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Start performance testing now to avoid losing millions on Black Friday

By Mike Wager

Mike Wager

Mike Wager - 18 May 2021

Black Friday is marked on the calendars for consumers and retailers alike, where bargains are to be had and millions are made. But if retailers don't offer an online presence that can handle year-on-year traffic growth of almost 30%, consumers aren't the only ones who will be left disappointed. 

To avoid Black Friday discontent, you must monitor the performance of your website and mobile applications. Get started now because once an issue is diagnosed it can take time to fix. Those that don't may find themselves missing out on a slice of the $9 billion Black Friday pie. 

 

The eCommerce landscape has shifted 

In the last year, global eCommerce sales hit $26.7 trillion. This dramatic rise has mainly been fuelled by a pandemic, but evidence suggests this trend is here to stay.  

People who never shopped online before have due to recent events, and it doesn't look like much will change in the immediate future. Already in China, 55% of consumers intend to shift to online grocery shopping permanently, and there is an increase of up to 6% in overall eCommerce penetration, according to McKinsey 

Here's the kicker — even before COVID, people were beginning to favor online shopping. On Black Friday in 2019 alone, footfall dropped by 6.2% due to people wanting to avoid the in-store chaos. 

Of course, there will always be people who want to shop in-store. But plenty of these shoppers will begin their journey online or reserve items for curbside pick-up (click and collect for our UK friends). 

Don't forget that many of these online journeys will begin on a mobile device as well — smartphone use in 2020 was up 7% compared to 2019, equating to 40% of all Black Friday sales in 2020. 

However you look at it, you need to make sure your website and mobile experience can handle changes in consumer behavior. 

 

Assumption is the mother of all mistakes 

Some of you reading this might be thinking that the last 200 odd words are stating the obvious. To some, they might be. But before you stop reading, answer one question: 

What do Costco, J.Crew, and Amazon all have in common? 

The answer? They have all suffered significant website crashes or downtime in the last three years.  

J.Crew's website crashed in 2018, costing them over $700,000. In the same year, Amazon — you know, the technological behemoth — lost an estimated $100 million in sales during one hour of downtime during its Prime Day.  

Not many organizations would be able to recover after $100 million in lost revenue, but if Amazon can be caught off guard by online traffic surges, then smaller online retailers are bound to struggle too. 

Financial damage isn't the only concern that retailers should be worried about, however. Retailers also take a PR battering as disgruntled consumers flock to social media to spread the issues they’ve encountered on your website far and wide. 

Downtime and crashes are the main gripes, but consumers will quickly move to a competitor if your site or app loads too slowly as well. 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load, and a one-second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.  

To put this in perspective, imagine that your eCommerce website brings in $100,000 per day. A one-second page delay could end up costing you close to $2.5 million in one year. If you’re not generating revenue like Amazon, losing that amount of money can be catastrophic. 

 

Test your way to Black Friday success 

With plenty at stake, you can never start too early to prepare for Black Friday. And whether Benjamin Franklin said it or not, retailers need to heed this warning: fail to prepare, prepare to fail.  

So, to give yourself the best chance of Black Friday success, consider these four areas before you begin performance testing your online presence: 

Website and mobile performance 

As mentioned, this is an obvious one, but testing your website and mobile app’s performance is critical. Load testing, in particular, must happen as online traffic surges are the main culprit when websites or mobile apps crash. This is down to a disparity between traffic levels and the capacity of your IT infrastructure. 

System requests made by your customer can be complex and demanding on an average day. But when online traffic peaks on Black Friday, demand can overshadow your processing capacity resources in minutes, if not seconds.

Think of it like any regular store. If you have ten times the amount of shoppers than usual, your checkouts and cashiers would be totally overwhelmed. 

Load testing allows you to verify your website and mobile app's performance by identifying any bottlenecks that occur along the customer journey that may cause a crash or downtime under peak load. 

Continuous performance monitoring 

Ensuring your website and mobile applications perform isn't a one-time job. Monitoring must happen before, during, and after a surge in traffic so you can be notified the moment something goes wrong.  

Continuously monitoring performance reduces the overall impact on the user experience and ultimately on your bottom line if something goes wrong. It also allows you to view and analyze data to understand how performance is affected in various scenarios, such as how user numbers affect load times and conversions. 

End-to-end digital experience 

Your website and mobile app are at the center of many other business-critical services and functions, so don't neglect end-to-end testing. Links from social media. Integrations with inventory systems. Connections to banking APIs and other payment services, like Klarna. Scheduling for curbside pick-up. Email services to confirm orders. 

Retailers depend on interconnected systems to deliver a flawless user experience, so these services, functions, and much more must be thoroughly tested. 

User-centric testing 

Performance testing before Black Friday should be considered a no-brainer. But if you aren’t testing performance at the UI level, you might be in for a shock on the actual day.  

To ensure both are covered, adopt user-centric testing to understand how your software impacts your customer experience. To do this effectively, use a test automation solution that visually validates the user experience. This helps you get a true understanding of how your site looks and performs under Black Friday conditions. 

It also helps if your testing model can be used to test the user experience on any device, browser, or operating system. This is particularly useful when your customers could be visiting your site on an Android phone, an iPad, or a chrome browser on a Windows machine. 

And if you combine model-based visual testing with artificial intelligence, that’s when the fun begins. Using AI, test cases can be auto-generated using real user data, helping to increase test coverage dramatically. Instead of only “happy paths,” all possible user journeys are tested, which goes for your website, mobile app, and any other third-party API or system. 

 

Be a Black Friday winner and boost revenue with Eggplant Performance 

All signs point towards another online shopping spectacular for Black Friday in 2021 (and Cyber Monday). So it makes sense to start testing your website and mobile application’s performance now to avoid losing millions and keeping your customers happy.

Using Eggplant Performance to make it happen makes even better sense, and here’s why: 

  • It is simple to use and scalable, which is vital when network traffic and stress on your server increases. 
  • System behavior at the UI level can be verified and visually validated, so you truly understand the impact on UX and server performance under peak load. 
  • The number of virtual users can be modified to ensure performance testing is adequate and realistic. 
  • A technology-agnostic approach maintains peak performance across any device, browser, or operating system. 
  • AI-powered testing increases test coverage to explore all user journeys and identify any bottlenecks that may affect performance. 

To give yourself every chance to boost online sales and recover from a difficult 2020, trust Eggplant to make you a Black Friday winner in 2021.