Alex Painter - 6 November 2018
Many website owners are gearing up for their busiest time of year, with preparations well under way for the pre-Christmas rush.
Part of this means making sure the website is up and running throughout the peak period.
But it’s not just about availability.
Here are some essential steps to help you make sure your website delivers the best possible experience when it matters most.
1: Understand how your site performs under load
Load testing involves subjecting your website to increasing levels of traffic under controlled conditions. This helps you understand how it will perform when large numbers of real visitors are accessing it.
The idea is that you’ll see where the bottlenecks are. For example, perhaps the search results page stops responding or maybe it takes longer to add a product to basket.
Your load testing goals
It’s important to be clear about what your load test is designed to achieve. Different people within the organisation might have different views on this. IT and operations professionals, for example, may be mainly concerned with keeping things up and running. Availability is key, and an outage at the busiest time of year could spell career-threatening disaster.
Marketing and ecommerce professionals will have other priorities. Yes, availability is just as important to them. But it’s not enough on its own. Even small changes in site speed can have a big impact on sales. They need the website to be fast enough to maximize revenue.
2: Understand how your site’s speed affects sales
To make the right decisions for your website over peak, it’s critical to understand the relationship between site speed and KPIs such as conversion and bounce rate.
To do that, you need Real Customer Insights (RCI). This is a solution that will actually predict how those KPIs will change as a result of changes in load times.
Of course, different factors will come into play when you do move into your peak period, when different campaigns are running. However, with enough data, you should get a good indication of how a traffic-related slowdown will affect your website’s profitability.
What would a 1.5 second slowdown mean for your business?
Imagine you’ve run a load test. The results suggest that your site will slow down by around 1.5 seconds when traffic reaches its expected peak during your Black Friday campaign.
You want to know what this will mean for sales.
So you enter the new load time in the performance impact prediction report in Real Customer Insights.
Based on past data, this tells you to expect conversion rate to drop from 6.63 per cent to 5.57 per cent and bounce rate to go up from 35 per cent to 41 per cent. This would mean missing out on $400,000 of revenue.
Now the business has a decision to make: revise sales forecasts down? Or invest in improvements to keep the website fast throughout the Black Friday campaign?
3: Get faster!
There is a third alternative: don’t just avoid a slowdown, but get faster. Why settle for avoiding a drop in anticipated revenue when you could actually improve it?
One way to achieve this is to compromise on the standard set of features on your site. You could review the third-party content, for example, perhaps suspending A/B testing through the peak period. You could also review your use of custom fonts or try a combination of inlining CSS on key landing pages and prefetching resources for subsequent pages.
With help from load testing and Real Customer Insights, together with performance optimization expertise, retailers are better placed than ever to make the most of peak.
How we can help