Holidays are almost here and getting ready for Black Friday and Cyber Monday is crucial.
In the latest episode of the Data Rich podcast, AJ Yager and Spencer Connell talked with Robert Rand about how you can prepare your eCommerce store for the holidays.
Check out the interview and our insights below:
Why is data important?
Everything in eCommerce is a blend of art and science. The numbers tell the story of how people feel about your art. Without going back and checking on the numbers, you’ll never know how your efforts actually panned out.
Many people don’t think about getting the right metrics and the right data in front of them, and that comprises half of the battle. Most of the biggest companies in the world rely and thrive based off of their data and the infrastructure that they’ve built around that data. Both Robert and the Praxis team derive a lot of value from helping other businesses harness the power of the data and leverage it into growth.
Every company today is a data company; they just don’t know it yet. The only way to properly scale in today’s environment is to know your numbers and leverage them into growth. That doesn’t mean that everyone needs to be a data expert, but it does mean that without data, the journey to a successful company is nearly impossible.
What opportunities does Black Friday/ Cyber Monday afford brands?
Every year Black Friday and Cyber Monday spending grows dramatically, and this year is no exception. Experts predict a 25% increase in spending year-over-year, with most of that spending taking place online. The days of stampedes of people rushing into stores have passed, and now even brick and mortar stores find themselves primarily as eCommerce businesses.
Brands now need to prepare their digital storefronts more than their physical storefronts for the stampedes.
How can eCommerce companies prepare their digital storefronts for the big end of the year sales rush?
You can run the best marketing campaigns ever created with the best automation capabilities ever devised, but if your website has issues converting web traffic into sales, you won’t achieve the ROI you’ve come to expect from many proven marketing strategies.
Without monitoring for site performance and issues, there can be all sorts of factors impacting your bottom line.
What are the top factors?
☑ Security: How healthy, safe, and secure is your website?
You never want to have a security or data breach, but during the holiday season a breach could obliterate your opportunities.
Every business should make sure that their eCommerce platform has the latest security patches downloaded and installed. It’s also important to make sure that your software and hosting is completely up-to-date. You need to make sure to calibrate and update firewalls as well. Ideally, you should have proactive monitoring in place to alert you to any suspicious activity.
The same way that you protect a physical store from people breaking in, you need to protect your digital store as well.
For example, in the event of a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack, you need to have CDNs (Content Delivery Networks) or Caching systems in place to ease the load on your hosting environment. For bigger merchants, you’ll want to have auto-scaling systems or host in a cloud environment like AWS that can spin up to deal with whatever gets thrown at it.
In addition to adding reactive layers to your security, you need to have pro-active layers as well to recognize and block suspicious traffic from reaching your hosting environment.
In the event that your security does fail, you need to have a short-list of the people that you can contact depending on the situation. It’s important to know that these people will be available to help as well, even over the holidays.
Doesn’t my eCommerce provider handle security?
Out of the box, no. Most eCommerce providers offer a layer of security and help to encrypt payment information and things like that, but they don’t protect you completely. You need to supplement that with your own security coverage. As the eCommerce owner, you have a responsibility to protect your passwords. Additionally, you have to take responsibility for the code of the site. Just because their base portion of the site is secure, doesn’t mean that your entire site is secure.
This same principle extends to any apps/extensions/modules that you may have added on to your site. Every app that you add has the possibility of introducing a security flaw into your site.
How can I protect my site?
Some of the best practices that you can implement include:
Least privileged access- give apps/employees/vendors only access to what they absolutely need in order to function properly.
Minimize the number of apps on your site- remove plugins from your site that don’t provide sufficient value. They can slow down your site, and do increase your security risks.
Proactive monitoring and alerts- set up alerts so that you can know in real-time when you have a problem.
Support action plan- make sure that if something goes wrong, you know who to contact.
Coding freeze- If your site is working currently, stop messing with it until after the holidays. This protects you from introducing new bugs or security holes into your site before the holiday.
☑ Scalability: Can you handle a growing amount of web traffic?
Many vendors offer this service, but JetRails specifically offers load testing. This allows them to simulate an influx of traffic to your site to see how it performs under pressure.
During the holiday season especially, this can mean the difference between success and failure. These tests allow you to see where you have structural issues with your site, and how you can combat them.
JetRails is offering a limited-time load test to Magento merchants for free through Praxis Metrics. Visit them here to get the free test.
☑ Loading speed: Does your site load in under three seconds?
Many merchants know that site speed is important, but they don’t really invest in it. They don’t regularly check their site speed, they don’t invest into speeding up the site, and over time, site speed can cause a plethora of issues, especially on mobile. 53% of mobile users will leave a site if a page takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
You can optimize your load speed by looking at several things on your site. The first thing to look at when it comes to load speed is your content. Make sure that you have shrunk all of your images to the smallest file size possible without sacrificing quality.
