A Guide to Optimising Your Site for Black Friday and Peak Seasonal Traffic

This article prepares business owners, developers and marketers on how to prepare their business for busy seasonal periods! We identify areas where your site can be optimised, for one of the busiest and most important eCommerce periods of the year!

This season is a busy time of year for sales and peak traffic on your site. From Christmas discounts, boxing day and January sales, you are bound to have an influx of shoppers on your site.

Black Friday events kick off this year on Friday 25th November 2022, with Cyber Monday following on Monday 28th November. 

Black Friday typically marks the start of the Christmas shopping period - the busiest eCommerce season of the year. Often accompanied by discounts and deals for eCommerce and brick-and-mortar stores. 

There are predictions that there will be a 20% growth in online spending this year on Black Friday, and we are here to help ensure you're ready! 

We will break this article down into three areas; Development, User Experience and Marketing, these areas aren't just great to optimise for the busy eCommerce season, but for all year round!

How to ensure your business is ready for Peak Season Sales

Development

Planning ahead for major shopping periods such as Black Friday, should not be left until the last minute, reactive fixes to your website's performance during this period can be risky and may leave you in a tricky position if you’re unable to fix it in time. 

How do we improve this? 

We advise prioritising some of the tasks below to be done months in advance, and the importance of proactive planning and preparation for such events way ahead of time to ensure a stable and performant website giving you peace of mind during some of the busiest times of the year.

Code Freeze:

Code freeze is a developer term which means the code for the website is locked and strictly nothing should be deployed (except for security patches if necessary) for a period of time. This is to protect from any disruptions, new slowdowns of performance, or outages to your website from recent code changes. This is not a new practice and is widely adopted given the importance of Black Friday to many businesses, helping reduce risk of the unforeseen which could interfere with your customer's transactions and shopping experience, potentially impacting your sales. 

January traditionally has the third biggest peak of sales, after pre-christmas months, November and December - The Drum.

Performance Testing

Performance testing shows insight into understanding the system's comfortable capacity, upper limits of the software or hardware, as well as how it responds and recovers in times of peak loads, sustained traffic, and attacks.

As soon as you are able to run performance tests, do so! There is then more time left to upgrade the server if needed, or patch code to run more efficiently.

There are two popular types of testing that are carried out that highlights areas of most interest for your website; these are Load tests and Stress tests. While these may sound similar, they are designed to convey different goals

Load Testing

Is your site ready to perform under an increased quantity of customers? Load Testing is carried out to identify a website's performance under the pressure of large quantities of users. It pinpoints the upper limit of the operating capacity for your system. Carrying out a Load test can recognise if your store can perform under the quantity of Peak Season traffic.

This helps you understand how the system as a whole reacts under a predefined and sustained load or calculating the capacity of the system. There are many metrics you can use from this sort of test that will help you plan ahead for Peak Seasons. For example calculating website traffic based on previous patterns, combined with a new expected percentage of increase during Black Friday - Will your system be able to handle this increased new KPI target?

Stress Testing

How stable is your system under large quantities of users and data? This helps you understand how the system copes. Usually, under extreme pressure such as sustained peaks of users or website attacks, this information can then be used to identify bottlenecks or hardware capacity (such as memory limits). The results are closely looked at to see how the system recovers, not just how it performs under the stress. This is important to implement before events like Black Friday due to the influx of users and data your store needs to maintain. 

Site Speed

Customers waiting for a page to load probably isn’t going to help retain them. Make sure your page speed is fast as it can be; including under the increased or sustained load of Boxing day sales (as outlined above in our Performance Testing section).

Performance metrics are important KPIs to achieve. With a big correlation between page load time and bounce rate, pages loading within 2 seconds have a 9% Bounce Rate, while a page load time of 5 seconds has a whopping 38% Bounce Rate (Pingdom).

Doing as much as you can to achieve the fastest page speed possible is going to help you in multiple ways, reduced server load and reduced bounce rate -and hopefully an uptick in conversions due to a great and fast shopping experience!

Heres some quick tips that any developer will be able to do, to help shave valuable loading time off your website pages:

Image size

  • Reduce your image sizes: Ideally no larger than 200KB, this can be a struggle with some great-looking website imagery, however, if you reduce multiple on a page, the savings can be huge. ImageOptim can help reduce image file sizes using advance compression.

Unused scripts

  • Remove unused scripts or styles, or minify and compress scripts and styles you do use.This may be harder to do if you’re running a Magento 2 store using the Luma theme or a theme built on top of that theme as it’s very JS-heavy.
    For those looking to make the switch to a more performant storefront theme, we suggest Hyvä which has minimal JS network requests, resulting in impressive load times. We are a trusted provider for Hyvä themes so get in touch and we’ll show you how impactful on performance the switch can be.
  • Website caching enabled and configured correctly? - This will play a major part in website speed too!

Content Delivery Network

CDN - Have you considered using a CDN? There are a plethora of benefits to using one, such as Cloudflare:

  • Global CDN, when a user's browser requests assets from your website such as; images, and scripts, these are served from the nearest server to them.
  • Free SSL Certificate - Prevent data theft and other tampering, by encryption of website traffic
  • Firewall & DDOS Protection - Cloudflare prevents 124 billion threats per day, resulting in fewer website attacks, and more uptime! 
  • HTTP/2- Up to 50% faster loading speeds
  • JavaScript timing
  • ETags and expired headers

User Experience

Here are some key ways to help your customers convert during Peak Season Sales. Optimising these areas can help your customers navigate your site for desired products and browse with ease. 

