With the holiday season round the corner, it will not be a surprise if some of the ecommerce sites collapse when a trillion of shoppers are trying to shop online. Lack of performance testing, could result in instances of web outages similar to the ones that happened to big names like Walmart, Macy’s or QVC in 2016 and cost them loss of million dollars.

Why do Websites tend to Crash on Busiest Sales Day of the Year?

It is common trends that during the holiday season or grand sales day most of the e-commerce business owners are less prepared to handle a humongous volume of traffic. Problems like web outages happen because the sites are not tested adequately. For instance, the Amazon.Com Prime Day Crash that happened in July 2018 when the landing page was not working or the links from the landing page were redirecting visitors to some error page or back to the landing page. The result was that it drove off a bunch of people from the site instead of selling them stuff. Not only that but also 80% of the online sentiment expressed sadness or frustration about the Prime Day.

Source: Crimson Hexagon

Steps to Prevent your Site from Crashing this Holiday Season

According to Google research 53% of the mobile users tend to leave the site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. Taking into account the above figures, you can well imagine customer reactions when a site becomes completely unavailable even for a few seconds. It will not only lead to loss of millions of dollars but also an irreparable loss of customer trust.

Retailers should know that with e-commerce, they will hardly get a second chance to enhance consumer experience. In case your site goes down on one of those big shopping days, the damage is done for good.

This categorically means that a website crash can never be an option for an online business. But there should be some full proof ways to prevent your site from crashing. What are those ways? Let us have a look at some of those ways.

Performance Testing: E-retailers are struggling hard most of the times when the traffic is too high because they are unable to predict the number of visitors that are coming to a site at a particular point in time. Chances are high that when there is too much traffic on a particular site, it leads to web outage. In such instances, the best solution is to adopt a suitable performance test strategy.

For Performance Testing, there are certain factors that ought to be considered.

  • E-retailers must ensure that performance of the website is not impacted depending on the geographical location of the customers. It is recommended to test the site before a holiday season or before a grand sale is announced. A good practice for performance testing is to carry out the test across a variety of browsers and devices.
  • Mobile plays a notable role in generating business for e-commerce. Hence, performance testing for mobile should be done to ensure that apps do not crash when there is a surge of traffic. Performance testing in mobiles need to address the variations that arise due to a plethora of devices, networks, and platforms.
  • In an e-commerce site there are some transactions that are more network intensive than the others. An integral part of performance testing is to test all those transactions across all browsers and devices so that the transaction processing speeds are maintained at optimum levels.

Load Testing: During the season of heavy sales, the instances of sites crashing are quite common. Nevertheless, retailers need to take active steps so that they can protect their sites from crashing during heavy traffic and bring about an improved shopping experience.

It is important to provision scalable infrastructure and application code which can tackle huge surge of traffic. However, before the provisioning, everything should be properly load tested that includes the scaling policies, automatic code deployment, target tracking, lifecycle hooks, and health checks. Similarly, DNS failover, and dynamic load balancing should be an integral scope of load testing as well.

Security Testing: Always keep in mind that security is not an alternative for your e-commerce site, it is a must have. All attempts should be made so that the security layer of the site is not compromised. Before the beginning of the holiday season more number of penetration tests must be done so that the vulnerable areas can be taken care of and certainly there ought to be a multi-layered approach to security to accelerate online customer experience.

There are quite a few other ways that could save your e-commerce site from crashing on a big sale day. For instance, a lot of innovative retail technologies  get developed on a site especially during the months of June-July to make it sale ready. But the problem is there might be loose ends of those functionalities. So the best practice is having a switch for each of the new functionalities that are developed so that it can be turned off as and when required instead of it meddling with the overall functionality of the site.

To stagger your sales is a preventive step. This means, instead of opening all your sale deals one at a time, it is better to pace your sales. By adopting this strategy, you can get to correct all your mistakes in the first hour itself and make your site more stable so that they can handle higher volumes of traffic.

During the holiday season e-commerce business owners must keep in mind that there is no room for them to have any broken links, or loose ends. For instance, in case they are offering customers the facility to buy online and pick-up in store, it is necessary that customers are facilitated to complete the entire journey seamlessly. If there are glitches in between it will impact the retail consumer experience.

E-retailers should always opt for a robust site when getting ready for the holiday season. It is advisable to adopt a multi-site approach so that when one site goes down, the other site can pick up and ensure a smooth experience for the customers. Nevertheless, in spite of all these preventive steps in case your site actually crashes on a big sale day you need to ensure retail customer engagement is available for a few seconds so that they stick to the site till you are up once again. One of the ways could be gamification and the other could be enticing them with more lucrative deals because they could not access the site for a few seconds.

Last but not the least, do all things that is possible to give your customers a lovely retail experience.

Shraddha Banerjee

From an Instructional Designer to a Writer, Shraddha loves learning new things every day. When not writing or researching on emerging technologies, she is busy playing with her little bundle of joy.