Valentine's Day is just around the corner, meaning a large number of consumers will be utilizing Web and mobile applications to prepare for the holiday. Where in the past this meant visiting a local florist, confectionery or department store, more individuals are now turning to online channels to ensure holiday success.
This means one important thing for retailers: they must be prepared for the influx of traffic that comes with the season or risk providing a less-than-enjoyable user experience. In some cases, traffic spikes that accompany Valentine's Day have caused websites to crash, resulting in considerable lost profits and customer connections. To avoid this, there are several best practices you can utilize to ensure your customers have the best experience possible – whether they're shopping weeks before the holiday, or the day before.
Last minute shoppers cause traffic spikes
"No matter how long customers wait to shop, retailers should be prepared to support their needs."
One aspect that many retailers might overlook is the fact that despite holiday promotions nearly hitting customers in the face this month, a considerable number of individuals will wait or forget to do their shopping until mere days before Feb. 14. This is especially important for online retailers, as Network World contributor Colin Neagle pointed out that many last minute shoppers will leverage e-commerce services as a way "to make up for lost time."
However, an influx of users inundating the site with transaction requests just days before the holiday could prove to be more traffic than planned for. When this happens, the overall performance of the website can suffer. In the current e-commerce environment, customers are now expecting more from retailers than ever before, most not standing for slow load times, and with a competitor's site just clicks away, this proves increasingly detrimental.
"It all comes down to performance because any slowdowns impact the revenue of a company," noted industry expert Lisa Robinson Schoeller. "It used to be OK if you had, say, a six-second response time to load a page. But now it's really a second or less to load. Otherwise you're going to lose those customers to another site, because the competition is just a click away."
No matter how long customers wait to shop, retailers should be prepared to support their needs. In this way, performance and load testing ahead of time is invaluable to providing even the most last-minute of shoppers the best experience possible. SOASTA's performance testing solutions can help your brand test high traffic levels to see just how the website will react. Using these insights, your company can adjust its resources appropriately to ensure that all customer activities can be carried out quickly and efficiently.
Retailers aren't the only businesses that should prepare
Although much of Valentine's Day has become about flowers and candy, retailers aren't the only organizations that should prepare for higher traffic levels around this holiday. In fact, according to 2012 research findings from Google Analytics, Nielsen, Experian and marketing firm iAcquire, online dating sites also experience boosted traffic in February. Research results show somewhat surprising results: that online dating website traffic doesn't actually peak on Valentine's Day, but increases somewhat before and significantly after Feb. 14. In fact, the week after Valentine's Day showed traffic spikes, the pinnacle of which came on Feb. 19.
These findings demonstrate that retailers aren't the only ones that should ensure continuous performance for their customers. Online dating sites see increased traffic as well and should leverage performance and load testing to help guarantee that their users have an enjoyable experience as well.
Don't forget the mobile platform
No matter what industry a company operates within, they should take their mobile platform into account with their Valentine's Day preparations. Mobile traffic in connection with the holiday has considerably increased in recent years, with a 114 percent growth in 2013 alone. In addition, researchers found that nearly a quarter of traffic on intimate apparel and jewelry websites – 24 percent and 22 percent respectively – comes from mobile devices. For this reason, it is critical to not only ensure the continuous performance of the company's main website, but their mobile application as well.
"Despite traffic fluctuations, retailers and other organizations should still be able to deliver a leading experience for customers that sets them apart from their competitors."
In these respects, there are few things more valuable than having a picture of actual mobile device users and their activities. SOASTA's Real User Monitoring solution provides just this data, offering clients the ability to measure mobile device metrics in real time to help them guarantee that their mobile presence is prepared for holiday traffic as well.
Ensuring continuous performance in the face of traffic spikes
Despite traffic fluctuations, retailers and other organizations should still be able to deliver a leading experience for customers that sets them apart from their competitors. By preparing ahead of time, businesses can ensure that they are ready for the challenges that accompany Valentine's Day traffic spikes.
"There are going to be problems with these spikes in demand you see around specific types of holidays," said Melinda Ballou, IDC Application Life-Cycle Management and Executive Strategies program director. "The main thing to consider when you have these spikes in demand is you need to actually have the ability to automate and understand what the impact is going to be from an end-user perspective."
SOASTA and our award-winning line of performance and load testing solutions can provide just the insights companies need at this time of year, and beyond. To find out more about continuous performance, contact SOASTA today.
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