Holiday eCommerce Traffic Jams Ahead: 6 Checkpoints to Bypass for Greater Success

Checklist for ecommerce holiday season

In 2017, the holiday shopping surge hit $691.9 billion, and in 2018, this is expected to increase by 15.5%. Huge promotional sales like Black Friday or Cyber Monday are no longer restricted only to the U.S. People from around the globe participate in holiday eCommerce deals. Although you may have been fine-tuning your holiday strategies since last spring, here are 6 last minute checkpoints to address before peak holiday traffic volume hits.

Related: A Blueprint to Prepare Ahead for Holiday Sales

Web traffic surge that leads to slow page loading

A website that is slow (or worse, one that goes down) during this critical time is every eCommerce company’s worst nightmare. Even a one second increase in load time can result in a 7% dip in conversions while a load time of more than three seconds can lose 40% of your visitors, according to Neil Patel.

eCommerce companies should choose a hosting plan that can handle the exponential increase in holiday website traffic. Work with your hosting company to discuss bandwidth scalability. This conversation should involve both desktop and mobile applications and speed.

Make sure that you have a backend robust enough to support extremely complex eCommerce transactions and functions. Test to see that the website can be accessed from different locations and can handle a flood of traffic. Consider cloud solutions to deal with huge traffic spikes as they can be scaled up before the holiday rush and scaled back down after the season ends.

Security problems

According to Lexis Nexis, 43% of orders could be attempted fraud. Add to this, hackers and malwares from different sources can pose a serious threat to eCommerce websites. You don’t want to compromise on your customer’s financial data.

Everything from SSL certificates to compliance with the safety standards of digital transactions are important to keep your systems - both hardware and software - secure. Add many layers of protection by doing your research, talking to your web host about airtight security features, and anticipating what could be a possible threat. For malware and viruses, firewalls can prevent threats and still maintain website speed. It is important to have a well-developed security strategy to meet the threats head-on. For example, a signature-based intrusion prevention will help, but is not enough. It should be backed by sufficient threat intelligence, preventive strategies and anomaly detection.

Mobile optimization and performance issues

According to Retail Dive, mobile usage will drive 68% of holiday retail traffic this year. Mobile users expect a superior website speed and browsing that is comparable to the experience on laptops and desktops. In addition to monitoring mobile responsiveness and website speed, make sure mobile payment gateways and checkout options are on-track and offer a seamless shopping experience.

When it comes to mobile phone conversions, the risk of cart abandonment is high. Optimize services for mobile, fix slow load times and simplify the process: don’t force mobile phone users to create another account for mobile which can turn them away. Cumbersome checkout procedures are a clear no-no too. A conversion strategy that is tailor-made for mobile phone users is a good way to remove obstacles that may come from this key demographic.

UX issues

One bad experience is all it takes for a customer to never return. The user interface should be intuitive and flexible enough to handle all kinds of customers and transactions. For instance, customers should be able to find products easily through search or navigation. Pop-ups for mobile customers can be a huge deterrent. The visual experience of the eCommerce site should be different and more intuitive than the one on a desktop or a laptop. Directness of approach and simplicity matter when it comes to mobile phone user interfaces.

Ease of use is also critical. You do not want customers to lose themselves in your website and get turned off by the clutter. Even something as simple as providing quick and easy access to customer support can make a difference and all these factors go into making a UX design what it is – a tool to drive sales and conversions.

Customer service and social media support

According to Bizreport, 8 out of 10 customers want a personalized customer service experience. They also want that service delivered immediately and via a variety of channels, including chatbots, social media and help lines. Customer support on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, apart from chatbot extensions that are made to suit your website, are must-haves in today’s eCommerce world.

Instagram, for instance, will be introducing its own shopping app soon. Social media is proving to be a popular choice for buying products as well as registering customer problems or complaints. One study showed, for instance, that 72% of users on Instagram made a purchase just after seeing an item on the site.

Shipping and inventory control

Another problem that eCommerce companies face during the holiday season is logistics related to shipping and inventory control. Many eCommerce companies offer different shipping options (expedited shipping, same day, click and collect, etc.) – which all add to the complexity of shipping related logistics

Plan your inventory and holiday calendar as early as possible and be prepared to deliver orders well in advance. Lay out buffer time for deliveries. Drop-shipping, for instance, may seem to simplify the process, but can come with problems in terms of speed and efficiency. If this is part of your strategy, be sure your resources use reliable, trackable shipping solutions that enable customers to track their shipments.

Read more: Smart Shipping Strategies for Reducing Cart Abandonment

The holiday season can create high stress levels for eCommerce companies. The trick is to integrate solutions, use metrics and data as much as possible, and continuously monitor critical checkpoints to ensure traffic is flowing smoothly.

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