Last minute holiday Web performance tips for retailers
Major online retailers and search engines are unwrapping new websites and features just in time for the holidays. Google is expanding its product search functionality with Local Availability, Popular Products, and Aisles, and partnered with over 70 major retail brands to show shoppers whether an item is available at a specific store or location.
Borders unveiled a new version of its e-commerce site, offering shoppers more discounts, free shipping, and community-building features including product reviews and access to external resources such as The New York Times' Bestseller Lists.
And Saks has debuted a new m-commerce site to capture an increasingly mobile breed of shoppers.
Undoubtedly, these retailers have seen the predictions for online sales growth this holiday season, and don't want to be left behind. As they enhance their websites and online store functionality, however, it's important to keep in mind the effect these changes have on website performance and the user experience.
A "feel-good" shopping experience will keep customers loyal and coming back after the holidays have passed. After all, there will be gift cards to redeem in January.
While e-tailers might worry about their sites becoming completely unavailable, a slow-down is a more likely scenario, and a more costly one. As TRAC Research's Bojan Simic revealed this summer one hour of downtime can cost a retailer $20,000. However, as slowdowns are 10 times more likely to occur, retailers risk losing more.
Online retailers should look at all the elements of their site that can slow performance. If you're one of the many companies already monitoring your website performance, here are a few things you should be checking:
- Ensure you monitor the performance of the entire page, including all objects. The user experience depends on the ability to see and interact with all parts of the page.
- Review the frequency of your monitoring. The most significant pages and functions on your website should be monitored, at minimum, every five minutes.
- Confirm your monitoring provider will issue notifications and performance alerts immediately after a problem is found.
- Ensure you have screen shots of the page in error. A picture is worth a thousand words, and the lack of a Web page is a loss more than that! Be sure to quickly identify the problem with a visual guide.
- Confirm who in your organization is being notified when performance alerts are sent. Have an escalation plan in place if multiple errors occur.
- Review the options you have selected for your notifications and alerts. Take advantage of multiple communication methods. You should be able to choose telephone, SMS or e-mail -- whatever meets your business needs.
And while you can't ever be 100 percent certain that your website will deliver the availability you anticipate, having a "plan b" is always something to have in your back pocket.