The Holidays Are Coming. Is Your Site Ready?

by | October 22, 2015

The holiday season can lead to either a traffic spike or slump depending on the type of website your business operates. Regardless of website traffic being in a feast or famine state, this is the most important time of the year to assess the workload your infrastructure can handle.

A site that’s ready for a massive influx of visitors can seize incredible sales opportunities. However, a site that falters under the stress can create a slow user experience, which may turn away some potential customers. In a worst case scenario, an ill-prepared site can get knocked offline and cause a substantial loss in potential business. Take advantage of the holiday season’s sales potential by ensuring your site is ready to handle it.

Prepare with Load Testing and Monitoring Services

The holiday season tends to be extremely important for e-commerce websites (outside of B2B sales). The two most powerful tools at your disposal are the server capacity statistics from your hosting service and load testing services. Getting the ideal amount of hosting power is important: On the one hand, you don’t want to waste money paying for more power than you need. On the other, you don’t want to miss out on sales opportunities because you’re not prepared.

The first thing you should do is get in contact with your hosting provider to find out how much data bandwidth you’re paying for, and how many simultaneous users your site can handle. Compare the information from your host with your analytics data from previous years, account for annual growth, and see if your hosting plan can handle the load on paper. If you notice any spikes that push the CPU consumption close to capacity, or if you’re pushing the limit on your bandwidth consumption, it’s time to upgrade your hosting capacities.

If things look good on paper, you’re not necessarily out of the woods yet. Load testing services from a third party can put your site’s servers to the test to see how well they hold up in real-world situations.

Testing in advance identifies problems with site overload to help you determine whether you need to purchase more server power. Load testing services will not only tell you if your site can handle a specific amount of simultaneous traffic, but also report how much work your infrastructure can endure before it starts to have performance issues. Testing services also find efficiency issues with the site that can be addressed by fixing performance bottlenecks within the site’s code.

Mobile Traffic and Spikes

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the weekend before Christmas are traditionally considered the busiest shopping times of the year, so retail sites can expect to see more traffic on these days than any others. Mobile traffic has experienced massive growth following the advent of smartphones and tablets, in many cases surpassing traffic from desktop and laptop computers. This means people won’t just access your site from a desk computer, but also on-the-go, increasing your mobile traffic load.

How big is mobile traffic during the holidays? According to Wal-Mart, a staggering 70% of their web traffic came from mobile devices between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday. Online retail sales via mobile devices grew 27% in 2014, and made up over 22% of all online holiday purchases.

Load testing can specifically target your mobile site to help you ensure it holds up when the traffic hits. Providing a great mobile shopping experience is one way to differentiate your business from the competition, who may not be giving their mobile site the attention it deserves.

The Post-Christmas Traffic Slump and Non-Sales Sites

Overall, web traffic drops a staggering 30 to 40% during the final week of the year and into early January. If you’re in e-commerce, this time of year is perfect to run technical tests to see how much traffic your site can take without going down. If you end up overloading your own site while testing, it’s not as big of a deal during the slump time as it would be during a traffic-heavy season. This also puts your business in a great position to make any necessary server capacity upgrades starting in the New Year.

Happy testing!

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