There’s no arguing that a prominent web presence is crucial to the success of a retail business, but what’s more important is placing focus on a website’s performance. Customers have come to expect a quality online experience, which often comes down to the basic function of a brand’s site. Global IP traffic will increase nearly threefold over the next five years, which means more and more shoppers will be visiting your company’s website in this new year.
The increasing traffic of ready-to-buy consumers presents an opportunity for businesses to ramp up their web presence and improve the user experience. Here are three ways to ensure end users have an optimal online experience:
1. Strengthen internal communications: Know your goals. Retailers should increase communication between the marketing and IT teams for best performance results. If a big campaign or product launch is anticipated, communicate traffic expectations so that needs are met and sale potential isn't inhibited by website function. Review past lessons learned to identify root causes of identified issues and work together to put in place the necessary tools to solve problems.
Expert tip: Establish department stakeholders to align communication across the company.
2. Understand what you can handle: Run a load test. After establishing expectations of what type of traffic needs to be prepared for, a well-executed load test is a great way to ensure that the online shop performs at its best. Load testing applies the anticipated normal demand that an online shop receives, plus more, to measure the website response time. Although an automated test can’t perfectly imitate live users, the test provides an important baseline to help identify any malfunctions and ensure a positive experience for customers. This test will also help to discover system bottlenecks identifying the need for a virtual waiting room.
Expert tip: Remember to conduct an additional load test after making changes to your website, especially if load test results lead to website upgrades.
3. Anticipate challenges: Plan for peak times. Testing doesn’t only apply to technology, but also the team behind the technology. Ask tech team leaders what they need in order to perform their best in 2017. Also, challenge them to find solutions to problems that don’t yet exist. Anticipation is key. Therefore, as the new year begins, identifying anticipated challenges and preparing for best-case scenarios of higher-than-average website traffic and higher-than-average conversion rates will lay the groundwork for a successful year. Take preventative steps and create reactive plans.
Expert tip: Sometimes peak times are unexpected and can’t be planned for, so have protections and tools in place that kick in as needed.
With the new year comes a new beginning to debut an improved website, and only by putting your site to the test will you make sure that it's prepared for the new year. Once you’ve prepared your team, conducted a load test and planned for peak traffic times, your online shop is ready to perform optimally in 2017.
Camilla Ley Valentin is CCO and co-founder of Queue-it, a virtual waiting room system that allows you to gain control of website overload during extreme traffic peaks by placing customers in a queue.