Black Friday has quickly become the biggest retail event of the year in the UK, and sales and marketing staff are busy preparing themselves for what can be a make or break week for businesses. What started as an American shopping tradition following Thanksgiving has spread in recent years to become a worldwide phenomenon, with shoppers holding out for Black Friday and Cyber Monday (the online shopping equivalent of Black Friday) to buy gifts ahead of the Christmas holiday season.
For businesses who are currently preparing their Black Friday deals, there are many points to consider. “Are popular items likely to run out of stock?”; “do we have enough staff to cover the increase in demand?”; “are our promotions ready to go out across our social media and online advertising channels?”
However, for an online retailer, there is one question you need to ask yourself above all others: “Is our website ready to deal with the increase in traffic, and how would we know if it went down?”
Since 2014, online sales in the Black Friday period in the UK have increased year on year, with £1.49 billion generated in online sales in 2018. With that trend set to continue in 2019, a period of downtime in the Black Friday period, however short, can quickly add up to eye-watering sums of lost revenue.
The Cost of Website Downtime
In recent years, many of the headlines surrounding Black Friday and Cyber Monday have focussed on the record-breaking sales and revenue generated in the period. What is rarely mentioned, however, is the revenue lost by major brands in the period due to website outages.
For example, lingerie company Victoria’s Secret experienced significant issues in Black Friday 2016, with their website going offline during a peak shopping period, resulting in online complaints from frustrated customers, and many lost sales. In the same year, Macy’s Inc. and Williams-Sonoma experienced similar issues in the US, while in the UK, John Lewis, Game, Debenhams and Ted Baker all experienced serious issues resulting from the increased traffic to their websites.
Precisely how much revenue was lost in this period due to website downtime is difficult to calculate, but a period of downtime for Amazon on Prime Day 2018 is said to have cost them as much as $99 million in lost sales!
What is Website Uptime?
Clearly, it is imperative that online retailers are able to ensure 100% uptime in the Black Friday period. But how do ensure that your website does not go offline following a high traffic spike? The first step is to monitor the status of your website using a website uptime monitoring service.
The uptime of your website is crucial not only to avoid potential lost sales, but also to protect the authority of your brand, the rankings of your website in Google, and the security of your website in the event of a cyber attack.
A website uptime monitoring service such as the Free, Superior and Business provided by StatusCake, actively monitors the status of your website, at intervals ranging from every five minutes on our free plan, to 30 seconds on our Business plan. If there is an issue with your website, you are alerted instantly by email or SMS. This allows you to stay one step ahead of any issues that may arise with your website, giving you the time to take action to mitigate the impact of any sustained period of downtime.
As we have seen in this article, any period of downtime throughout the year can have a negative impact on your business. However, for an e-commerce business, an extended period of downtime during Black Friday will result directly in lost sales and revenue. It is imperative, therefore, that you utilise every resource at your disposal to minimise the potential for downtime, and that you have a specialist website uptime monitoring service set up in advance of the big day to alert you in the event of your website going down.
StatusCake’s suite of performance monitoring tools which are easy to set-up and use, and provide you with invaluable insights into how your website performance is impacting your customers’ experiences. Our free plan includes a range of free tools, including page speed monitoring, while our paid plans include SSL Monitoring, Server Monitoring, Domain Monitoring and Virus Scanning.
The Impact of Page Speed
Website downtime is not the only issue you may have to contend with this Black Friday. A surge in traffic can also cause your website to slow down significantly, presenting a significant barrier to online sales.
According to research by Google, over half of users accessing a website from a mobile device will leave if the site takes more than three seconds to load. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are increasingly becoming mobile shopping events, with research from Adobe, showing that 51% of all online retail traffic in November and December last year came from mobile devices.
Online shoppers are more informed and more discerning than they ever have been before. In the Black Friday sale period, they are spoiled for choice when it comes to where they spend their hard-earned money, and few will tolerate a website that makes them wait to access an offer that has piqued their interest.
There are a number of steps you can take to optimise the page speed on your website, including:
- File compression
- Minifying CSS scripts
- Leveraging browser caching
- Using a Content Distribution Network (CDN).
Check out our recent article on How to Increase Page Speed for more information!
Once you’ve optimised the speed of your key pages, use the StatusCake Page Speed Test to monitor the impact of your changes. Page Speed Tests are built into the free plan, with users able to increase the testing frequency on the Superior and Business plans.