The run-up to Christmas is a key time for online retailers. In fact, today is the much-hyped Cyber Monday, often cited as the biggest day of the year for online shopping.
(You might recall that Amazon stole the show on Cyber Monday last year by announcing deliveries by drone.)
The next couple of weeks really matter
If you run an online retailer, there’s a good chance your annual performance hinges on the next couple of weeks.
It's important to capture as much consumer spending now, before 2015 starts and people’s wallets go back in their pockets.
Although the logistics of fulfilling orders can pose a headache, a Barclays survey reveals the main fear of 51% of retailers is the possibility of their website going down.
That fear is grounded in logic. If your online sales total £2,000 a day — and assuming those purchases mostly happen between 9am – 10pm — an hour’s downtime could easily cost you £100 - £150 in lost sales.
A major outage could be disastrous at this time of year, forcing customers to look elsewhere and potentially hitting your reputation and repeat business.
Plan all year round
“The stakes are high during the holiday season, and retailers cannot afford to have their sites crash and burn,” confirms Paul Heywood, EMEA director at internet performance experts Dyn.
He says the best way to prepare your website for Christmas is to aim for optimum performance the whole year round:
“Providing a reliable online experience should be part of a long term, proactive approach.”
“Retailers are faced with the year-round challenge of fickle customer loyalty — if your website experience doesn't match their expectations or is too slow your customers will quickly turn to a rival brand.”
What you can do now
He's right, of course. Website uptime matters all the time. But it matters even more at this time of year. So to help your site remain available, it’s worth following these four tips:
- Avoid big changes. When M&S changed its website earlier this year, sales dropped by 8%. When you make sweeping changes to a site, it's common for conversion rates to drop temporarily while customers adjust. So if you're planning to launch a redesigned website, hold off until 2015.
- Check your hosting and domain names. You don’t want your site to be suspended because your domain expires or you hit your traffic limits. Make sure everything is ok for the rest of December.
- Know who to call. If something does go wrong, you won’t want to waste time scrambling to find contact details. Put together a file containing this information and make sure everyone knows where it is.
- Arrange out-of-hours cover. Online shopping happens 24/7, so make sure someone monitors your site out of hours. And yes, that includes over Christmas, because Boxing Day is one of the biggest shopping days of the year.
Finally, if you don’t already have it, set up website monitoring. Various services will send you emails or text messages to alert you to problems. After all, you can’t fix an issue unless you know about it.