As the leaves change color and the air gets crisper, there’s one thing on every retailer’s mind: Black Friday. This legendary shopping day can make or break your year-end revenue, especially for eCommerce stores. In the year 2022, spending on Black Friday reached $9.12 billion, reflecting a 2.3% increase compared to the figures recorded in 2021. Although Black Friday is a time of joy and hunting for deals for many, it can be a stressful time for eCommerce businesses and developers.
Getting your online store technically fit for Black Friday involves many aspects, such as handling increased traffic, providing a smooth shopping experience, protecting customer data, and more. But don’t worry – all those aspects will be discussed below.
As the time rushes and Black Friday is getting closer each minute, let’s start with talking about preparing the infrastructure of the eCommerce website.
1. Infrastructure Scaling
First of all, the importance of reliable infrastructure in your eCommerce store, especially during Black Friday, cannot be neglected. As this day marks one of the busiest shopping periods of the year, an online store’s success hinges significantly on its ability to handle surging traffic volumes. Scalable infrastructure is crucial for ensuring that websites remain responsive, fast, and accessible, regardless of the number of concurrent visitors. Without it, online stores risk website downtime, slow loading times, and a frustrating user experience.
To prevent this from happening, contact your hosting provider and upgrade your hosting plan if necessary. A good hosting provider offers scalable solutions that adapt to increased demands, ensuring uninterrupted service. This includes flexible server capacity, efficient load balancing, and advanced caching mechanisms.
To provide the best hosting environment, consider a dedicated server or a scalable cloud hosting solution.
Remember to double-check the contract with your hosting provider so you’re not surprised by the additional costs on the invoice.
2. Performance Optimization
The loading speed of the website is a vital element in the eCommerce industry. The probability of a customer leaving a website rises by 32% when the page load time extends from one second to three seconds. With this in mind, improving the performance of a website not only improves the user experience but also boosts sales. Quick loading times are essential in retaining customer attention and reducing bounce rates. Additionally, website’s performance affects search engine optimization (SEO). An online store that loads slower than others will be ranked lower in the results on Google.
Apart from reliable hosting infrastructure, the loading time of your website can be improved by optimizing the graphics. Try to use images in .jpg format and pay attention to their size. Furthermore, reduce the number of working plugins. Review all of the installed services and consider if you need them during the Black Friday period, as some of them can slow down loading time significantly. If you use videos on your website, try to upload them to external hosting services. YouTube is a perfect solution for that.
Content Delivery Network (CDN)
CDN is a group of interconnected servers that are distributed around the world. Implementing a CDN to cache your website content at various locations worldwide reduces the distance data needs to travel, improving performance as a result. Many cloud hosting providers offer integrated CDN services that cache content at edge locations closer to users, significantly reducing load times. Also, don’t forget to index your database correctly and optimize queries to improve the operation of database servers.
3. Website Monitoring and Testing
The next aspect of managing an eCommerce store is monitoring and testing. Operations such as stress testing become crucial to simulate heavy user loads and identify potential vulnerabilities in the website’s performance. If the website is about to crash or slow down during increased traffic, it’s better to take care of it beforehand.
Real-time monitoring is equally vital as it allows for immediate detection of any anomalies or issues as they arise. By keeping a close eye on website metrics, server response times, and other key performance indicators in real-time, businesses can find and eliminate issues before they escalate, preventing disruptions that could impact the customer shopping experience in the most important moments.
To do so, you can use dedicated tools like Pingdom that track all the metrics affecting your website’s performance, including uptime and downtime.
4. Security Checks
Apart from taking care of the website’s performance, also remember about its security. Conducting thorough security checks on an online store is key to protecting the business and its customers. To do so, start with checking if the SSL certificate is valid and properly installed for secure connections. It stands as the first line of defense by encrypting data exchanged between the user’s browser and the website. Secondly, conduct regular security audits, as they play an important part in identifying and addressing potential vulnerabilities in infrastructure and codebase. Lastly, consider DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) protection to prevent or mitigate the attacks that can shut down your website. Its goal is to make the targeted online service unavailable to its users by flooding it with more requests or data than it can handle. Unfortunately, this is a pretty common occurrence during the Black Friday period.
5. Simplified checkout process
The checkout process is the final step in buying the product. Robust and uncomplicated checkout systems can handle the surge in demand, preventing potential technical glitches or delays. The time-sensitive nature of Black Friday deals means that any friction or complexity in the checkout process can lead to frustration and customers leaving their carts.
