenecks

The fact is that your website’s performance is only as good as its weakest link. It’s great if your website can handle 10,000 concurrent users. But if your payment system maxes out at an inflow of 100 users per minute, you’re going to frustrate customers and lose sales. So, first think strategically about your customer journey. What are the touch points with 3rd party systems? Which parts of your site are database-intensive? Understanding the soft spots in your customer journey lets you prioritize them for any performance testing, and helps you know where your capacity limits lie.

Load test

Think of load testing as a dress rehearsal for your peak traffic periods. Load testing is a type of performance testing that involves using simulated traffic to put demands on your website or app. Load testing lets you analyze website response time and robustness. It can alert you to performance bottlenecks in your customer journey and provide data on the traffic levels your website or app can realistically handle. Having thought in advance about your bottlenecks lets you know where you should focus your load testing.

Plan for bots

Bad bots are a nasty Christmas gift for ecommerce businesses. They can jam up your inventory systems. Their traffic puts added strain on your infrastructure. They frustrate customers by snatching up popular products. And they can carry out account and financial fraud that harms your brand reputation. If your website hasn’t been affected yet, making sure that you have tools like Google’s CAPTCHA is a fine start. But for companies that have a more acute bad bot problem, a tailored, combined solution addressing your specific pain points is likely better than a one-size-fits-all approach.

Ensure mobile is covered

In Germany, 50% of ecommerce sales during last Black Friday weekend were made from mobile devices. What’s more, studies show that 19% of desktop ecommerce sales are actively influenced by mobile activity. German consumers point to slow response times and difficult site navigation as reasons why they don’t complete more purchases on their phones. This means that it is critical to follow best practices for mobile optimization, such as minimizing pop-ups, auto-fitting text, and verifying image availability. If you offer a mobile app (more than 67% of consumers have downloaded an ecommerce one) you will already have the aesthetic features under control, but make sure to load test your app too.

Have contingencies in place

Website traffic can unpredictably fluctuate during the holiday season, and it can be expensive to scale up servers just to deal with peaks in traffic. One contingency tool is a virtual waiting room. Virtual waiting rooms are SaaS solutions that offload website visitors to an online queue when capacity limits are exceeded. Some virtual waiting rooms also offer native app support.

After you’ve completed your load tests, you’ll have an idea of the capacity limits across your entire customer journey. You can then set thresholds in the virtual waiting room for when the online queue should kick in. An advanced virtual waiting room can be implemented just in front of the page(s) needing protection or can cover the entire website.

After all the technical preparations listed above, don’t forget the important internal communication needed to make sure everyone in the company is aligned. If marketing has a big campaign planned, the IT department should be in the loop. And the key contact people in marketing, business, and operations should be known in advance in case unexpected issues arise. If you have plans for all the points covered in this article, then you’re well on your way to a prosperous holiday season.

About the author

Queue-it is the leading developer of virtual waiting room services to control website and app traffic surges by offloading visitors to an online queue. It is trusted by hundreds of top ecommerce enterprises and has ensured online fairness for billions of consumers worldwide. The company has offices in Denmark and the U.S. For more information, please visit www.queue-it.com.