Black Friday is here and we all know what that means – shopping and a lot of it!
Black Friday has become the biggest sales events of the year. With time, it has been adopted by retailers around the globe to offer massive promotions and deals for their customers. For brick and mortar stores, sales season means groundwork, stocking up, more staff, etc. But if you are in online retail, this means making sure that your website is up and running throughout the holiday sales season.
For the beginning, you need to take a closer look at the information given on your website, for example, does it clearly state everything, like price, discounts, shipping cost, and deadline? What about the delivery date and return policy? Are the search and advanced search options fast and intuitive? It is of utmost importance that you can experience things firsthand in your store and make sure that things are up to the mark.
Even though a lot of people still go and shop in a physical store, the numbers showing the popularity of eCommerce are staggering. According to a survey conducted by RetailMeNot, customers plan to spend an average of $743 this year during the Black Friday weekend. Last year this figure was $505, and the results also show that nearly seven out of ten customers will shop over the said weekend this year. More than 56% of the customers said that they will make a purchase on the Cyber Monday and last year’s data showed that 3.39 million dollars were spent on Cyber Monday sales alone. For an online retailer, downtime (the period when a website is inaccessible) during this time means a massive loss.
A downtime during the peak sale hours can cost even a small company thousands of dollars in lost profits. The total amount of time a website is live across a given period is usually set at 99.9% which translates into a downtime of 43 minutes a month and 8 hours and 46 minutes a year. Looking at the historic data of peak sale hours and dividing the total profits by number of peak hours can give you an estimated figure of the downtime cost.
According to Amazon, a webpage load slowdown of just one second could cost it $1.6 billion in sales each year. Data also shows that 1 in 4 visitors would abandon the website if it takes more than 4 seconds to load and a 2-second delay at check-out results in customers abandoning the shopping cart at a rate of 87%, which means investing in better practices for your online stores can save you not only from loss of customers, but also from customer backlash, which happens quite often on social media.
It sounds tedious, doesn't it? Read on and see how these steps can help your business in getting its sales up and acquire more customers by having an up and running online store that provides great user experience.
1. Plan It Out!
Planning is necessary and it helps in achieving the end goal, which in this case is to prepare your website for sales season. A plan here doesn’t mean a 100-pager, but rather a list of tasks (setting up a monitor, testing your website, etc.), a timeline, required tools, and people responsible for doing the legwork!
2. Test Your Important End-User Routes
One of the most frustrating experiences of modern online shopping is a faulty transaction flow. Think of an unclickable cart, broken product links and buttons, or not showing order success status, – each of these can be a sure-fire way to create a negative image of your business. Therefore, continuous testing of your most used transaction routes is a necessary step. These routes can include customer landing onto the website, searching for a product, seeing the details, selecting product options, adding it to the cart and then checking out. You need to find anything that is confusing, slow or broken during the whole process. The next step is to have it scripted and use it to test the transaction routes periodically. Having timely notifications in case of any issues allows you to get them resolved even before your customers are affected. A good tool will generate detailed reports and will also help you in troubleshooting the problems. This approach is proactive and very easy to set up with the help of a transaction monitoring toolset.
3. Check on Mobile Devices
According to a Neilson report, four in five (87%) smartphone and tablet owners say they use these devices for shopping activities, even if they complete the purchase on the PC later – which means adopting for a smaller screen is a must for all online stores. You need to make sure that your website looks and works fine on a smaller screen and customers can make a purchase as easily as they do on a laptop/desktop. Mobile version doesn’t mean a tinier version of the website but rather a seamless experience for the customer to be able to shop hassle free from a smartphone or tablet. Pay attention to the render time (time taken to have the web page ready for the visitor to use and interact with) and see how images look on a smaller screen. There are plenty of tools available that can help in testing the website on different screen sizes and investing time here can spare you from lost profit.
4. Stress Test the Website
You need to do both web load testing and scenario stress testing on your website. There is a difference between both types, load testing checks how much traffic a website can endure and what happens when full capacity is reached. Stress testing goes a little further and checks with a ready-to-use single script of user interaction scenario at what point any function of website crashes and what happens when it does. Here you need to do both, you will start with simulating different user scenarios while adding to the numbers of users per test, this will give you a preview of what is going to happen on the Black Friday weekend. For adding more capacity to your online store, cloud caching and/or web caching is an excellent idea.
5. Keep an Eye on the Website Uptime
It is necessary for a business to be equally accessible users from different locations. Remember, 4 seconds – that is how long your visitor is going to stare at the loading sign before leaving for good. Solution? You will need an uptime monitor to keep an eye on your website’s availability from different geographic locations. Make sure you have proper notifications settings to get alerts only on important events and through the medium of your choice (email, SMS, etc.).
6. Monitor Your User in Real Time
It is important to monitor the customers in real time (unlike transaction monitoring that mimics users' behavior) and ensures uptime which signifies the reliability and optimal performance of a website. Real-time monitoring is a safety net that is kept in place to ensure that the transaction flow is problem-free and customers are interacting with the website and placing orders without any hassle. You will need a fitting tool that can send alerts on potential issues and generate visual reports which provide actionable data that can either enhance or fix user flows.
7. See How Fast Your Page Loads
This step can help you identify the components that are slowing down the webpage, such as HD images, database queries that are not optimized, cascading style sheets (CSS) and widgets that are taking away too much bandwidth. This can’t happen manually, so using a full page load monitoring is highly recommended. It can also notify when an item doesn’t load (gives a 404 error message) so that you can fix the problem early on.
8. Get Website Security Monitoring
Raise the guard! Protecting your website from hackers, viruses and malware is necessary and can be done by a security monitoring tool, which will do periodic scans for finding threats and will neutralize them as soon as they are detected. Both internal and external threats can cause a security breach and monitoring activity patterns for finding suspicious activities comes in handy here. Looking out for a malicious activity can safeguard both parties (business and its customers) from hassle and potential loss of money and data. Also, always use HTTPS!
9. Freeze the Code
Don’t make any big changes to your eCommerce website near the holiday seasons, it does sound great to reveal a new website look for your customers but it also means that you haven’t got enough time to test things out. Complete the testing, fixing and website monitoring setup as soon as possible and get on with placing your promotions on both your website and social media. A good practice is to freeze code unless there is an issue causing trouble to the customers which requires immediate fixing.
10. Prepare Error-Free Promotional Content
Promotional content is usually produced and rolled out in a hurry which makes it prone to errors. A mistake in the discounted price or delivery deadline or even a spelling error can harm your business and things like these go viral too! For making sure that you have everything in order, create a content brief and calendar so that no avoidable mishaps happen. Integrating social media is a great way to go and can help in reaching a wider audience.
11. Look at the Analytics
Analytics can give valuable information especially when it comes to bounce rate and goal conversion rate. Channels that convert better should be targeted heavily and strategic plan should be in place. It is imperative to keep an eye on how things are unfolding when it comes to actual sales and to pivot wherever necessary.
For a more detailed guide on how to optimize your website, here’s a handy guide.
We hope that this extensive guide will help you in getting your website ready for the upcoming holiday season. It is difficult to do everything on your own and that is why businesses only flourish when they have a team with pronounced vision, relevant skills and a handful of dependable tools. Things that can be automated should be automated because your time is precious.
Have a great sales season; we hope you do better than your expectations!