When it comes to loading speed on your site, everything comes down to file sizes. If you can reduce the size of the information that you’re sending, then you can increase your load speed times. This applies to both images and the code that you have on your site.
It’s important to audit your theme to make sure that it still fits your needs as you update and change your site. Make sure that it properly and quickly loads the assets that you need it to.
Just because it was optimized before doesn’t mean that it is now.
Too many business professionals think that optimization is a one time endeavor. Unfortunately, every change that you make on your site can effect the loading speed of your site. That’s why it’s so important to do a periodic audit of your site’s optimization and loading speed, to make sure that everything performs as intended.
Does my web host have any effect on loading speed?
Unfortunately, yes. In addition to looking at the front-end loading of your site, you also need to look at how the back end of your site affects your load speed; specifically your web hosting.
JetRails tests a metric called “time to first byte”, which allows them to look at how quickly the server is able to provide the first byte of data to the browser. Some servers can take 2-3 seconds to get the first byte to the browser, which means that obviously something isn’t working on the back end of the site.
Fortunately, there are things that we can do to make sure that our web host gets the content delivered in a timely manner.
The first thing that we recommend is caching. This allows your server to essentially have all of the assets that it needs to pull together already put in one place, which decreases the load times and computing power required.
The next thing that you should utilize to help your web host is a content delivery network (CDN). A CDN allows you to save some of your unchanging assets onto different servers across the globe. This reduces the time that it takes to transmit the data to different locations across the globe, and it also allows you to have cached versions prepared and ready to send. This also reduces the load on your primary server, helping reduce the risk of a crash.
☑ Error monitoring: Spot and fix pages that aren’t loading
During the slow times on your website, it is valuable to have your web developers check your error logs and exceptions to see what errors could be lurking. We see a lot of people who wait until something breaks to fix it, but proactive maintenance can protect against a terrible issue. Specifically ramping up to this big holiday season, it’s important to make sure that you don’t have a problem that could potentially cost you customers.
☑ Shared resources: Is it time to adopt a dedicated server?
Long-term, it may make sense to move to a dedicated hosting environment. In shared hosting environments, you can’t control the actions of those sharing your space. If another site introduces a security breach to the server, it can affect your site. If someone else on the server has a major traffic spike, they can eat up all of the resources and slow down your site.
No one wants to spend more than they need to spend on anything; so it’s important to weigh out the pros and cons of each option for your business. You should also make sure that you revisit this discussion periodically as your business grows and develops. Just because it wasn’t worth it to migrate a few years ago doesn’t mean that it isn’t now.
☑ Uptime: How sure are you that you’ll be up 100% of the time?
Consumers have become less patient and more wary of sites that aren’t reliable in their eyes. If your site is down at the moment that the customer wanted to purchase, they’ll likely just move to a competitor to purchase.
Final thoughts and ways to take action-
Get a free load test from JetRails before the holidays. They’ll help you see if your site is ready for the Black Friday and Cyber Monday rush.
Proactively monitor your site, specifically the CTAs that we mentioned. Make sure that you’re checking in with both your developers, designers, and your web host to make sure that you’re site performs optimally across the board.
At the end of the day it comes down to picking the right vendors, trusting them, and sleeping well at night.
– Speed Test: Test your Time to First Byte (TTFB) and make loading speed optimization recommendations
– Security Scan: Scan your Magento website for publicly visible security vulnerabilities
– Load Test: Review with you to see if you’d benefit from a free load test
Could Traffic Spikes Take Down your Magento site: https://jetrails.com/blog/could-traffic-spikes-take-down-your-magento-site/
Stats from Robert:
“As page load time goes from one second to 10 seconds, the probability of a mobile site visitor bouncing increases 123%.”
“53% of mobile site visits leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load.”
“When it comes to waiting for pages to load, most consumers think they’re more patient than they actually are.”
“Nearly 70% of consumers admit that page speed impacts their willingness to buy from an online retailer.”
“Black Friday pulled in $6.22 billion in online sales [last year], up 23.6 percent from [the previous year] and setting a new high, according to Adobe Analytics, which tracks transactions for 80 of the top 100 internet retailers in the U.S. like Walmart and Amazon. Those figures arrived as many retailers have pushed big digital deals, days in advance of the holiday weekend.
The Friday after Thanksgiving [last] year was also the first day in history to see more than $2 billion in sales stemming from smartphones, said Adobe. The group found 33.5 percent of e-commerce sales Friday came from mobile devices, compared with 29.1 percent in 2017.