How to cope with Cyber Monday
What is Cyber Monday?
In 2005 a group of marketers in the United States made a conscious decision to create Cyber Monday. They ran a concerted campaign to attempt to divert some of the panic buying that has become a feature of Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving where stores run some incredible discounts – into online ecommerce stores. It was a roaring success, and is now a global phenomenon.
In 2016 almost $3.5Bn was spent online on Cyber Monday setting a new record with an increase of over 12% on the year before. The US is still leading the way, but since 2009 Cyber Monday has been the busiest online shopping day in the UK, and is growing every year.
If you’re worried about how your site will cope with the increase in traffic on Cyber Monday you are almost certainly not alone. Cyber Monday is one of the busiest days of the year for any online business, with Black Friday and the run up to Christmas falling only a little behind in terms of traffic.
The extra traffic, while being welcome, does come at a price. From dramatically reduced load speed, to a site vanishing completely for the unprepared it can be more of a curse than a blessing. A poor online experience for your customers can not only significantly reduce your immediate sales, but it can also have a negative effect on the brand as a whole. What should be the biggest sales opportunity of your year can rapidly turn into a nightmare that impacts on your whole business.
Even long established businesses as big as John Lewis, Target, and Paypal have experienced traffic related problems on Cyber Monday in the past leading to reduced sales, and negative press.
So here are a number of things you can do to help your site cope with the increased traffic during busy periods.
Content Delivery Networks
A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a network of servers around the world that stores caches of your content and delivers it to the user based on their geographic location. In effect this reduces the load on your server by spreading it around. The knock-on effect of this is that your site can cope with a lot more traffic without reducing load speeds.
Here at Wirehive we use a number of different CDNs depending on the specific requirements of the site. Just like any additional service there will be an impact somewhere on the site, and so it is vital that the CDN selected is appropriate for you and your business. For our own site we use Incapsula because of its capability as a Web Application Firewall as well as a Content Delivery Network. Meaning that not only do we remove a lot of the speed related issues caused by increased traffic but we are also protected against malicious attacks on the site.
Streamline Your Website
When a customer accesses your site a lot goes on behind the scenes. It’s worth taking a look at the processes that run and seeing if you can temporarily switch any of them off. Days like Cyber Monday are rare, and it’s worth making sure that you focus on what really matters – the bottom line. Make buying as fast and simple as possible for your customers and you’ll make more money.
There are number of ways you can do this, from removing features whose primary function is aesthetic such as image sliders, to temporarily disabling intensive features such as interactive maps and videos in iFrames.
Reducing the number of steps a customer has to take in order to buy from you is also a good idea when you are preparing for high levels of site traffic. Consider switching from “Add to Cart” to “Buy Now” as the default.
Not only do mobile users currently account for over 40% of online sales, but mobile sites tend to be smaller, more streamlined, and simpler for the customer to use. If you are diverting mobile users to a desktop version of your site not only is it going to make it harder for them to buy, but it is going to slow things down for everyone else.
Also bear in mind that pop ups have a tendency to work differently on mobiles. Nothing makes a user more likely to click away than a pop-over window they cannot close on their mobile. It’s worth considering switching off pop-ups for a day or two. After all is it really worth sacrificing sales in order to add a few more names to your email newsletter list?
If your site is one that encourages customers to download your app when they visit on their phone make sure that your app is up to date and running smoothly. Not focusing on Mobile Users can cost you and your business a lot of money.
Remember The Database
Your e-commerce site is a fantastic interface, but the magic really happens in the database. Every time a customer views a product, adds something to the basket, or makes a purchase, the database is accessed and updated. The bandwidth to your site may well be able to cope, but that is irrelevant if the database driving it can’t cope with the extra activity.
Things like buffer pool, log file size, and maximum numbers of connections all make a difference to the way your site performs when traffic increases.
Streamlining a MySQL database is not something for the faint hearted, but fear not. If you are a customer of ours give us a ring and we can look to do that for you.
Talk to your Hosting Company
If you’re expecting a spike in traffic then it makes sense to talk to your hosting company. They are the experts after all, and the last thing they want is for the service they provide you to fail at the very moment when you need it the most. Drop them an email or give them a ring and see what they can do to make this year’s Cyber Monday the most profitable ever for you.
But do bear in mind that not all hosting companies are the same. Despite what they might claim many of the bigger hosting companies do not offer a responsive and personalised service to all of their customers. Knowing you have genuine 24 hours a day cover, and a named contact in your hosting company is never more important than on days like Cyber Monday.
If the worst did happen and your site went down on Cyber Monday suddenly finding out your hosting company was over-generous with the truth when discussing their level of support can be devastating. Speak to your hosting company sooner rather than later to understand exactly how they will support you over this crucial period. A conversation now about temporarily increasing the speed and capacity of your servers or implementing auto-scaling to ensure your site gracefully copes with any uptick in demand over the four day period will allow you to focus on maximising the sales opportunity this American import affords.
If you are already one of our customers then give your account manager a call on 01252 560565, and they’ll be able to talk you through what we can do to make sure you make as much money as possible this year.
After all, that’s what we do.
We are Wirehive, and we recognise that great brands are based on great experiences. Together we can make sure your customers have a great experience with you.