Holiday Prep for Ecommerce:
Takeaways + Traffic Reports

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ecommerce holiday prep

January 16, 2018—  Tenzing’s eCommerce Holiday Prep Program is our most powerful tool for getting clients ready for the holidays. It offers a heightened level of awareness to tackle their goals in secure, realistic ways during the most hectic time of year.

In a way, eCommerce solution providers are the unsung heroes of the holiday season. It’s a time of year that can feel like a war zone in the online retail industry. But a savvy service provider’s ability to prepare for the worst and troubleshoot when there is an issue is what gives Fortune 500 companies confidence as the $63 billion behemoth known as Black Friday approaches. 

As the clock ticks and the investors watch, everything is resting on a website. This might sound obvious, but I’m going to say it. Advanced preparation is key. Here at Tenzing, our eCommerce infrastructure and performance specialists start holiday prep in July. 

We work with our clients to make sure they are ready for peak season and we cannot stress enough the importance of proper planning. Our holiday motto is “Always Be Prepared,” and there are 2 things that are integral to this: testing and communication. 

After another successful holiday prep program in 2017, we want to reinforce 3 key takeaways from the process.  

 

1. Have these 5 honest conversations with your solutions provider.


The devil is the details. Every company should be discussing their digital initiatives in granular detail with their service providers. 

So, did you and your hosting provider cover all 5 of these items last fall?  

    1. Understand the exact limits of your server capacity. What would the process and cost of scaling it to accommodate for traffic spikes entail?

    2. Discuss any plans to roll out new features – this includes feature load estimations (to help you reach a peak projection moving into November).

    3. Analyze last year’s performance in detail. Remind yourself of pain points and optimize the issue response plan for the coming year.

    4. Know what a realistic daily load will be. Have other specific numbers for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This is critical, for load testing (which should be done at 5x the amount estimated).

    5. Discuss if you’re able to utilize the power of the cloud to offset glitches during unexpected surges.

The pressure to perform, and perform big, can be overwhelming. But preparing for success goes beyond cueing up the glittery marketing campaigns. If your business is built on tech, (and frankly most are), what could be more important than a mutual understanding of these topics? 

 

2. Engage the entire company in holiday prep early on to avoid operational disasters in December.


Before the madness starts, connect with every member of your web team and leaders of stakeholder teams to discuss your holiday preparations. Surprisingly, many companies forget to communicate across the various teams who could impact a site’s performance.

Everyone needs to understand the extent of the company’s goals through the end of the year and what type of capacity strain it could put on their shared digital environment.

Furthermore, these conversations also remind departments that they do not have unlimited horsepower when it comes to their web initiatives. No one should be exempt from due diligence in considering their digital allocation.

 

3. Educate employees how to prevent and respond to outages.


If you work in eCommerce, you’re familiar with the “nightmare scenario” that happens way more often than people think. A website crash. It’s Cyber Monday and instead of customers adding more items to their carts, they’re staring at some boilerplate error page…

But this snapshot of a cliché crisis can easily be mitigated by smart training. 

 

The preparedness and reactions of employees will ultimately determine the length and damage of an outage. Going beyond traditional (albeit crucial) performance monitoring is key to mitigating an outage. Every company should educate their employees on how to troubleshoot an outage and the steps they should take when they deem it to be out of their hands. This includes:

    • Working with your managed web service provider to establish a protocol for employees to follow in the event of an outage to minimize downtime.

    • Setting up alerts based on your operational barriers  that could help flag problems in advance.

    • Notify customers in a reasonable time and manner. Work with your marketing and development departments to craft the right language and minimize the negative customer impact.

    • Establishing a chain of command. Identify the first person your employees should contact at your hosting company in case they’re in need of immediate assistance.

    • Have standby servers ready 24/7 to kick in automatically if there is an issue. (This is protocol and part of our holiday prep training.)

 

Finally, here’s how our 5 largest clients performed after completing our holiday prep program.


Of the 57 clients we prepared for peak season this year, not a single one experienced unexpected downtime. Our 5 largest clients experienced an average 113% increase in user sessions in December compared to the previous June.

Tenzing walked each client through the holiday prep process and performed key assessments such as:

  • Traffic projections
  • Infrastructure design and limitations
  • Baseline performance capabilities for upcoming campaigns
  • Capacity definition and planning
  • Load testing

Load testing is probably the biggest ticket to client confidence. We set our testing limits based on the determined spike number clients give us. Where possible, using real-world scenarios is your best bet in creating a realistic load test. 

This past season, our customers saw an increase ranging from 23% all the way to 195%.  

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Our holiday prep program is designed around meticulous planning and confidence with numbers. Yet ironically, as we look back, it is the qualitative that can teach us the most.

It boils down to finding a service provider with the willingness, attitude, and culture in place to work through the holiday season. Above all, they should be a partner.

Technologies and the rules that govern them are in a constant state of change. Every new season deserves a whole new round of discussions to clarify the needs we’ve talked about. A refreshed mission every year. 

So don’t get complacent, form team initiatives, and above all, (perhaps our biggest lesson from 2017), stock up on Vitamin C.

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Elizabeth Scott

VP of Client Success at Tenzing
Elizabeth Scott joined Tenzing in 2008 as an ITIL practitioner with over ten years of experience in IT support and service. She currently leads Tenzing’s Client Success Team and is responsible for the strategic account management of Tenzing’s existing clientele.