It’s that time of year again.
The time when ecommerce brands must prepare for the season that will account for the majority of annual conversions, and get their ducks in a row to ensure a smooth holiday shopping experience for customers. Although holiday preparation starts earlier and earlier each year, but don’t worry that you’re too late, launching your efforts immediately should set you up for success in time.
Your time is precious, and in order to narrow down your “To-Do” list, we’ve created a fail-proof checklist of the necessary areas your ecommerce team should focus on and leverage before the holidays. Just know, we recommend that you start working on this list now.
Here is a step-by-step guide to prepare for the 2019 holiday season.
Confirm your holiday website team staffing hours
During the “Cyber 5”, or the five days from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday, your ecommerce site should be staffed 24/7. Coordinating schedules around the holidays can get tricky with travel, weather, and time-off, so this is something you need to confirm with your team now. Have a back-up plan in case of unplanned absences.
Here are the areas that must be covered:
Marketing Operations – Monitoring of campaigns and analytics
Technical Operations – Monitoring of alerts and analytics
Troubleshoot and Fix – Front and back-end issues and QA
Critical Issue Manager – Triage, vendor coordination, status updates, escalation
Specialized Roles – IT Security, Fraud/Risk
Establish an “Emergency Plan” for site performance issues
Retailers can’t predict what the holiday season has in store for their business. But because this time of year has an immense impact on the bottom line for most brands, it’s good to expect the best and prepare for the worst.
By establishing an emergency plan for site performance issues, you’ll be ready in case something does go wrong with your site. Often times, performance issues can be related to the 3rd party technologies that you’re using on your site.
3rd party technologies are what make your ecommerce site enjoyable to shop for consumers. You need them. But with the average ecommerce site having 50+ 3rd parties, there’s a 50 chances one of them could cause an issue.
Since 3rd party technologies account for 75% of page-load time on ecommerce sites, make sure your plan clearly details how to handle violations related to those technologies. This way, there will be no panicked “What do we do??” moments because you will have processes and people in place to fix any issues immediately.
Here are the steps we recommend for your emergency plan:
- Create a spreadsheet with Support and Escalation Contacts for all 3rd parties
- Let 3rd parties know your Point of Contacts
- Request 3rd parties’ troubleshooting guides and status pages
- Establish a maintenance page to inform shoppers of issues
- Match your stage/test site to production
Load test your web pages to handle the influx in traffic
Too much traffic can actually be a bad thing if your site is not ready for it. And shoppers will not be shy about escalating those issues via social media for everyone to see. How much traffic can your site handle without causing performance issues? You can find out with a load test.
During the holidays, traffic to your site will be higher than any other time of the year. Make sure it can handle the influx in traffic without breaking anything. Preschedule load testing and final performance optimizations in advance so you have time to fix any issues ahead of the rush.
Finalize adding any features and functionality to your site
Thinking of adding any 3rd parties or new features to your site to help improve shopper experience? Code lockdowns usually start on October 1st, or November 1st at the absolute latest. This means any changes that you want to make to your ecommerce site need to be done well in advance (NOW).
You’ll be able to make sure these new additions are up and running smoothly, can handle the load test, and won’t be causing any other performance issues when the time comes.
We recommend following this procedure when adding new features to your site before code lockdown:
- Test features across all devices and browsers
- Review performance on each page category to compare before and after new features are added
- Check traffic analytics and alert thresholds for current levels of 3xx’s, 4xx’s and 5xx’s
- Cleanup and eliminate sources of false positive errors
Get the full inventory and errors of your 3rd party technologies
As we mentioned in the Emergency Plan section, if something is causing performance or speed problems on your site, there is a good chance it will be because of one of your 3rd party technologies.
But many brands don’t actually know how many 3rd parties are on their site, or when which 3rd parties are experiencing issues.
Gaining access to a full inventory of not only which 3rd parties you have, but which ones are causing issues at specific times, will allow you to remediate any violations as they occur, and before they cost you sales. Have your 3rd parties broken out by category and ranked by importance, identify which ones you can live without, and know who you need to communicate issues to.
Optimize and stabilize your site performance
Your number one priority this holiday season (and always) should be to give your shoppers the best experience possible while on your site. Brands accomplish this by optimizing their sites for performance, with a focus on speed and consistency.
This means refining imagery size, caching rich content, and sequencing your 3rd parties to best load for the browser experience.
Site optimizations don’t just help with performance, they also help with load planning, among other elements. The more optimized your site is, the easier this influx of traffic will be on your infrastructure. Many retailers are working on all their optimizations right now. But if you haven’t started yet, push it to the top of your to-do list.
Here are some areas we recommend focusing on:
Page category optimizations:
New template optimizations:
- Responsive image size tagging
- Image slider optimizations (lazy loading)
- JS error checks
Content push optimization:
- Image sizing
- Adding multiple images
Prepare now, before it’s too late
This holiday season could be your best — or worst — season yet. This list should help you prepare the most important elements of site performance and online shopper experience. The key is to start checking it off ASAP. Optimizing your eCommerce site for performance will ensure your customers have a great online shopping experience this holiday. Providing fast site speed and consistency will help maximize your holiday conversions.
Bob Buffone is CTO and co-founder of Yotta