Recently, industry leader Amazon blazed a trail with its Prime Day event, promising specials and discounts that were unavailable to customers on Black Friday. While it came and went with mixed reviews from customers, Prime Day did showcase one way retailers can make a splash – so long as they're prepared for the resulting influx of customers.
Many brands host events like this, offering deep discounts and other incentives to customers to boost their client base and revenue. However, one important aspect to keep in mind here is preparation – the company's online platform, in particular, must be ready to handle the large number of consumers rushing to take advantage of these deals.
"Retailers can make a splash in the marketplace – so long as they're prepared for the resulting influx of customers."
Learn from the past – Prepare for additional traffic before online sales
It may seem obvious to have extra support and resources in place to handle the increase in customers during a large event. However, some companies get caught unprepared.
CDNetworks reported that there were several notable website crashes during the 2013 holiday season in particular, where retailers simply didn't have adequate support to account for the considerable boost in demand. Big names including Walmart, Motorola and Canada-based Future Shop were all inundated with customers on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and some customers were unable to access the discounts they were promised.
This can be considerably damaging for the brand, and have a negative impact on the company's reputation. But it's not just a website crash that can cause business to suffer – if a website isn't performing as quickly or optimally as it should, shoppers will likely seek out a competitor. For this reason, it's imperative to ensure ahead of time that the platform is ready to support clients' needs during a large event.
Preparation checklist: Website Security
What should retailers prioritize as part of their preparations? KISSmetrics advised putting security at the top of the list, especially in advance of a big sale. In addition to regular shoppers, an online sale could also attract the attention of cybercriminals with malicious intent.
When examining security, KISSmetrics recommended performing an audit with the help of an expert consultant to pinpoint any weak spots in the company's infrastructure. In addition, retailers should also run cyberattack scenarios to see how their platform would react to an infiltration. These activities will provide a blueprint for protection improvements, illuminating specific areas in need of patches or better safeguards.
It's also important that the security in place provides peace of mind for the customer, as well as the brand. It's common practice – and required by industry guidelines – to have SSL protection in place. KISSmetrics suggested ensuring that the trust seals associated with the certificate are prominently displayed so customers know their sensitive information will be protected.
Test for traffic spikes before an online sale
In addition to website security, it's also essential to test the website to see how it will react to the target influx of customers that will come to take advantage of the online sale or event. Hosting providers recommend a few best practices when it comes to load testing, including pinpointing testing goals and initial benchmarks, as well as deciding on the data collection methods, scripts and testing environment that will be used.
Tests will often uncover common issues including needs for improved compression, a content delivery network, more efficient code or full page caching to enhance performance. Once the problems are pinpointed, the IT team can work to mitigate these problems to help ensure the best experience possible for shoppers.
Scale hosted resources to account for boosted demands
The final, and perhaps most important, piece of the puzzle concerns hosted resources. A robust hosting partner can help the company scale its environment appropriately to ensure the proper support is in place for the rise in customer demand. This will not only prevent the website from crashing, but will also ensure that the platform is as responsive as possible and performs at its best.
To find out more, contact Hostway today.