Black Friday will be here before you know it, ushering in four of the busiest days for online retailers. Most consumers view the period from Black Friday to Cyber Monday as an ideal opportunity to score some bargains, both in brick-and-mortar stores and online. Online shopping during this four-day shopping window has become especially popular, with traffic increasing by 20% to 25% each year for the past few years.
There is every reason to believe that this trend will continue this year, and it’s not too early to begin planning for this year’s onslaught. Last year, the websites of many online retailers experienced slow loading times during this period, and some even crashed for several hours. Here are a few steps that you can take to get ready to help you avoid becoming a casualty during this key shopping period.
One of the first things that you should do is look at your website’s infrastructure. May and June represent an excellent opportunity for you to evaluate how your website is performing and to carry out any routine maintenance required to ensure that your site is ready for the expected increase in traffic. Evaluate your infrastructure with the goal of avoiding any downtime for maintenance during the peak selling season. These two months are also an excellent time to install any new services.
July is the perfect time to test your website’s performance to look for any issues that might affect the loading time. Look at your historical traffic data for this four-day period, and evaluate your ability to handle Black Friday’s increased traffic loads, assuming that traffic will increase over last year. Also, see whether you have any applications that are particularly sensitive to increases in traffic. If you find any areas that present a challenge, this is the time to install the technology that will mitigate the problem.
In August, freeze the implementation of any updates to your website’s infrastructure. Then, look at your analytical data again to uncover any potential weaknesses remaining. Conduct load tests of your site to be sure that any changes that you made in July are performing as expected. Testing high loads in August gives you adequate time to make any changes before Black Friday arrives.
In September and October, evaluate any natural increase in traffic loads. You should start to see a natural increase in traffic loads by October, and analysing real traffic data rather than the artificial traffic that you used for load testing can often uncover some surprises. Check your site daily to ensure that it is handling increased traffic loads efficiently. At this point, your preparations for Black Friday should be complete.
In November, continue your daily traffic analysis. If you’ve been checking your analytics during the past six months, you should only need to make minor adjustments as your traffic increases. Expect exceptionally large traffic loads on Black Friday, with spikes of up to 15 times the average traffic for a typical day during the rest of the year being possible.
Come December, evaluate how your site performed, and use the results of that analysis to help you plan for the peak shopping season in 2018.