We’re now well into November, and the 'Christmas' word is getting bandied about in various adverts and social media outlets.
While thinking about Christmas feels too early for this author – heck, I even saw a Christmas tree up in a large department store! – one thing that is fast approaching is Black Friday. And Black Friday has the potential to be much more demanding on your business, although, if you get it right, highly profitable as well.
If you run an e-commerce platform, and you’re not already, then you should be paying attention to this UK adopted tradition. According to online retailers trade body IMRG, 2017’s Black Friday was 11.7% up on 2016 with a whopping £1.4bn spent on online sales, and while deals may not be what they appear to be, the total spend is predicted to continue.
As an online storefront, you need to prepare and ensure your website is ready for the potential additional load. The last thing needed is for your website to become slow (or even worse, unavailable); so what can you do? Here are our top five pointers:
Conversion rates are related to website performance
At one time or another, I’m sure we’ve all experienced a slow website experience – how well did you deal with it? Did you persevere, or did you abandon that website for another supplier? Admittedly, some end-users are more patient than others, with the average cut-off time of 3.5 seconds getting quoted. Introduce the ever-growing trend of mobile users; you have a bigger performance challenge to deliver on.
Here you need to measure your website’s performance accurately and consistently. Using a stopwatch is not going to cut it. Get a third party solution – we know and represent some smart solutions – to schedule tests and analyse these for baseline numbers and advice.
Complete a load test on your website
For some, it may be too late to complete a load test this year, but if you’re serious about your platform and understanding its capacity, you will need to complete a load test. Or even better, run them regularly.
Contingencies - plan for the unexpected
Try to account for unforeseen circumstances and create contingency plans on how to handle those identified situations. A classic example is what to do if one of your web servers becomes unresponsive, or maybe your database server experiences some performance challenges.
Ensure your hosting platform can handle traffic surges
If your website becomes slow, unresponsive or crashes, you’ll lose sales and your brand reputation will be damaged. Talk to your operations team or hosting provider and work out a plan together.
Action any quick, small and manageable changes today
A lot of today’s websites are driven by some form of CMS, or product / stock management system, where a separate team manage production descriptions and imagery. While great at streamlining changes, it opens the door for oversized and unoptimised images to get uploaded – do you need that 1.2Mb homepage hero graphic that everybody loads first?
Have the development team thought through the resources required for a web page? Are those resources correctly bundled and minified? Are page objects getting cached, and is the cache period suitably long enough? It may seem obvious, but we see a lot of these basic points getting overlooked.
How can we help?
Here at Application Performance, we have over 20-years experience in website and application performance, and in the past, some of our team here have created some large e-commerce platforms for some of the UK’s leading brands.
We can help you in analysing your solution for any existing or potential performance bottlenecks, and provide friendly, easy-to-understand advice on how to prioritise and tackle any identified issues. We can also help guide you on how to adopt a pro-active approach to web performance, from full-blown APM such as AppDynamics to Rigor’s continuous monitoring and optimisation platform.
Remember it's never too late to take action!
And finally, just in case you’ve forgotten – this year, Black Friday falls on the 23rd of November. p.s. Cyber Monday is Monday 26th November 2018.
We'd be really interested to hear about your experience of Black Friday in previous years - either as an operator of an e-commerce site, or as someone who has suffered from performance issues when using one. In either case, then please just add a comment, or if you prefer, contact us here and we can get in touch.