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Black Friday 2017: is your webshop prepared?

Black Friday mania got us all

Black Friday and the holiday season following after are the great stress test for ecommerce and the companies behind the webshops. Over the last ten years, companies over-saturated customers with various promotions, altering their buying behaviour.

In the dawn of Black Friday, people sat for hours outside big stores like Best Buy only because it promoted TVs at 5 times cheaper than the original price. It was a crazy deal and people were willing to give up their family Thanksgiving dinner to catch that deal. When the store opened, people rushed into it, pushed each other just to buy that TV. Some of them stood out there for more than 10 hours just for nothing, eventually settling for another TV from Best Buy’s offer.

Fast forward to our days: the aggressive shopping continues. The discounts aren’t that scarce as before and we know they’re gonna be there. The difference is we don’t have to wait in the cold to get those great sales. We know we can get then sitting on our couch with just the phone is our hands. We don’t stop at checking only one shop. In less than a minute we can check Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy or any shop we want. We are sure we won’t be left empty handed, because we can check stock availability and delivery period.

This is great news so far for the retailers. More and more people are willing to spend a lot of money, the number’s increasing year by year. So every Black Friday means more involved work: determining business goals, ensuring enough products, marketing campaigns and organizing logistics. Nevertheless, it will be all in vain if your site crashes when promotion seekers are trying to purchase your products.

The black thing about websites during Black Friday

Let’s imagine you are a big retailer and I am trying to buy a laptop you are offering at half of its price on Black Friday. But when I access your website I notice that it is sold out. That’s a pity for me, but it’s understandable I lost it to the other shoppers fair and square.

But, if a 503 error (or any other error) appeared on the screen while I am trying to shop I wouldn’t understand or accept it. You, as a retailer, would be guilty for both your and mine loss. I would be wondering “Why is this not working? What do I do? How can I fix it? How can I still purchase my laptop? How many more seconds do I have until my TV is sold out?”.

So I will be frustrated, I won’t want to buy from your webshop anymore and will buy the laptop from your competition.

A website’s performance and stability is critical especially on Black Friday mainly because:

  • It won’t cause loss of sale due to system crashing right when a lot of deals could be made
  • It won’t affect the brand’s image in a negative way because of poor shopping experience

This situation makes obvious the fact that performance tests are mandatory.

What is good performance?

Even though good performance can be a subjective matter, depending on every business’ specific, there are some clear guidelines indicating that a site is performant.

  1. Uptime - the availability of your website is crucial in determining its performance. Check the uptime of the most important, then measure how many minutes a year the site is down.
  2. Load time - it is no longer a secret that customers expectation regarding speed had changed during the last years. Lose attention for one blink of an eye and the customer go to the competition. So constantly measure the initial page speed as well as the page load speed. Make sure that images, videos, dynamically-loaded (AJAX) content are optimized and cached separately, while dynamic content might need dedicated servers and fast databases.
  3. Website load tolerance - knowing how many visitors your site can take before slowing down is an important indicator: consider you run some marketing campaigns that bring a lot of visitors on your site - you might find yourself in an unpleasant situation with a flooded and not-working website (not to mention that the investment in the campaigns will be lost)
  4. Web server CPU load - CPU usage is a common factor for failures. Too much processing leads to downtimes without even knowing where the problem is. This is an indicator that should be constantly monitored.
  5. Website database performance - a poorly optimized database can make the difference between a fast website and an unusable one. The solution is to closely monitor the database.

 

Monitoring this indicator can surely lead to good performance, and good performance leads to happy customers even in the middle of great sales. Nevertheless, there’s one more critical thing that needs attention before launching ourselves in the discounts of Black Friday:

Test it

Every site that crashes tells us that it definitely wasn’t tested appropriately or thoroughly, especially to handle busy days like these. So the outcome of poor or no testing can be a consistent loss in customers and sales. The only way to avoid this fate is to performs the following recommended tests:

Load test

This is the most commonly conducted performance test. It involves applying ordinary stress to a system to see if it can perform as planned under normal conditions.

Stress test

This one is related to load testing, the difference consisting in stress testing is about overloading things until they break, applying unrealistic or unlikely load scenarios. It deliberately induces failure helping you analyze the breaking points. The stress test is extremely useful for preparing your website for the unexpected. It also tells you your website’s limits and how far the system can be pushed.

Soak test

Soak testing verifies the website’s stability and performance over an extended period of time. This type of test maintains a level of concurrency over an extended period of time. It identifies issues relating to memory allocation, log file handles, and database resource utilisation.

Spike test

This is also related to load testing, but the difference is that spike tests help you understand the capabilities of your website to hold a heavy load that was abruptly and quickly generated. It also verifies if the system recovers between periods of testing.

Isolation test

This test involves repeating a test execution that resulted in a system problem to see if the problem is still there.

Downtimes are expensive

Black Friday breaks new records in sales year by year. Consumers are still expected to spend more money than ever before. Website performance is measured in customers and revenue loss and this is the reason why preparing the website for busy days is so important.

Customers are willing to spend their money these days and if they cannot purchase the products they want from a website, they will do it from someone else. The things could go worse if you are a leader in your niche and experience ecommerce difficulties in the middle of big sales.

Are you ready for big revenues?

The thing about these glorious day of sales is that they need thoroughly preparation. Hope is not a vstrategy, it is the recipe for poor performance, therefore poor experience. That feeling of “getting lucky this year and not experiencing downtimes during sales season” is common before a huge sales event, but it leads businesses to a trap.

There are no second chances with e-commerce. If your site goes down, the damage is done for good.

So it’s a perfect time to start testing your website. Are you having questions for us regarding the process? We are available for a chat so feel free to contact us.

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