Holiday season guide: 5 best practices to prevent website downtime and prepare for peak retail traffic

Holiday season guide: 5 best practices to prevent website downtime and prepare for peak retail traffic

There are several factors that determine a retailer’s success during the peak holiday season but none more than up-and-running eCommerce retail websites with no downtime, speedy loading time, and no lag of any kind. Be it the traditional peak retail holidays or any specific busy digital commerce period, you need to make sure that your digital infrastructure is ready to perform and handle peak traffic with no website downtime. So, the journey to this annual eCommerce opportunity and the upcoming season must start with your eCommerce site.

Remember, during traffic season, your eCommerce website performance standards have the power of making or breaking your profits margins and eCommerce sales. You must weaponize your digital storefront in such a way that it can easily and swiftly handle maximum possible traffic and sales load. Consumers have little to no patience during the peak holiday season for website downtime and slow load time.

As a digital commerce agency, we’ve helped several brands to prepare thoroughly for their eCommerce peak times performance and adapt their retail websites in such a way that they can handle incoming traffic and sales of magnanimous numbers and display exceptional website performance standards.

In this article, we’ve listed a few expert tested technical practices on factors affecting website performance, how to speed up website performance, prevent website downtime and ready your retail websites for anytime demand. Implementing these recommendations will obviously require a small investment of time, but it should be high on your list if you want to make the most out of the eCommerce holiday season and attain peak retail traffic.

Reasons why your eCommerce website is down?

In today’s highly competitive world, having a beautifully designed website with SEO-rich content is a critical component of your eCommerce marketing strategy to increase traffic to your sites and outperform your competitors. However, the lack of a speedy or high-performing website can adversely affect your online business’s reputation and diminish patronage, sales, and profits. While solving such issues is imperative, first you must be aware of some of the key factors affecting eCommerce website performance so that you can also know how to avert them.

Why your website is down

Here are some of the main reasons for eCommerce website downtime you should be aware of:

1. Server overload

If your website is hosted on a shared server by your host, your host can suspend or take your site offline to protect other websites if there is a significant surge during the eCommerce holiday season or on a sale day. If the host is unable to handle this sudden surge in traffic, the website could crash or lose many of its functionalities.

2. Malicious cyber attack (DDoS)

DDoS, or distributed denial of service, attacks occur when hackers flood a website or online service with a lot of traffic to take it offline. And this increase in traffic volume eats up the server’s capacity and resources.

3. Hardware and software issues

Websites are hosted on servers, which are physical items, and the absence of periodic maintenance and service of these hardwares can cause an unexpected breakdown, causing downtime. In terms of software, if your site uses outdated or incompatible plugins and themes, it could cause trouble for the users accessing your site.

4. Miscellaneous causes

Apart from all the reasons listed above for website downtime, some other factors can be the major causes of website downtime, like – poor quality website hosting, DNS issues, Malicious hackers, mismanaged maintenance, careless or improper code review, rough handling of servers, and so on.

While some of the outages are normal, unexpected and common, and no hosting provider can guarantee 100% uptime. However, understanding the common reasons allows you to take preventative steps to avoid website downtime from happening. It also empowers you to troubleshoot measures to maintain the smooth operation of your site.

What to do if your website is down?

Website downtime can infuriate anyone, and sometimes it can do much worse. The downtime on an eCommerce website can affect customers’ confidence, loyalty and ultimately affect sales and ROI. But the question is, how can we dodge this failure?

So, here we’ve listed down a few practices to help your eCommerce website perform well during peak holiday season traffic:

Practice #1: Approximate and predict site traffic and order volume

Guesswork and gut instincts might work in some wild game but when it comes to your online store’s most significant eCommerce sales generating opportunity of the year, let a data-based approach take the driver’s seat. Peak retail traffic demands, like that during the holiday season, can push your retail websites to its limits. The only way your website can sustain that big influx is by monitoring regular website traffic, comparing it with last year’s peak holiday season traffic, including demand spikes and analyzing your eCommerce website performance standards.

The key benchmarks that’ll help you predict your traffic and order volume this peak holiday season are:

  • Your eCommerce website traffic over the past few months
  • Your eCommerce load traffic during the last holiday season
  • Year-over-year traffic growth (in percentage) between last year’s and this year’s site demand
  • Percentage increase in last year’s peak holiday season traffic and over the past few month’s site traffic

Another way to calculate whether your eCommerce site can handle the incoming seasonal traffic starts with identifying typical peak traffic hours and reviewing the load it places on your digital storefronts. Multiply this number by 3 to predict the resources you’ll need to handle a bulky eCommerce website traffic.

Such data approximations predict the peak traffic your retail websites can expect and then to find ways to meet the peak demand. And of course, don’t forget that 58% of consumers expect to do more online purchases after the pandemic. So, you might need to include such considerations into your list of factors affecting website performance.

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Practice #2: Monitor website demand spikes

You don’t want your eCommerce infrastructure to perform the way it does while handling usual eCommerce website traffic. Peak holiday season asks for higher site traffic, better site load time, and faster site speeds. Prepare in advance, monitor your digital storefront’s demand, and solve for any issues that arise during the process. Some key metrics or factors affecting website performance to note over here include:

Check the site response time: Check your product, cart, checkout and payment pages for load speed. Ensure that the average response time must never exceed 500 ms. Some other pages like product search, category list, and product recommendations must never exceed 10 ms while the home page should load within 100 ms. Adjust the cache-hit ratio as recommended below:

factors affecting website performance
  • Sweep out old data: Remove your old data, including that of campaigns, catalogs, promotions, content., coupons, wish lists, content assets, and more to improve website performance standards and load speed. You can keep inventory records, product prices and lists, and redeemed coupons data.
  • Caching rules: You can cache pages like home pages or search pages, but do not cache pages that have dynamic data or include customer-specific content.
  • Check for code error: Evaluate all code discrepancies in pipeline and script runtimes. Monitor all the external services that might hurt your site’s performance.

