From ride-sharing apps to ordering clothing and food online, more and more traditionally offline businesses have moved online. And it’s safe to assume the number will grow exponentially. Not only that, but consumers’ habits have also changed.
Technological advances have made people increasingly impatient, and numbers confirm it:
- 57 percent of users will leave a page if it takes longer than three seconds to load
- 7 percent loss in conversions and 16 percent decrease in customer satisfaction due to just one second delay
- 79 percent of customers who report dissatisfaction with website performance are less likely to buy from the same site
- 67 percent of all digital traffic comes from mobile devices
- 44 percent of customers will tell their friend about a bad online experience
Christmas, Thanksgiving, Singles Day and shopping-related days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday bring increases in both website traffic and revenue. If the latter sparks joy, the prior, well, doesn’t. Business owners and development teams focus on sales opportunities, while the technicalities, such as server capacity and scalability, are ignored, to the terror of sysadmins and IT guys.
In ecommerce, these holidays—called the Golden Quarter for a reason—are supposed to bring in high revenue. Often, however, traffic overload issues take the Golden out, leaving just the Quarter. Let’s see why not all ecommerce websites benefit from the flexibility and scalability that such peak days require.
Why Websites Crash
What happens with a website that is not supported by the right infrastructure during high traffic times? It might look like it’s crashing, but it’s not.
The high amount of traffic generated by enthusiastic shoppers is cramming up into insufficient resources while the server tries to handle everything at the same time. Each user gets just a bit of time in which the CPU handles their request. As a consequence, the response time stretches over a long period that slows down all users/websites; the customers end up seeing the response in 10-20 seconds or even longer. You may say that a website crashes, but, in reality, it’s just really, really, really slow.
Anything over 4-5 seconds in loading time is unacceptable for user experience, and the shoppers will take their money elsewhere.
How to Prepare for Traffic Surges
What’s the solution then? First, online retailers should test and benchmark their infrastructure ahead of time. They need to know where they stand and the amount of traffic that their current infrastructure can handle. Afterwards, based on that, they need to see where the bottlenecks are: for instance, if the CPU or the database has any issues, or if they don’t have enough resources. Based on the assessment, there are several options to optimize your website:
- increase allocated resources, temporarily, for the duration of the event
- cache some areas of the website to reduce server lag, as storing and releasing copies of documents can satisfy certain requests directly
- optimize the databases and the ordering process so that it can handle the increased amounts of orders
- temporarily change dynamic pages into static ones; dynamic areas generate a lot of CPU consumption and database access (i.e. dynamic pricing pages, recommendations, social media, content)
- expand the cluster with additional “copies” of the website and use load balancers to spread the load.
How Long Does Getting Ready Take?
Online retailers have median traffic and, occasionally, high traffic spikes. It doesn’t make business sense to overprovision and keep resources unused for most of the year, or to under-provision and get outages on your most profitable days. To not take action at all and cry over spilt Golden is, again, unacceptable.
The most important thing is high availability: Your website needs to be up and running during the holiday season. Three to five times more traffic can easily break down your infrastructure with your customers getting the much-dreaded error page. Even minimal downtime will considerably affect your revenue and online reputation—yes, people talk, and they use print screens.
The second most important thing to consider is scalability: You should be able to scale up or down according to your temporary needs and switch between configurations anytime, without any noticeable effect on the customer experience.
The amount of time and work it takes to optimize a website depends on what it does and the amount of traffic it has. It takes at least a couple of weeks to prepare but, to be on the safe side, online retailers should set at least one month in advance for that. However, if you don’t have the time, you can still do some quick tweaks and fixes that can help your website handle most of the traffic.
Talk to your hosting provider, assess your situation and optimize ahead of time. Be sure to consider whether your hosting provider can handle the overload and consider what may provide a more scalable option. Personally, as an expert working with ecommerce companies, I have seen the benefits of bare metal cloud solution for their websites because it provides both the performance and the scalability needed by this type of business.
What are your plans to “avoid the crash” this holiday season?
Bigstep describes itself as “a bare metal cloud provider focused on high performance and low latency workloads.” Bare-metal cloud refers to a public cloud service in which the client company rents hardware services from the provider.Favorite