How the Best Retailers Keep Their Websites Online in Peak Season

With everything from Click Frenzy, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Vogue Shopping and Boxing day sales coming soon, there are a number of key questions to ask when evaluating whether your website will support a successful sales season, and hopefully avoid brand damage and frustration resulting from a website that is unable to meet increased demands.

The key questions you should be able to answer when evaluating whether your website is ready to handle traffic spikes include:

  1. Have you measured your website’s scalability?
  2. Do you have a plan to keep your site online no matter how much traffic arrives?
  3. Are you measuring every user’s page load times?
  4. How are you going to ensure your site stays fast 24/7?
  5. Are you able to describe the layered approach to security that’s going to prevent your site from being attacked and compromised?

What the above means for the technical teams that run your website (Forward the below to your technical teams for feedback!):

  1. Have you load tested or defined a metric that indicates your site’s capacity limits?
  2. Do you have a means of managing high volumes of traffic, examples in order of preference and success: dynamic content caching, virtual waiting room and infrastructure autoscaling?
  3. Are you using real user monitoring? – This is essential to understanding your actual users’ behaviour. Google Analytics is not enough!
  4. Are you leveraging dynamic content caching, image and content optimisation, plus correctly managing third party javascript tags?
  5. Are you using best-of-breed solutions for: DDoS protection, Web Application Firewall (WAF) and bot detection and management (account attacks and comment spam, in addition to content scraping protection)?

There are technical guides that you can follow, though the best results are always achieved by spending time discussing your unique scenario with an expert so they can custom tailor a solution that best suits your needs.

If it’s too late to implement the above or you find yourself wishing you had, here are some tactical (as opposed to strategic) things you can do:

  • Manage traffic as best you can – Spread out EDM campaigns over 24hrs+.
  • Check your EDM (and all promotion) links to ensure they do not impact caching.
  • Call your hosting provider to add more servers or upgrade your existing servers.
  • Turn on end-to-end and real user monitoring to see what is causing problems.
  • Talk to an expert who is experienced in optimizing web application performance.

At section.io, we help the world’s biggest music artists, parts of the Super Bowl and over 50 percent of the top e-commerce businesses in Australia stay online and running fast no matter how much traffic they receive. We work with almost all development agencies in Australia and thrive on helping technical teams succeed.

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