How to Prepare Your eCommerce Site for the Holidays

October 23, 2014 Distil Networks

Note: Today’s column is a guest post written by Mehdi Daoudi, co-founder and CEO Catchpoint, a web performance monitoring website for all internet services. 

With the holiday shopping season fast approaching, online retailers are in the process of preparing their sites for the influx of consumers who have decided to forego the nightmare of fighting crowds at the stores and do their gift shopping from the comfort of their own home. In fact, according to Internet Retailer, the combined online US sales in November and December is projected to eclipse $100 billion for the first time ever this year.

However, with this increase in online shoppers comes a greater burden placed upon retailers’ DevOps teams, whose job it is to make sure that those eCommerce sites remain up and running through these high traffic periods. A retail site that experiences an outage – even for just a minute or two – will not only lose the revenue that they could have accrued during that outage, but will also see an effect on future revenue due to customers being turned off by that bad user experience.

And it’s not just outages which cause these problems. Even if a site enjoys 100 percent availability, if users encounter long load times during either the browsing or checkout processes, there’s a good chance that they won’t be coming back for a repeat visit. Consider that 40 percent of people will leave a site if it doesn’t load in two seconds or less, and the need for keeping a site as fast and reliable as possible becomes abundantly clear.

Adding to the difficulty of maintaining a consistent level of performance is the presence of web bots, who can wreak havoc with your site traffic, and by extension the speed and availability of your site’s pages. This is where Distil’s tools can really show their benefit, as eliminating those bots from your site will ultimately lead to better performance and a positive effect on your company’s bottom line.

Of course, even if you’re able to eliminate the bots completely, there are still plenty of threats out there which can take down your site or cause your users to experience slowness. The fact of the matter is that the internet is so complex nowadays that maintaining your own servers is just one part of a multi-front battle. Between Content Delivery Networks (CDNs), Domain Name Servers (DNS), third party tags, cloud infrastructure, and a host of other components, failures can come from a variety of different places (and that’s without even considering the factors that are OUTSIDE of your control like wireless network bandwidth).

In addition to monitoring all of those aspects of your site throughout the holiday shopping season, there are certain steps you can take before it begins to ensure that you’ll be able to handle the increased traffic:

  1. Keep pages as light as possible, particularly on mobile sites, as resources on mobile devices are far more limited than on desktops.
  2. Eliminate any unnecessary third party tags which can cause problems with your page loads; for those that remain, keep them below the render start in your page construction.
  3. Reduce the number of round trips that the browser must make.
  4. Compress all text-based content.
  5. Use domain sharding tactics such as hosting your images on a separate domain from your main page.

On top of these preparations, you’ll want to test your site’s readiness to ensure that you’ll be able to handle all of the additional traffic of holiday shoppers. That includes testing your site’s functionality (unit, integration, system, regression, and acceptance tests), load and stress testing to ensure that your servers can handle the traffic, and security testing to make sure that your customers’ sensitive information remains protected.

Once all that is done, just be sure to continue monitoring your site’s performance and you should see a positive effect on your holiday sales.  

About the Author

Distil Networks, the global leader in bot detection and mitigation, is the first easy and accurate way to identify and police malicious website traffic, blocking 99.9% of bad bots without impacting legitimate users. Distil protects against web scraping, competitive data mining, account hijacking, form spam and click fraud while slashing the high tax that bots place on your internal teams and web infrastructure.

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