Holiday Readiness 2020

The pandemic has transformed the way people shop worldwide. Due to COVID-19, online sales are already higher than ever and retailers are heavily relying on their online channels. Online buying of clothing, grocery, hygiene products and home furnishing has increased significantly. The year 2020 is projected to be the most tremendous year ever in terms of eCommerce-driven sales.

The holiday season is around the corner and pandemic concerns continue to increase worldwide. Based on recent trends, the holiday season is expected to see around a 25-30% boost in online sales as more consumers are projected to make the bulk of their purchases online. As you prepare your online store for this holiday season, you will need to look at all the aspects of selling online – product assortments, pricing, promotions, shipping options, marketing, availability & reliability of all digital channels.

Below, let’s take a look at the common problems, proactive strategies/measures, and a checklist of the Do’s and Don’ts that may help you to best support peak sales without any hiccups.

Predict your peak load

Take a look at all your analytics reports to get a perspective on the number of users visiting your site on regular traffic days, and what the expected peak traffic will be during the holidays. You can use past sales data to calculate the expected volumes. Review the Technical Reports in detail to know the average number of active sessions and the number of main page requests per minute. Look through the memory and CPU utilization during peak hours, so you understand the projected infrastructure requirements.

Collect data around the average and maximum number of requests per day, and the number of requests resulting in a non-200-level response. Analyze which end-points / controllers are taking more time or are returning the most non-200-level responses, and then plan to fix those issues.

Test for scalability

Perform load testing on a dedicated load test environment that has the configurations equivalent to platform resources, and simulate the same load as expected during peak traffic to get the most accurate results. Tools like Apache JMeter and LoadNinja are a couple of options to perform load testing. Plan your load test well in advance so that you have adequate time to define your test success criteria, prepare the test scripts and data, and analyze the test results. Implement fixes to optimize code and make changes if any vertical or horizontal scaling is required to support peak traffic.

Analyze page load time

Evaluate the time that browse and search pages take to load on your site. As per some studies, around 40% of customers will not wait more than 3 seconds for a page to load before abandoning the site. Page load time is even more crucial for customers accessing the site through mobile devices. Page load speed also affects the Google ranking of the site as Google has changed the website ranking criteria this year. You may use the tools like Geekflare Audit and GTMetrix to check your page load speed. These tools show the detailed scores on performance, best practices,  and provide recommendations on how you can improve page load times. Validate your cache settings and ensure that there is no manual cache invalidation just before or during the main sale event.

Test Third-Party integrations

Third-Party integrations for payments and tax are the most crucial components of any eCommerce site and play a significant role in cart abandonment if the integrations do not work as expected. Validate that all the integrations are working as expected at peak traffic on the site. Test the services and vital settings like time-out, rate limiter, and circuit breaker, well in advance to avoid any last-minute changes. Try to have the code well tested and enable a code freeze a few weeks before the main sale event. Also, add a fallback mechanism to support the site in case integrations stop working.

Customer Experience is the key

Excellent customer experience leads to repeat orders from existing buyers. Existing customers work as Brand Advocates and help  pull new customers to your site. Test your site on various devices to ensure that it is responsive and delivering a uniform personalized experience  across all devices.

Apart from the consistent user experience, content on the site is what matters the most to keep customers engaged on the site. The more personalized the content is, the better the chances of order conversion. Show product recommendations based on past purchases, recently browsed and searched products, and demographic segmentation. Define your cross-sell and up-sell strategies to show relevant products that complement the users’ current cart, recent purchases, and trending products based on their geo-location.

Fine-Tune your search

Customers who search on the site know what they are looking for and are three times more likely to purchase than browsers. Search is remarkably crucial to driving order conversions and should be the key element of your selling strategy. The best way to approach search optimization is to learn from Analytic Reports, what customers are searching for on the site. Check for issues if the count for a search term is high, but the order conversion is low. This scenario may be a good use-case to validate if your search is returning the expected results. Also, look at the search terms that take users to the “No Search Result” page. This may happen because a user’s terminology can be different from site terminology, common  typos, or regional differences. You may want to try some of the tips mentioned below to add products to search results for a particular search phrase:

  • Searchable attributes should be confined to minimum number required for on-site searching. Include necessary attributes that contain words that customers would generally search for (i.e. product and category name, color, material, and other product features). Avoid attributes like product’s long description, as they create search noise.
  • Setup stop words to exclude the terms from a search that are too common to drive meaningful search results. For example, your stop words list may contain a brand name that you don’t carry.
  • Use stemming exceptions to avoid mixed search results for the words that have the same root. For example, if you search for bedding, the results will also contain beds if stemming exceptions are not set correctly.
  • Use redirects when certain keywords are used as search terms. For example, redirect general terms like men’s, kid’s, shirts, etc, to the top-level categories and non-product searches like shipping, size chart, and careers to relevant content pages.

Check the product sort options

Sequencing of products plays an influential role in order conversion as industry studies show that most online shoppers view only the first few pages of the search results/product lists. It’s ideal to present the customer some useful sorting options based on price, product name, and popularity, so they can sort the results to their liking. Also, add a default sorting option to show your best products at the top in the product list. You may combine various parameters and formulas like “Sale per view”, availability, novelty, and user reviews and ratings, to set a default sort option to show your best products at the top. Adding personalization to the default sort along with these parameters, may increase the chances of order conversion by multi-fold, and provide customers an excellent shopping experience.

Monitor site KPIs every hour

Monitoring online stores is essential throughout the holiday season to ensure that you are alerted immediately, if any issues appear that may prevent customers to buy or to browse on your site. Try setting up monitoring tools like Nagios, NewRelic, AppDynamics etc, to help monitor the key performance indicators around-the-clock and send alerts if anything goes wrong. You can immediately have your technical support team resolve the issues and get your site back in business.

Though we may not have covered all the essential points for holiday readiness, we hope you will put some of the above tips to good use. With enough preparation, you will be ready to make this holiday season your best one.