Black Friday is guaranteed to crash your website – unless you have these 4 things covered

by Lauren Davis
Published on November 2019

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… for online retailers, as Black Friday and Cyber Monday are fast approaching. Shoppers are gearing up for the biggest e-commerce event in their calendars, which means that brands need to be bringing their online a-game this November.

Whilst Black Friday can be seen as a huge challenge for e-commerce technical teams, with good preparation and insight, it can be a smooth and successful event.

Here is our essential list of top 4 recommendations for online retailers to ensure Black Friday and Cyber Monday run without a hitch:

Scalability: being able to scale your infrastructure automatically to cope with demand is essential for Black Friday’s high traffic. Scalable hosting solutions like AWS, Azure and Google Cloud Platform offer elastic solutions which mean you don’t need to pay for huge amounts of bandwidth all year round, and can instead use these resources only when needed. UK cosmetics retailer Lush migrated it’s entire platform over to Google Cloud in 2018 after it’s site crashed during the Boxing Day sales two years running. This has not only prevented outages but also reduced infrastructure costs by 40%.

Content Delivery Network (CDN): A CDN is a geographically distributed group of servers which work together to provide speedy delivery of digital content. CDN’s allocate digital content based on the locality of the user, which can improve performance during spikes in traffic. Today, the world’s biggest sites including Netflix, Facebook and Amazon use a CDN to offer a fast service to customers and users.

Stress testing: We’re big fans of stress testing here at Just After Midnight, because we believe it’s an essential step to ensure you don’t get any nasty surprises in the eleventh hour. It involves adding load to your website until it fails, or until the performance drops below an acceptable level. This is important so that you not only can confirm that your site will be able to handle the expected peak traffic load, but also know how it will react when it fails.

Service Level Agreement (SLA): This is the key time to review the SLA you have with your hosting provider. This is the maximum amount of time the host has to respond and resolve an issue with your website, meaning if the worst happens, it’s a good indicator of how long your website could be affected. It might be worth having a chat with your provider to see if you can improve your SLA over busy periods like Black Friday. Click here to see our SLA packages.

Whilst its no doubt that Black Friday means huge business for brands, if not prepared for properly it can spell disaster. Last year, the high traffic on e-commerce sites took down some of the biggest brands:

John Lewis

The major UK retailer and department store was overwhelmed by demand during Black Friday 2018, displaying the message “Sorry about the wait, please try again soon.” It was suspected that testing had not been carried out properly by the technical team behind the website, and shoppers took to social media to vent their disappointment.

JCrew

Shoppers on global fashion merchandiser J. Crew’s website were left angry by the degraded performance on the website which left them unable to purchase anything on the site. They experienced several errors whilst shopping, including virtual baskets emptying themselves after selecting items as well as being unable to check out. Business Insider estimates these errors cost J. Crew $775,000 in sales during a five hour period on Black Friday.

Walmart

Walmart is one of the biggest US e-commerce giants selling everything from televisions to toothpaste. Technical issues affected an estimated 3.6 million shoppers according to an analysis by LovetheSales.com, and whilst lasting only 2.5 hours cost the retailer $9 million in lost sales.

In Asia, Singles Day on the 11th November is even bigger than Black Friday. Originating in China, the day is marked as a celebration of being single, and the biggest online shopping day in the world. However, high traffic causes high traffic issues: Taiwanese e-commerce site PChome saw it’s site crash after a record 1.5 billion transactions on the site.

Black Friday is a critical time for many e-commerce sites which requires a sophisticated plan from your technical team or partner agency to ensure everything runs smoothly. However, our four essential steps provide a starting point in your preparation.

If you have any questions about how Just After Midnight has helped businesses to prepare for periods of peak traffic, or how we can help you to cope with the demands of Black Friday and the Christmas period, get in touch now.

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