Most days in the world of business and ecommerce are fairly run of the mill; you can expect a typical amount of traffic and standard sales figures. In other words, it’s business as usual. But what about those special days when engagement is off the charts? This can happen as a result of content or promotions going viral, the release of new coupons getting distributed on mega forums or coupon sites or simply a mailing going out to your customer list to increase sales.
However, once you start thinking about holiday promotions and throwing big shopping days like Black Friday or Cyber Monday into the mix, then things can really get crazy! During flash sales and holiday specials (not to mention after successful promotions), your ecommerce store suddenly becomes the go-to destination for online shoppers. With this in mind… do you have the server capabilities and scalability to make sure your site is up and running at all times?
No matter what you know about your site and servers at the moment, this is a good problem to have… you just need to make sure your site can accommodate it before such events actually take place. Unfortunately, only 27 percent of small and medium-sized businesses are currently equipped to handle a 200 percent increase in traffic. Prepping your ecommerce site for a traffic spike now will pay off in spades down the line. Here’s how to get ready for these engagements.
It’s difficult to chart the future of your online store if you don’t know where you’ve been. Analyzing past data (and patterns over time) helps you know what to expect.
Let’s say you’re launching an annual storewide clearance event to help move the remnants of last season’s inventory. Before it goes live, you should review year-over-year sales for said event, not to mention the effectiveness of your previous promotional campaigns. You can also determine whether the sale attracted mostly new or returning customers and how they entered your site. With this information in hand, you’ll know what to expect and how to maximize traffic and sales leading up to the big day in order to host your highest-earning event to date.
The most basic principle of handling a traffic spike is, well, a website that fundamentally works. If your server crashes ten minutes into what was supposed to be your biggest sale of the year, your revenue will take a major hit and your customers’ loyalty will erode. Conducting an enterprise ecommerce platform comparison well before your next big event can help you choose a flexible, cloud-based solution to handle the ups and downs of ecommerce.
In order to accommodate a traffic peak (and each subsequent one after that), consider the benefits of a cloud platform. Why? As one Forbes contributor writes, “Cloud platforms are sometimes called ‘elastic.’ In a nutshell, this means they’re designed for fast scaling. New servers can be deployed quickly, and available resources can be increased to accommodate almost any demand.”
Even if shoppers can enter your site during a period of heavy traffic, can they fill their carts with their favorite products? As an eager customer, nothing is more of a letdown than seeing “Out of Stock” printed underneath the very item you wanted to buy. These visitors want to give your store money! In return, you must offer them a plentiful inventory full of products ready to be shipped—not backordered, not “coming soon.”
Just as it’s important to plan your back-end deployment, it’s important to engage in inventory planning before any high-traffic sales event. Beef up the numbers on bestsellers and make sure there’s a quick way to restock if numbers run low. You can even set up automatic reordering below a certain threshold to make sure your store never runs dry.
The last step before you go live is testing your ecommerce site for yourself—on desktop computers, tablets and smartphones. It’s not about just making sure your site is responsive and viewable on all devices, its also about making sure your shopping cart and ordering process works correctly as well. Keep in mind, ordering through a desktop and mobile device are two completely different processes. You need to make sure this is set up to be completed as fast and easy as possible. After all, your shoppers will be accessing your online shop from all of these endpoints. Check for laggy graphics, poor user experience (UX) and accessibility issues. By looking at your site through your customers’ eyes, you’ll be able to optimize their shopping experience.
It’s never too early to start prepping your ecommerce site for a traffic spike. This is something many site owners and online busineses won’t find out until it’s too late… often referred to as one of the many pitfalls of running an ecommerce site. A successful online sales event means establishing your expectations, providing a great UX to shoppers, avoiding costly server downtime, carefully managing your inventory and learning from past mistakes.
My name is Zac Johnson and I have been an online entrepreneur for the past 18 years and blogger since 2007. This is my personal blog and I welcome you to the site. In full disclosure, it is safe to assume that I am benefiting financially or otherwise from everything you click on, read, or look at while on my website.
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