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Cyber Monday: Past, Present, and Future

While Cyber Monday is still several months away, it's never too soon to look at ways to make the most of your Cyber Monday performance.

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Cyber Monday is the name that marketers give to the Monday after Thanksgiving. It is a vital date in the retail calendar, with millions of consumers around the world logging on to the web each year to find great deals on holiday gifts for their friends and family. Traditionally, many retailers view Cyber Monday as the online equivalent of Black Friday, which occurs three days earlier — although today the entire weekend is a hot spot for online sales. Whereas Black Friday can pose logistical challenges for brick-and-mortar store owners, Cyber Monday challenges e-commerce sites to handle much larger amounts of traffic than usual. Before we can learn how to manage its challenges, it is important that we understand what Cyber Monday is and how it originated. In short, the term Cyber Monday originated in 2005. A marketing team at the National Retail Federation came up with the name as part of an effort to create an online equivalent to Black Friday. Since the term was introduced, Cyber Monday has become an increasingly popular day for online shopping, with many consumers using the discounts on offer as opportunities to start their holiday shopping from the comfort of their homes and workplaces.

The Evolution of Cyber Monday

Focusing on work is a struggle for most people returning from a Holiday weekend, particularly on the first day back after Thanksgiving. This underlying trend in human nature, coupled with the fact that most people did not have a high-speed internet connection at home in 2005, probably explains why the Monday after Thanksgiving was the day when so many Americans chose to start their online holiday shopping. Now that so many people can access high-speed Internet through their laptops, smartphones, and tablets, online sales have spread over the entire Thanksgiving weekend and beyond to create a busy period that stretches from Halloween to January.

Cyber Monday is not the only high-traffic day in the retail calendar. Other significant e-commerce events include Singles’ Day, which was pioneered by Alibaba in 2009. Falling on November 11 each year, Singles’ Day is a major gifting occasion in China, a huge retail market. If your business has global reach, awareness of international online shopping days is vital for maximizing your sales and revenue.

The Value of Cyber Monday for Online Retailers

In 2015, Cyber Monday was the biggest online shopping day of the holiday season in the United States and Europe. Online sales on Cyber Monday outpaced those of Black Friday by 25.5 percent, with each customer spending an average of $123.43. Cyber Monday is an incredible opportunity for online retailers to make sales. Some of the largest Cyber Monday sites include Groupon, which offered discounts of up to 69.6 percent in 2015. Amazon and eBay also offered huge discounts on electronics, apparel, and accessories.

Challenges Posed By Cyber Monday

The trend of online shopping spreading over several days is good news for retailers, as it spreads the load on their servers. On the other hand, overall visits to e-commerce sites are growing year on year, so there are still challenges that retailers need to overcome to cope with so much traffic.

Experts predict that Cyber Monday is likely to remain important over the next few years, presenting an opportunity for retailers to make money from online shoppers and surfers – but it is also a big problem. The huge volumes of traffic surging to sites on Cyber Monday can cause them to crash, leading site owners to miss out on thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales. In 2011, many of the top 55 retail websites were down for at least part of the day, disappointing customers who were looking for good deals from their favorite retailers.

The Downside of Cyber Monday: Failures and Flops

Even as recently as 2015, some retailers struggled to cope with the challenges posed by Cyber Monday. Although the major retailer Target managed to prevent a complete crash on the big day, many customers experienced the frustration of being placed in the online equivalent of a long checkout line when the message “Please hold tight” appeared on the site. Target claims that forcing some customers to wait to access the site helped to manage the demands on the server, preventing a complete crash. This unique solution allowed shoppers who managed to access the site to enjoy it functioning at an acceptable speed, rather than giving everyone a miserably slow shopping experience.

Failing to meet the technical challenges posed by Cyber Monday can cause companies much embarrassment. Consumers feel disappointed, frustrated and sometimes even angry when they hear about a great deal but aren’t able to access the site that is offering it. The moral of the story? If you promise your customers time-limited discounts and other special offers, make sure your site is equipped to deliver on those promises.

How to Handle the Technical Challenges of Cyber Monday

If you want to make the most of Cyber Monday, it is vital to ensure that the technology backing up your e-commerce site is robust enough to cope with sudden surges in traffic. Many businesses spend time planning and advertising attractive promotions for Cyber Monday, but if you fail to equip your server with the resources it needs to handle the customers that come pouring in, you will likely fail to capitalize on your investment. Use these tips to help you handle the technical challenges that your business may face next Cyber Monday:

1. Check How Much Bandwidth You Can Support

As Cyber Monday approaches, check how much bandwidth your hosting provider allows you to use. This is particularly important if you have a cloud hosting plan, where you share a server with dozens or even hundreds of other sites. Some of these plans have a burstable connectivity limit, which means that more server resources can be allocated to your site in the event of a traffic surge, which is exactly what retailers hope for on Cyber Monday.

2. Load Test Your Site

Before Cyber Monday arrives, it is a good idea to load test your site with extremely high amounts of traffic in a pre-production environment and filter all that triggers a fail point. This will let you see where your site is failing, so you can address it before the big day.

3. Spread the Load

Distribute the load on your server through various data centers. Using a single data center can result in a bottleneck, which can lead to site failure. Geographically distributing your servers allows you to serve traffic to local regions with little latency.

4. Remember Mobile Users

If you have a separate mobile site for your smartphone and tablet users, do not forget to ensure that it is just as well-supported as your main site when Cyber Monday rolls around. The percentage of holiday sales completed on mobile devices grows every year. Mobile users often have slower connections than desktop users, so it is even more important to minimize lag for these users and keep page loading times as short as possible.

5. Use an APM Solution

An APM (Application Performance Management) solution, such as AppDynamics, can intelligently monitor your environment and reveal errors and slowdowns before they affect your customers. Having your production environment monitored 24/7 can help you avoid costly technical mishaps that can result in loss of both revenue and brand equity. Not only will your company lose sales opportunities but the technical liabilities may damage your reputation among consumers.  

The Future of Cyber Monday

Retail experts predict that Cyber Week will become even more relevant to consumers over the next five to 10 years. They predict that retailers will get even better at using customer data collected over many years to create targeted offers for their buyers. However, these enhanced marketing efforts can only result in more sales and more profit if companies invest in the server resources to handle big spikes in traffic.

All the data shows that Cyber Monday sales are growing year on year, and this trend is expected to continue. Businesses must respond to the incredible demands that this special shopping day places on their servers by investing in better infrastructure to help keep their sites online.

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Topics:
performance ,dev ops ,cyber monday

Published at DZone with permission of Anand Akela, DZone MVB. See the original article here.

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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