Practice #3: Put all your resources to the test

When projecting this year’s peak holiday season traffic, load test your digital retail websites to evaluate how your site might hold up against the expected incoming traffic. You surely don’t want to lose eCommerce sales and customers due to website downtime. Remember, regular testing of your site will be the unsung hero of your global peak retail site performance during this holiday season. So, test deficiencies, document failure points, and explore ways to address these points. Here are a few factors affecting your website performance and metrics that you need to test.

  • Loading speed: Test your site and that of your competitors to see how it holds under peak visits, product searches, orders placed, and checkout directed all the way to payment pages. Remember, every customer wants a speedy and seamless eCommerce site experience right from the time they land on your site till they place their orders and pay for it.
  • Incoming traffic: Check your site for incoming traffic management. Also consider how this traffic should flow through your site.
  • Test its performance: If you’ve partnered with a reputed eCommerce service provider, then it is their job to perform regular website speed testing to test for any issues. There are several options when it comes to monitoring site performance. So, pick a method that pairs well with your eCommerce site. Adobe Commerce’s New Relic Nerdlet allows a snapshot of overall site performances as well as added information about potential performance issues.

Practice #4: Work towards improving your eCommerce site experiences

Several things go into maintaining the website performance standards of your eCommerce site. All of these practices ensure peak-season performance with no website downtime and high loading speed. The following are some how to improve website performance tips to boost conversion numbers:

Optimize images for fast eCommerce experience:

Images play a pivotal role in a consumer’s buying decision, impacting eCommerce sales. But when not optimized and poorly managed, it negatively impacts website performance standards and page load time. So, resize and optimize product images.

Back up your eCommerce site data:

Anything can go wrong during the deployment process. Therefore, you must employ proper back-up processes to prevent a tedious rollout. So, backup data so that you can restore specific environments at any time, saving critical time and money.

Keep in touch with your eCommerce provider’s team:

  • As a solutions partner to several iconic brands, we tend to discuss the support plans for the eCommerce holiday season beforehand so that everyone can execute the plan on time and handle all throttles should anything unexpected happen.
  • We put together a team of leaders from IT, support, operations, customer and brand departments and plan the escalation procedure.
  • Our experts provide a step-by-step plan to alert the right people in case of issues, handle all technical and security issues as and when they occur, and ensure speedy performance at all times.
  • We plan a 24/7 support procedure for planned holiday periods and even the unplanned ones. We keep our clients in loop as well.

Don’t let deployment hamper your eCommerce sales:

It is important that your visitors browse and shop uninterrupted during the peak eCommerce website traffic season, which is why you might need to push immediate changes to the production environment to ensure speedy site performance. Adobe Commerce allows retailers to configure their project in a way so that their customers easily engage with a live site and experience zero website downtime during deployment routines.

Practice #5: Protect your site and customer data

In today’s data-driven economy, customer information is a goldmine for brands. Since this data is worth billions of dollars to brands, it is more likely to be stolen or hacked. It is why you need to protect your site’s information, including critical consumer data. Follow these steps to ensure a safe and secure browsing experience during this peak holiday season.

Upgrade to the latest versions of your eCommerce platforms:

As data stealing has become a more serious threat than ever, it is imperative that merchants update their retail websites software to the latest versions before heading into the peak holiday season. Hackers use flash sales as a way to pull up the biggest frauds and steal precious consumer data. So, if you haven’t upgraded your site yet, do so before the holiday season.

Use in-built security tools:

Modern eCommerce platforms tend to have a security system in place to prevent hackers from entering your software.

  • For example, Adobe Commerce merchants can employ the Security Scan tool to run over 21,000 tests on their sites, receive insights about security risks in real-time, and improve the digital security of the storefront. Moreover, retailers can even schedule security checks daily or weekly. The idea is to resolve all the issues mentioned in the security scan to ensure peak performance.
  • On the contrary, Salesforce Commerce Cloud requires a two-factor authentication to gain entry into the platform to prevent security attacks, phishing, form-jacking (hackers inserting malicious code to your site to steal customer data), card-skimming and other cyber attacks.

Perform security patches:

Security patches are a way to keep pace with the latest security trends. It is recommended to install security patches as and when they’re available before they stack up. It will help you optimize your regular eCommerce website performance standards as well.

Keep up with the privacy regulations:

Ensure that your eCommerce site is up-to-date on the privacy regulations required as mandated by a region or a country. As a part of our digital commerce maintenance and support services, we help our clients stay navigate all regulations and ensure they are compliant with all the relevant practices.

Ready to make the most of the holiday season eCommerce sales?

Readying your eCommerce site for the peak holiday season is a work in progress. You cannot expect peak performance and zero website downtime without moving a stone. However, with the right way to improve website performance tips and tactics, you can surely make a fortune out of this holiday season.

Regardless of which eCommerce platform you’re on, if you’ve partnered with a Solutions Partner like Ranosys, then you don’t have to worry about website performance standards and scalability. Our experts offer hands-on support during every phase of your eCommerce growth journey. We ensure that our clients receive all the support they need, from resources to expert advice, which is why we offer continuous 24/7 eCommerce support services. With us by your side, you can confidently handle all sudden surges in your retail website traffic.

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