Posted: August 28, 2014
Get ready for Cyber Monday now
Prepare your eCommerce site to avoid customer frustrationCelesta Howe
Cyber Monday -- the Monday after Thanksgiving -- is arguably the biggest sales day of the year for many eCommerce sites. The last thing a businesses owner wants is for their site to crash during Cyber Monday, costing them potential revenue. Despite Cyber Monday still being months away, eCommerce sites should start preparations now to ensure their website visitors don’t get frustrated due to slow wait times or an unavailable site.
When evaluating your site’s key performance data, there are three metrics that are of particular value for eCommerce sites.
Speed index is the perceived time it takes for a full page to load on your website. It’s the most effective way to measure your overall site speed and how it relates to conversions. Until this point, your customer is unable to interact on your site and begin surfing and searching for desired items. Studies have confirmed that as many as one in four users will abandon a website if it takes more than four seconds to load.
In preparing for days like Cyber Monday when increased traffic can slow site speeds to a crawl, business owners will want to make sure their site is loading quickly and consistently on an average day and test increased traffic capacity to make sure their site can handle holiday traffic spikes.
On Cyber Monday 2013, eCommerce sites saw record sales, up 17.5 percent from 2012, surpassing overall Black Friday sales for the year by 31.5 percent. With more people opting to get their holiday deals online, a fast site can make the difference between a conversion and abandoning the site for another store.
Small and medium eCommerce business owners can check their speed index for free at sites like webpagetest.org.
Often, many small and medium eCommerce businesses fail to keep tabs on checkout speed, which can be an immense obstacle to finalizing a sale. Once a potential customer gets to the checkout phase of the process, everything should be made quick and simple to prevent checkout abandonment. The average checkout abandonment rate is 67 percent, so SMBs want to make sure that users have no additional excuses to leave the site.
To increase your checkout speed, first make sure all of the static and dynamic content on your site is loading in an appropriate amount of time. Static content typically comprises 90 percent or more of a web page, while dynamic content is personal to the user. In this case dynamic content includes the customer’s shopping cart content.
Additionally it is advised that the checkout process include no more than five steps. Often eCommerce sites will request the same information multiple times. This is unnecessary and slows down the entire process. Especially on busy days like Cyber Monday, where customers are anxious to check out and move on to the next sale, a cumbersome checkout process may encourage users to abandon their carts and look for another deal elsewhere.
Outages often occur due to traffic spikes or server overload, often experienced by eCommerce sites on Cyber Monday. According to Pingdom.com there were 13,013 outages every hour in 2013, which correlates directly to lost revenue.
Last Cyber Monday, even large companies like Wal-Mart and Motorola underestimated the overwhelming consumer demand. The two eCommerce sites experienced temporary outages as record numbers of shoppers tried to access their Cyber Monday sales.
To reduce the chances of outages or timeouts during Cyber Monday, business owners should investigate how their web host company scales to accommodate high traffic volume and how often on average their sites suffer availability issues. eCommerce sites should determine how their host company can scale with traffic spikes, what happens when the network dies or the server fails, and if the worse case scenario occurs, how long will it take the site to get back online?
While industry giants like Amazon and eBay have entire staffs dedicated to evaluate and monitor these metrics, the average SMB simply does not have the same resources. Fortunately, there are many affordable, manageable services available that can help businesses of all size monitor and improve website performance so that each eCommerce site can be always fast and always available during Cyber Monday 2014.
Celesta Howe is the Director of Marketing for Boulder-based Lagrange Systems, makers of the CloudMaestro solution, the only complete application delver network (ADN) that improves website acceleration, availability and reliability in a single offering. Celesta has been in the eCommerce and tech industries for over 20 years, working and consulting for companies like Cisco Systems, Whirlpool, Rodale Publishing, J.Crew, Crate & Barrel and Williams Sonoma. She also started and grew a cycling and triathlon retailer into a top 10 nationally ranked store.