Q4 sales are vital for e-commerce businesses. Is your website equipped to cope with the busiest time of year in retail?Posted on 15 September 2017 -
If your e-commerce website follows the pattern set by most retailers, you are probably about to enter your busiest quarter of the year.
Q4 sales are the lifeblood of the retail industry. The National Retail Federation suggests that spending related to the holidays in the fourth quarter of the year accounts for up to 30 per cent of total turnover for some businesses. It picks out jewellery (27.4 per cent) as a sector that is particularly reliant on holiday sales, but the same applies to any product that can be given as a gift.
Does that apply to your business? If so, you will want to make sure that your website infrastructure is ready to accommodate and achieve those crucial Q4 sales. In this article, we will look at some of the things you can do to make sure that your website is ready to cope with the increased demand that will be placed on it.
First things first: let’s spread the risk by putting your e-commerce eggs in more than one basket. Having a multi-server hosting environment helps to mitigate against the risks that can affect a single server: fire, technical failure, human error and cyberattack, to name just a few.
Multi-server hosting also enables you to take advantage of lateral scaling and load balancing, whereby visitors to your website are spread evenly between your servers. Sharing your website’s traffic over two or more servers helps to avoid the problems of sluggish page load speed that occur when a server nears its capacity.
Multiple servers will also make it easy for you to…
Many retailers fall into the trap of buying a hosting infrastructure that suits what they need on an average day. That’s flawed thinking for a business that wants to grow. Smart e-commerce retailers opt for a flexible hosting environment that sits at the level that suits the average day most of the time, but can scale up in capacity quickly and cost-effectively when needed.
You might not have the budget to implement all the things we are going to suggest on this list, but spending a bit more on your database server will offer excellent bang for your buck. E-commerce websites are heavy on database resources. Each time a customer selects a size option, a colour variation or views a product photo, they are querying your database. If they are browsing the website and you have lots of customers doing the same concurrently, that will put considerable strain on your server.
Speeding up your database will speed up your store for customers who are going through that browsing journey, which will improve user experience and maximise your opportunity to convert pageviews into sales.
We’ve already discussed how shoppers will be placing demand on your server resources by accessing different pieces of content through various database queries. You can help your server by lightening the load when it comes to static content.
Use a cache to lower the strain placed on the server by avoiding the need to load each element of content afresh for every single pageview. Caching tools can make a website up to 20-times faster.
Similarly, using a content deliver network (CDN) to host photo, audio and video content will take the hard work of hosting and serving those large files away from your server(s) and free up a lot of resources. Those resources can be used to cope with additional traffic and to improve website performance for all users.
Another quick and easy way to improve your website’s performance during busy periods is the use of front end accelerators. We use tools such as NGinx and Varnish to increase page load speed. Again, this will streamline the process of navigating your store for customers and make your website quicker to use.
A great way to improve website performance and keep your customers happy (and ready to part with their hard-earned cash) is to place your server as close to them as possible. That might mean moving your server to a web host or a date centre within your key markets.
If you have or adopting the sort of multi-server infrastructure we discussed above, you could use this to ensure you have a server in or close to more than one of your target markets. The closer to your customer’s device your server is located, the quicker your e-commerce store will feel when they use it.
If you can adopt some or all of those tactics, you will be well on the way to making sure that your e-commerce store is equipped to deal with busy periods and influxes of traffic. With a website that is ready to hold up to any additional demand in the build-up to Christmas, you will be able to maximise those all-important Q4 sales.