It’s nearly here. The annual mad rush at the wee hours of the morning. The stampede into retail stores to claim really deep discounts on the latest toys, electronics, and gadgets makes headline news every year.
It begins the day after Thanksgiving and is usually two of the biggest shopping days of the year. Yes, we’re talking about Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Despite the ongoing pandemic, shipping delays, and supply chain disruptions, holiday spending is expected to be robust with consumers expected to spend an average of $998 on gifts this year. Some may not even wait for the crown jewel of shopping days to be upon us — 49% of consumers say they’ll start holiday shopping before Black Friday, according to the National Retail Federation.
On a macro scale, over half of consumers (57%) plan on shopping for holiday items online this year with ecommerce holiday spending expected to come in around $207 billion, according to Adobe Digital Insights 2021.
So, what does this all mean? Hold onto your seats because if you run an ecommerce website, you can expect massive site traffic and plenty of unexpected threats to your site’s uptime and overall performance. You’ll need to maximize your e-commerce website uptime and performance this holiday season by keeping the words “proactive” and “monitoring” at the forefront of your strategy.
Prepare for the increase in threats to your online sales, conversions, and reputation in the event of website downtime, performance hits, and failing transaction woes. Here’s how.
Double-check your DNS, SSL certificates
Some business owners tend not to think about their DNS records and SSL certificates regularly, let alone right before big shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But they are very important for protecting ecommerce sites and failing to do so could affect your bottom line dearly. Peak holiday shopping season is not the time to find out that your certificates are expired, outdated or have been compromised and made vulnerable to attacks.
In a nutshell, DNS verification is an automated process involving asking the domain owner to create a DNS TXT record with a specific value or to upload authorization codes. These codes are located at a specific location in the site’s structure, thereby proving their control over the domain. It’s the first security step in specifying who is allowed to issue SSL certificates for their domains.
SSL certificates work by ensuring that data transferred between users and websites remains encrypted and nearly impossible to read. Why does your ecommerce site need an SSL certificate? SSL certificates help secure sensitive user information:
- Login credentials
- Credit card transactions
- Bank account information
- Personally identifiable information- such as names, address, date of birth
- Legal documents
- Medical records
- Other proprietary information
If your DNS suffers from downtime or an error, your users can’t access your website or services that run from your website. If your SSL certificate expires or, worse, gets hijacked, your visitors’ browsers will block and warn them that the page is not secure. Guess what happens next?
When your customers can’t access your ecommerce site or see that your site URL starts with “HTTPS”, they could lose consumer trust and confidence that your site is secure and that could result in lost sales.
Monitor your systems early and often
Website monitoring is extremely useful in identifying bottlenecks and potential vulnerabilities in your systems before they affect your end users. Monitoring may identify certain patterns signifying that your site is less than up to the task of handling the massive traffic expected on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Website monitoring tracks outages and uptime from hundreds of global checkpoints. This is incredibly valuable in identifying parts of the world where you may be targeting customers for better sales performance but are encountering occasional or frequent bottlenecks preventing optimal customer outreach and service.
Verify transactions and API interactions with Web Application Monitoring and Multi-Step API Monitoring. You’ll gain great insight enabling your team to address potential issues before they flow downstream to your end user base. It is also a good idea to refrain from pushing untested updates to your website during periods of high traffic if possible.
Uptrends Website Monitoring checks your e-commerce site 24/7, alerting you at the first sign of trouble. While Website Monitoring checks for outages and tracks uptime, Website Performance Monitoring alerts you to sudden unexpected drops in performance so your IT team push out a solution as quickly as possible.
Invest in a good CDN and monitor it
In case you haven’t noticed, video marketing is on fire right now with compelling statistics around this trend hard to ignore. And for good reason — everyone from large enterprises and educational institutions to community groups and entrepreneurs are incorporating richer content into their websites, such as images and videos. Hence, the importance of choosing a high-quality content delivery network (CDN) provider.
A CDN, or content delivery network, works best when enabling the caching of images and other static media. A CDN essentially hosts your content on external servers — usually multiple servers scattered across large geographic areas splitting the load and easing the strain on the primary servers driving your e-commerce website.
Instead of millions of users trying to access a file on an individual server, CDNs redirects those users over say 10,000 servers, increasing speed, reducing buffering and the chances of a server crashing. Free CDN Performance Tools are available for this purpose.
Use content checks
Content checks are the most valuable tools at your disposal because a well-used content check can make all the difference in a transaction. Generally, the purpose of content checks is to verify that the previously executed action — clicking a product link on an ecommerce site, logging in/out, navigating to a page — completed successfully.
Transaction monitors run using a script so adding content verification is invaluable to ensure the transaction runs smoothly and provides you with accurate information regarding your website. Because a content check in your transaction script waits for the indicated content to load, you have two added benefits — knowing for sure that the navigation ended on the correct page and that the page loaded correctly and fully.
Have a plan for that day when everything does go wrong
Proactive (adjective): acting in anticipation of future problems, needs, or changes.
Seems to go without saying but the relatively simple process, of proactive planning, is sometimes put on the back burner by many organizations. Businesses are caught off guard due to lack of proper training, slow implementation of software patches, or not using the right combination of monitoring tools.
The result may be you losing revenue due to customers going to another vendor. These are a few suggestions for making a disaster recovery plan to avoid that scenario.
Be on speaking terms with your data center contact
When it comes to preparing your e-commerce website for heavy traffic events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it is good to call your data center ahead of time. Identify a go-to person for troubleshooting.
The last thing you need is to have your data center perform maintenance during a critical time or experience downtime because they haven’t prepared their systems for the massive swarms of traffic. So, call them up and build a healthy working relationship. Make a trusted point of contact in case the proverbial stuff hits the fan.
Backup, backup, and backup some more
Keeping your data in one central location without redundant backup options is a disaster waiting to happen. A power surge, heavy traffic, inclement weather, or a DDoS is all it takes to take out your e-commerce website.
By keeping backups of your critical website files and databases and setting up multiple web servers in locations closest to your target market, you can help yourself avoid a worst-case scenario.
Analyze your third-party scripts
A lot of websites rely on third-party scripts and content to track analytics, embed social media tools, and other functions. These third-party elements require extra calls to external servers, which may slow down your webpage’s performance.
We recommend that you analyze your third-party script’s performance and make sure they are fully optimized and worth using. Don’t forget; these script providers might also be experiencing heavy traffic and other performance altering events caused by Black Friday and Cyber Monday that could affect you!
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are expected to yield very healthy sales figures for ecommerce businesses despite the slowly ending pandemic, supply chain snafus, and higher-than-average fuel costs.
Still, be ready for unexpected surprises that could put a dent in your holiday revenue forecasts. Have a comprehensive monitoring plan that covers potential network bottlenecks and that integrates nicely into your team’s operational readiness. Learn more about how Uptrends Monitoring Solutions can keep your ecommerce business running smoothly this holiday season. Sign up for a free 30-day trial today!