As an example of a streamlined checkout process, let’s take a look at the OnePageCheckout feature in Sylius. By applying this solution, the whole checkout process is faster, and the cart abandonment rate is significantly reduced, as all the necessary steps in completing an order are on one page, and finalizing the purchase can be done with one click.
As mentioned in the earlier part, review all third-party apps that are installed on your stack in order to protect your checkout from crashing.
What about payment gateways?
When we think about the checkout process, we should not forget about payment gateways. Confirm that your payment gateway can handle the increased volume of transactions without compromising performance as consumers rush to take advantage of exclusive deals. Ensure that the platform you currently use provides all necessary integrations with payment solutions.
Regarding managing transactions and accepting payments, Sylius is a great choice, as it offers integrations with popular payment solutions like Adyen, Mollie, and many more. As a result, numerous payment options are covered – from credit/debit card transactions and digital wallets to local payment methods like BLIK in Poland or iDeal in the Netherlands.
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6. Mobile Optimization
In 2022, smartphones were responsible for 76% of the traffic on eCommerce websites, and the use of mobile devices for shopping during Black Friday has been increasingly significant in recent years. Due to that, preparing your eCommerce store for mobile shopping is vital.
Make sure your website is mobile-friendly, as many users shop on their smartphones. Responsive design in an eCommerce store is a crucial feature, especially during high-traffic events like Black Friday. It ensures that the online store adapts seamlessly to different device screens, such as smartphones, tablets, and desktops. It allows for easy navigation, better readability, and efficient buying processes on any device.
Moreover, online stores can utilize the Progressive Web Application (PWA). The PWA-type website guarantees the best quality of the online store by closing the gap between responsive sites and native mobile applications. On such an online store, the content of the application is saved on the visitor’s device; thus, re-entering the website can take place offline. What’s more, it increases the website’s overall performance and reduces the bounce rate. A mobile user using PWA may get an impression similar to native applications installed on mobile phones without the need to download it.
Due to the integration with VueStorefront, Sylius eCommerce platform has a dedicated PWA solution for online stores that connects via API and can be tailored to current business needs. Thanks to that, companies can quickly and cost-efficiently integrate their website with Sylius PWA and provide the best shopping experience during Black Friday on all devices.
Don’t forget to test your site on various mobile devices before and after you make changes. This type of testing helps identify and address issues related to user interface, functionality, and performance. By ensuring a smooth mobile experience, eCommerce stores can significantly enhance customer satisfaction and retention.
7. Backup and Recovery
Another crucial aspect is creating a backup for your website. Regular and automated backups of the online store database ensure that a recent and complete snapshot is readily available for restoration in the event of data loss or system failures. To protect your online store as well as possible, backups should include information about products, categories, themes, customer data, pages, blog posts, and more. The general rule is that the more data is available in your backup, the better.
Backing up is based on copying and securing data on an external location, such as local hard drives, network attached storage (NAS), and in the cloud.
Create a Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP)
Online businesses must establish a recovery plan in advance, anticipating potential data losses coming both from malicious hacks and human errors. This proactive approach ensures you are prepared for unforeseen circumstances, enabling quick and effective responses to mitigate the impact of data breaches or losses.
A disaster recovery plan becomes a must during Black Friday, as any downtime or data loss can result in significant financial losses and harm to the company’s reputation.
8. Technical Support
Last but not least, ensure that you have enough technical staff on hand to support increased activity and to handle any potential technical issues. Collaborate with your technical support team to establish clear communication channels, allowing for quick and effective coordination in the event of unexpected challenges during increased traffic. Adequate preparation and a well-coordinated technical support team are essential for managing the various demands and complexities of Black Friday. Make sure that if any technical problems pop up, they get fixed quickly to keep customers happy and your online store running smoothly.
If your company works remotely, maybe it is a good idea to invite them to a physical meeting. This approach will improve your communication and get the team spirit going while facing issues.
Summing up, ensuring the technical readiness of your online business for Black Friday is a critical investment that directly impacts its success during one of the busiest shopping periods. Black Friday presents immense opportunities, but it also demands careful preparation. A well-prepared online store should not only withstand the surge in traffic and transactions but also provide a seamless and secure shopping experience, ultimately contributing to customer satisfaction, increased sales, and the long-term success of your online business.
If you’re interested in learning more about Sylius and its features, feel free to contact us!