Free Holiday Readiness Assessment
Is your website ready for the holiday shopping season? Find out with our free performance assessment.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are pivotal for e-commerce businesses as they offer the chance to boost sales, acquire new customers, clear inventory, enhance brand visibility, gather valuable data, foster customer loyalty, and stay competitive in the ever-evolving landscape. In fact, last year, Black Friday garnered $9.55 billion in sales online and Cyber Monday $11.3 billion. These events have become a cornerstone of the retail calendar, and e-commerce businesses must strategically plan and execute their marketing and sales strategies to capitalize on the opportunities they present.
Preparing your website for peak traffic involves a combination of technical optimizations, scaling strategies, and contingency plans to ensure your site remains stable and performs well during high-demand periods – a mere one-second delay in page load time can lead to a 7% loss in conversions. There is clearly no room for complacency. Edgio is here to help you understand your current readiness and better prepare your website for this year’s big holiday sales events.
Here are several key areas and items to consider as you prepare your e-commerce site for this upcoming holiday season.
Over the years, there have been hundreds of techniques introduced to optimize website speed. And for good reason – site speed improvements have a direct correlation to improved funnel progression, as well as the number of page views, conversion rates, and average order value. Consider the following as you optimize your web performance:
- Content Optimization: Data obtained from the HTTP Archive indicates that, on average, approximately 75% of a webpage’s total weight comprises unoptimized images. This can significantly hinder the overall performance of your website. Optimizing images, scripts, and other resources can help to reduce their size and improve load times – a key component of good e-commerce web design.
- Caching: Implement browser and server-side caching to store frequently accessed data and reduce the load on your server. A typical web page waits until after a user clicks to begin loading new content. For example, clicking on a product image will instruct the browser to load the product detail page and wait while the product page moves from a data center to their device. This process takes 3-5 seconds on average. Edgio uses Predictive Prefetching to load pages in milliseconds. This technique anticipates what content will be relevant and likely to be requested next and loads pages and API calls into the user’s device before the user interacts with the page. Then when they click, the content is ready and displayed at sub-second speeds as it is loaded from the browser cache. Edgio essentially extends the edge directly into the device.
- Content Delivery Network (CDN): Use a CDN to distribute your content across multiple servers globally, reducing latency for users. A CDN lets you cache resources like static images on global edge servers, close to the end user. Modern CDNs, like Edgio’s, let you cache dynamic content and give you fine-grained edge cache controls for HTML documents – even those that are dynamically generated. According to the Web Almanac, only 29% of HTML document requests were served from a CDN in 2022, which means there is significant opportunity for sites to optimize performance and claim additional savings.
- Lazy Loading: Load images and other media only when they come into view, improving initial page load times.
- Compression: Enable Gzip or Brotli compression to reduce the size of data transferred between the server and users’ browsers.
Server and Hosting Optimization
Optimizing your servers and hosting infrastructure is vital for delivering a fast, reliable, and secure online experience. It positively impacts user satisfaction, SEO rankings, and overall business performance while helping you manage costs and mitigate potential risks. Consider the following:
- Server Resources: Ensure your hosting plan can scale with peak traffic. Consider upgrading server resources (CPU, RAM) within your existing infrastructure to a higher-tier plan if needed or adding more servers to your infrastructure.
- Load Balancing: Distribute traffic across multiple servers to prevent overload on a single server.
- Scalability: Opt for a cloud-based hosting solution that allows you to scale resources up or down based on demand.
- Database Optimization: Optimize your database queries and indexes to improve data retrieval efficiency.
Content management also plays a critical role in optimizing your website. Moreover, a well-managed and optimized Content Management System (CMS) ensures that your website not only looks good but also performs efficiently, ultimately benefiting both your visitors and your business. Here are a few performance improvement techniques you should consider implementing:
- Static Content: Convert dynamic content to static where possible to reduce server load.
- Critical Content: Identify the most critical parts of your website (e.g. product pages, checkout) and optimize them for peak performance.
- SEO Optimization: Many CMSs offer SEO tools and plugins that help optimize content for search engines. This includes features like meta tags, schema markup, and clean URL structures, all of which contribute to better website performance in search results.
- Optimize Plugins within your CMS: Review and optimize the plugins you are using. Uninstall unnecessary ones, keep the essential ones up to date, and utilize caching plugins to improve performance.
Testing and Monitoring
To ensure your hard work of improving site speed is maintained, it is essential to stay proactive and continuously monitor your website. Consider the following as you prepare for your big holiday sales events:
- Load Testing: Conduct load testing with tools like JMeter or LoadRunner to simulate high traffic and identify performance bottlenecks.
- Monitoring Tools: Use monitoring tools to track server performance, resource utilization, and response times in real time.
- Chrome user Experience Report (CrUX): CrUX is a 28-day trailing average of site speed measurements from Chrome browsers. The results impact the ranking of your website in organic search results.
- Real-time user monitoring (RUM): RUM tools provide immediate feedback based on real user interactions, accounting for real-world bottlenecks (i.e., device, network, conditions, settings, etc.). Focus on relative RUM numbers as leading indicators of what your CrUX data will look like in the future.
- Synthetic testing: Synthetic tests are measured with a controlled test under ideal conditions. It does not represent actual users but can help you identify performance issues before features are released to any users. Run synthetic tests in a staging environment before every release.
- Pre-Event Dry Runs
- Load Testing: Conduct a simulation of peak traffic before the actual event to identify and address any last-minute issues.
It is absolutely critical to have an emergency plan in place in case your website goes down during peak sales times. Not only does it protect your brand’s reputation, but it can help you minimize customer churn, as well as revenue loss by reducing the duration of downtime. Just going down for a few seconds could cost you thousands. Here are a few items to prepare as part of your emergency plan:
- Downtime Page: Prepare a static page to display in case your site experiences technical difficulties.
- Customer Communication: Have a plan in place to communicate with customers through social media, email, or other channels if there are any issues.
- Alerts: Set up alerts to notify you of any abnormal spikes in traffic, server load, or errors.
- Hosting Support: Establish a communication channel with your hosting provider’s support team for immediate assistance if needed.
- Backups: Regularly back up your website and databases to ensure you can quickly restore data in case of emergencies.
- Disaster Recovery Plan: Develop a comprehensive plan outlining steps to recover the website in case of a major failure.
By implementing these strategies, you will be well-prepared to handle the increased traffic during peak holiday sales periods, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Keep in mind that planning, monitoring, and continuous optimization are key to maintaining a stable and high-performing website all year round.
If you’d like to get specific advice for your site’s performance, request a performance assessment or contact an expert from Edgio, a web applications platform that accelerates pages to sub-second speeds on a massive global edge network. The assessment is free of charge and will be sent to you within three business days.