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Prep Your E-Commerce Site For The Holiday Crunch

Online retailers have to do a lot maintain their competitive edge. They have to have social and mobile strategies. That have to have lightning-fast page load times.  And they have to offer a great user experience.

And during the holiday crunch, that becomes increasingly more important.

This holiday season, online sales are predicted to grow 12 percent compared to last year – that could push online holiday sales to as much as $96 billion. Retailers should be eager and also prepared for what is in store. Online retailers are estimated to see almost a third of their business in just the fourth quarter, driven mostly by holiday sales.

Meanwhile, recent research shows that three-second page load times can lead 40 percent of customers to abandon a website, and 79 percent of shoppers who are dissatisfied with website performance are less likely to buy from the same site again.  All this can lead to lost dollars and damage to your brand.

There has been more e-commerce innovation in the past year than during the last decade, according to Techcrunch; and that innovation means web sites must perform at the top of their game if they expect to earn consumers’ holiday dollars.

Do you have an omni-channel plan in place?

Here at Rackspace, we work closely with our partners and retailers to help ensure a prosperous holiday season. Here are five tips to ensure your e-commerce site is ready to handle the holiday shopping scramble and that it performs at its peak potential:

  1. Pre-plan with your hosting provider: This is incredibly important.  Communication with your hosting provider should be the foundation of your online strategy. Let us know your plans! Are you doubling your product SKUs this quarter? Are you running social media campaigns that could quadruple your traffic? Congratulations – we’re excited for you! Now let’s review your environment to make sure it can handle your anticipated plans and that traffic that is sure to follow. The last thing any of us want is for you not to see a return on your investment at the most critical time.
  2. Optimization through configuration: By taking a close look at your environment, we can help you identify different ways for you to maximize and optimize your infrastructure. Leveraging a content delivery network (CDN) like Rackspace Cloud Files for file or media storage allows you to cache content at global edge locations, saving users time. This is a huge help for your page load times. We can help with database tuning and look at your infrastructure to make sure it’s optimized for full performance. There are a lot of tweaks that can boost your site’s overall performance to delight your customers. We can help you make them.
  3. Identify single points of failure: It’s important to know where your vulnerabilities lie. Should you add for high availability (HA)? Do you have a failover strategy? These are important questions that online retailers have to evaluate as they consider the opportunity cost. We can provide guidance and talk through different options leveraging our full portfolio.
  4. Enable dynamic scaling within the app tier: Immediate scaling is not always possible, even in a cloud environment. While technology improves daily, it depends a lot on the application, which may take additional development to enable dynamic scaling. We can provide guidance and have videos that share best practices.
  5. Load test, load test, load test: You invest a ton to make your site the best it can be and to provide a great user experience. Let’s make sure you can handle the traffic so people can see it! Through our professional services, we can help provide load testing – whether it’s the whole site or just a specific part. We have customers who do this quarterly and those who do it annually, right before the start of their peak season. We can enable synthetic transaction monitoring to make sure your site experience is where it should be. If you’ve been on the fence about it; it’s not too late!

For more information on how to get the best out of your e-commerce site, contact us. We’ll make sure you’re up to speed and ready for record sales this holiday season.

And stay tuned, because each week leading up to the holidays we plan to feature guest blog posts from our e-commerce partners in which they delve deeper into the these five tips, provide examples and share best practices.

Season’s greetings!

About the Author

This is a post written and contributed by Adrianna Bustamante.

A Racker since 2006, Adrianna leads our commerce channel development. She advocates business development and marketing initiatives to help drive online retailers to Rackspace. Prior to Rackspace, she worked in publicity at Fox Home Entertainment. She hearts travel, fashion and online shopping.


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