Black Friday 2019: What Can Go Wrong in Your Website and How to Prevent It

Black Friday is merely four weeks away. If you own an eCommerce website, you must have already done elaborate plannings and designed unique campaigns to run during the festive time. After all, this is your big chance – a swathe of shoppers who are too eager to purchase will be visiting your website. You want to provide the perfect online experience to them so that they can seamlessly discover what they want to buy and make the maximum number of completed orders.   

However, you need to be well-prepared to handle the heavy-load that your website is likely to experience; otherwise, your wish can quickly go awry. For example, JCrew’s site went down for 5 hours on Black Friday 2018 and is expected to have affected 323,000 shoppers.  

What are the implications for retail owners?

Crashes are a disaster for e-commerce owners and must necessarily be avoided, especially those that occur around the festive season. Every minute your website is down, you will experience financial losses & deliver lousy customer experience, which will increase the likelihood of their churn and opting for a competitor. Website crashes are not the only villains here – other issues such as complicated website navigation and cluttered information can also lead to a negative user experience resulting in lower purchases and less revenue for you. Below, we will examine some common issues that you must avoid to boost your conversions during this festive season.  

What Are The Common Issues That Happen With Websites?

  • Front-end Issues – To maximize the chances of conversion during festive occasions, many times, eCommerce websites present a cluttered assortment of options on their webpages. However, offering too many options, without active support, might do the damage in reverse, turning off the users. The user, when presented with multiple choices, is likely to feel overwhelmed and confused. You need to ensure consistent user experience on your website.
A cluttered website design can leave users confused
A cluttered website design can leave users confused
  • Server Issues – In peak periods, ill-equipped servers may not be able to handle the excessive request load. If your origin server is not equipped to handle the number of hits that it gets, then you need to be prepared to deploy additional configurations immediately, otherwise, your whole website might go down, leading to frustrated and disappointed visitors. To ensure that you are well-prepared, you may need to set-up a dedicated team during the heavy-load period for maintenance and testing. Use load testing tools such as Jmeter or Catchpoint to assess your server performance & to identify if there are any server-side vulnerabilities that you need to address right away.
  • Inefficient Coding – Coding inefficiencies can be the result of multiple factors – such as over-reliance on 3rd party APIs & integrations, which make web pages overweight, or code consisting of too many requests. Many times, website owners load their webpages with images, plugins, videos, and other third-party applications, which improve the functionality but also lead to slow website performance. You may need to make customized changes to your website to manage the spikes in traffic. Image optimization can be an effective way to do so.
  • Offering Short Period Online Offer – You should consider extending your online offer period. Festive offers results in heavy website peak in traffic, which can be too much for your server to handle. You may lessen the peak by continuing offers over a more extended period. This will spread the website load over several days, reducing the peak load that your server has to handle. Start running campaigns and having competitive offers in the week leading to the event. 
  • Not Being Prepared For The Worst – Despite your best efforts to avoid it, you still need to be prepared for the worst – your website crashes or becomes slow and unusable. When it happens, stay in control of the situation. Take accountability and put out messages immediately via company-owned channels to assuage the frustrated visitors. Have your team of customer service representatives & social media team ready to answer queries & douse concerns and complaints. Make sure that if the visitor does not have to make unnecessary steps and that their shopping carts remain intact. 
  • Not Being Mobile OptimizedMobile sales are expected to increase by 28% this year. Consequently, you need to pay particular focus on optimizing your website and offerings for mobile traffic. It will pay rich dividends and will be a competitive edge. Pay attention to factors that are key to offering a rich mobile user experience. Pay attention to the differences in how mobile users interact with your app and take advantage of by making targeted offers for mobile customers to obtain maximum mobile conversions.  
  • Poor Database Performance – Databases are likely to be an important component for adding important functionality to your website user experience. However, often databases are poorly maintained & not well optimized & this can severely affect your website performance, especially during the holiday season when the number of database queries on your website will be huge. You can speed up your website performance by optimizing your application databases for storage & querying purposes. For example, if your database runs on MySQL database, you can index the columns that are used in your SELECT statement, or by removing all the wildcards used in your queries. 

How To Be Prepared For The Black Friday Season?

You may need to conduct a mini audit here – load testing will provide you insights as to what may cause your website to slow down when experiencing heavy traffic. Pay attention to these areas, especially- whether you need to update your CMS, or you need to streamline your code & fix inefficiencies/errors/bugs in your system, such as cleaning your database application by removing redundant plugins. 

You can also look at other areas, such as reducing image size and caching necessary resources to speed up your website performance.

You can move your site to a more powerful hosting plan that can handle your high traffic volume and website spikes in traffic.   

Perhaps, the best option for you would be to set up your website on Content Delivery Networks. CDNs can hugely benefit here: they cache your website content within a network of strategically placed servers all over the world. 

CDN architecture

When your website visitor requests for specific information, the response will be served from the server located closest to the user, rather than having to travel to the origin server and back. This helps to reduce the request & response round trip times. It can significantly boost your website speed, primarily because, as an eCommerce, you would be catering to users who are located all around the globe. 

Additionally, a CDN reduces the risk of a single-server downtime and also provides a host of other benefits such as protection from DDoS attacks, which may prove cataclysmic during the holiday season. It also provides efficient utilization of your server resources, since your server has to handle fewer hits than before. 

The most important benefit perhaps of setting up a CDN is the scalability that it offers. You can quickly scale up/down according to your expected traffic. So, during the holiday season, when you are likely to experience peak yearly traffic, you may require premium configurations. During off-seasons, you can quickly scale back. 

Hence, you don’t have to invest a considerable amount upfront to purchase additional physical servers, which are going to demand maintenance and operating costs even when they are not utilized to their full capacity. 

At Medianova, we provide global CDN solutions for robust e-commerce performance for companies around the world. Our solutions are enterprise-grade & we are one of the fastest, https secure CDNs in Europe and in the Middle East (based on Cedexis).

website performance test for black friday

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