Around the world, retail e-Commerce sales worldwide are forecast to nearly double between 2016 and 2020, with nearly one in four online shoppers shopping at least once a week. The influx of online buyers has challenged enterprises as they struggle to keep their technology up-to-date to meet the demand.
As with most sectors, technology, particularly mobile, has had a significant impact on the retail industry. An interesting fact though is that the average consumer doesn’t necessarily prefer digital over physical, or vice versa. But retailers that focus on giving customers a seamless experience and that leverage technology to do that certainly do stand to gain the most.
The easiest place to start leveraging technology is with your e-Commerce site. With the winter finally beginning to thaw across the United States, many businesses will begin to take advantage of revenue coming in from summer sales. However, if your e-Commerce web site is not ready to cope with an influx of traffic, the opportunity can pass you by. Slow load times, broken links and a poor user experience are unacceptable to shoppers expecting to find greater convenience and selection by going online.
Web sites unable to handle the traffic spikes immediately lose out on sales. Worse, they negatively impact the brand’s reputation and end up disappointing customers who might have otherwise become loyal fans. Optimizing your web site to accommodate more traffic is a sound goal for both the short and long term. Here are three simple but solid strategies to keep in mind for getting your web site ready:
1. Fast-Track Web Site Load Times
Research reveals that today’s web users expect a web site to load within two seconds and tend to abandon a site after waiting just three seconds. Of those who find load times lagging, 79% will avoid returning to the site, and 44% will warn off a friend.
E-Commerce web sites must load quickly, but they must also direct traffic — especially mobile traffic — to the information users are looking for as efficiently as possible. Tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights or GTmetrix test the speed of a site, offer an empirical score and provide tips for accelerating load times for your web site, so it’s a good idea to rely on these objective evaluations rather than assuming your site is fast enough.
2. Shield Your Web Site From Downtime
Sites that run off a shared server are notoriously vulnerable to both contention and security issues, and it’s therefore critically important to pay attention to these, particularly during a busy season. When every web site is overstretched, sites that are tapping into the same collection of resources quickly drain that pool dry. Additionally, even if your web site is doing everything right, it could still be compromised by issues affecting another web site on the server.
Paying a little extra for a dedicated server is a sound investment if you know how much extra traffic your web site needs to handle. If your requirements are more fluid, cloud hosting is a smart solution. Using this option enables you to customize available resources based on your needs and make sure your web site’s performance remains at its peak, because scalability is nearly limitless. Instead of dealing with downtime, your web site can effortlessly accommodate spikes in traffic.
A content delivery network (CDN) is a highly beneficial tool to include in your strategy for handling peak traffic. By investing in a CDN service, your web site can benefit from huge increases in speed, scalability, resilience and security, as well as take advantage of significant savings on bandwidth cost, and reduced load on your web server.
3. Good Security Builds Trust
With so many competing options available online, consumers will search for an alternative if they believe it’s unsafe to shop on a specific web site. Considering the multitude of recent high-profile data breaches, the price break offered by any retailer is outweighed by the security concerns raised by the retailer’s web site.
Switching your site to HTTPS is a relatively easy and low-cost solution. Unlike traditional HTTP sites, information routed through HTTPS is encrypted. Moving to a more protected platform reassures customers, encourages more conversions and helps prevent the catastrophic consequences of a data breach over the festive season. In addition, having a HTTPS ensures your web site is ranked higher than HTTP-only sites in Google and other search engines.
Justifying web site upgrades is a relatively easy equation. Simply calculate the cost of any new hardware, software, or services that you plan to put in place, then compare that to the cost of 1,000, 100, or even just 10 lost sales. It quickly becomes clear that accommodating seasonal traffic makes sound financial sense, so start putting strategies into action before traffic picks up even more.
Lex Boost is the CEO of Leaseweb USA. He is responsible for the development and execution of Leaseweb’s core vision and strategy across the U.S. With over 20 years’ experience in the digital industry, he has gained leadership experience from a broad range of organizations and cultures, including both B2B and B2C markets, in startups as well as large corporations.