Black Friday, the annual spending spree that’s now as much a tradition as Thanksgiving, is set to see another record year in the United States. But the Thanksgiving shopping hordes are not just a stateside phenomenon. According to Experian, 115 million visitors are expected to shop online here in the UK today as its ‘Cyber Monday’. In fact, estimates are up 36 per cent from 83 million last year. Visa Europe has also announced that records will be broken again this year, with 6.8 million online transactions using its credit and debit cards on the day, up 21 per cent on 2011, as shoppers spend £222,222 per minute.
‘Cyber Monday’ is the Monday following the last payday before Christmas (falling on the 26th of November this year), and it now sees millions of people shopping online to purchase gifts that will arrive well before Christmas. So as online retailers approach their busiest sales season ever, it’s vital that they look closely at their infrastructure to make sure it is robust enough to support simultaneous hits as traffic spikes soar on occasions such as Cyber Monday and the Christmas peaks.
Industry analysts predict that over half of Christmas sales will occur in the first two weeks of December. For some e-tailers this represents up to 80 per cent of their total annual sales – keeping websites live is not just mission critical but crucial for their survival, and with £4.6bn to be spent online in the weeks beginning December 3 and December 10 (according to IMRG) retailers just cannot afford to lose a chunk of these sales.
Research has shown that many e-tailers will suffer lost sales through inadvertent site crashes or poor performance – this causes online shoppers to ditch their virtual baskets and click elsewhere. This is often a result of poor infrastructure provisioning, lack of fail-over systems and inadequate system monitoring.
Online retailers need to bolster their servers and ensure that their virtual tills keep ringing throughout the spending season.
Pulsant recommends the following Cyber Monday checks:
Assess your current server loads and the capacity within your existing system. If it’s creaking now you need to add some capacity fast.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket; make sure you have a disaster recovery plan in place so you can switch instantly to the backup system if your site goes down.
Consider using cloud computing to add additional capacity and build in contingency to ensure your solution has the elasticity required.
Make sure marketing is talking to IT. If you’re planning a Cyber Monday promotion, Christmas special deal or January pre-sale offer, think of the impact on online traffic. It’s not average volumes but high levels of concurrent visitors that knock out your platform. These can be easily handled if a bit of warning is provided to your technical team or hosting supplier.
If you’re already using a hosting provider make sure their SLA includes 24/7 system and performance monitoring to keep you live whatever it takes. If you have an internal server platform, make sure you have adequate resources and increase the frequency of site monitoring to take you through the busiest periods.