Providing them with variation throughout their customer journey, can make your brand and site more accessible, and retain your customer's purchases and loyalty.

Search Options

72% of eCommerce sites fail to deliver on site search expectations

Optimising your search results will help your customers navigate your site without frustration and increase retention. API search is a great way to assist users' experience on your site and suggest popular products. Here are just a few ways to ease your buyer's journey with an optimised search:

  • Autocomplete search option
  • Voice-activated search
  • Image search 
  • Tailored search recommendations/results

We always suggest Algolia to our clients, its powerful search API helps any industry and business covert and grow! Various features and solutions such as; personalisation to maximise customers' experience, Insights to understand your users and integrated security to keep their data safe, are just a few reasons how it can optimise your search and why we recommend Algolia.

Payment options

During your customer's shopping experience getting to check out and realising your desired payment option is not available can be disappointing.  Integrating payment variations such as Stripe, Paypal, Google and Apple pay - to name a few, can help avoid abandoned carts and help increase conversions. Buy now pay Later (BNPL) schemes have become increasingly popular, giving customers the option to spread payments, particularly with the increased cost of living.

22% of shoppers use Buy now Pay later schemes during the Christmas Period. 


Automated Process

Automating processes can help you prepare for busy periods such as Christmas, when you may not have the resources and employees to cope with the increase in traffic and orders. Introducing automated tools to your workflow can help your business grow and can help you use your time more efficiently.

60% of businesses implement eCommerce automation tools to save money and scale up their business. 

Automation Tools you could consider in your business:

  • CRM Tools
  • Invoices

At Develo we create automated tools to help eCommerce businesses.

Invoices:

For Magento stores, we have created a Barcode Scanner which gives eCommerce stores more control over shipping their products. This module eliminates the manual process of data entry for store owners, giving you more time to focus on optimising other areas for increased traffic during seasonal sales!

Providing barcodes for customer invoices gives owners the ability to send order confirmation and shipment updates to their customers, saving you time through a more automated process!

Delivery Option

For businesses that have brick-and-mortar stores, offering a pickup option for ordered products can provide a great alternative to delivery. In 2021 retailers that offered this grew their revenue by 50% more than retailers that did not. 

With an increase of 24/7 drop-off points, such as InPost lockers, collecting and returning parcels has become simpler and more affordable. This has helped diminish the worry of not being home to receive your stack of parcels during the Christmas period, allowing you to collect your deliveries around your busy schedule!

Devices

Almost 43% of Black Friday sales happen through mobile phones

Ensure your site is optimised for all devices, particularly devices that are predominantly used by your audience. You can identify this through your analytics and this can help you amend your site ready for your customer's preferred shopping experience. 

Marketing

Leading up to the Christmas festivities it is a good idea to create anticipation for your discounts and deals. 

Selecting an appropriate tone for your marketing and advertisement can help attract the right customers. Consider this in your campaigns, and when sending out email marketing to help increase engagement and conversions. 

Unique Campaigns

With a saturated market for Black Friday and Boxing day sales, considering a campaign that stands out and is creative, is essential if you want to make an impact. Look at previous campaigns that have worked well, how can you incorporate elements of these into your campaign?

Search Engine Optimisation

Optimising your SEO will help your eCommerce store show up on Google and other search engines for appropriate search results and compete with your competitors for high-ranking keywords. 

 Here are some areas you should consider focusing on:

  • Keywords
  • Metadata; Meta titles, descriptions and keywords
  • Creating landing pages for Black Friday sales
  • Identify trending products

Sign-ups

The traffic to your site will likely be increased during Black Friday, this is a prime time to capture emails, as the audience visiting your site are now aware of your business and already on the 'buyers funnel'.
Enticing your audience to sign up for your newsletter, by inviting CTAs that give them exclusive discounts is a great way to retain customer engagement after this seasonal traffic. 

Socials

As we mentioned previously, there's going to be ALOT of competition during the Christmas season, so considering your marketing budget early on is crucial. Be prepared to increase your social ads across your appropriate platforms to increase interest and traffic to your site. 

Consider your partnerships and who you are working with; such as influencers, to ensure you're targeting the appropriate audience for your brand. Here are some questions you should consider:
Do their morals align with your ethos? Is the partnership genuine? Have they used your products previously? - Shoppers can identify disingenuine partnerships which appear more like adverts, so be careful who you work with. Check out our User Generated Content blog to find ways to find genuine users of your brand and ways to use their UGC in your marketing.

In summary, considering the optimisation of these areas for peak season (or if your store is overdue an update), can help you prepare for the traffic from the seasonal sales. Preparing for peak season requires some planning, particularly testing your site beforehand. However, with easy navigation, clear searchability and planned marketing strategies, customers will have a better user experience, make convertions easier and retain customers brand loyalty.

Are you ready to optimise your site for peak seasonal traffic?


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Phoebe

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