How to Prepare Your Site for Seasonal Flash Sales
The feeling of summer is in the air, which is a worthy excuse to hold a sale. Between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, Easter, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Prime Day, and everything in between, businesses are handing out discounts once the weather turns warm.
But is your site truly ready for the seasonal flash sales? While your customers may be ready to venture outside and into your stores, you still need to prepare for the online shopper who chooses to visit your site.
Following these tips and checking overlooked areas of your e-commerce site ensures it can handle the traffic that comes its way once the announcement emails go out.
- Test coupon codes. Most sales have unique coupon codes for customers to enter at checkout unless stated otherwise. Have you tested whether they work? How many are there? If there isn’t a coupon code, have you checked that the discounts will be automatically applied at checkout for all relevant products? Ensuring that your customers are able to properly take advantage of sale prices seems like a given, but you have to test it to verify that discounts are functional.
- Load test the entire user journey. The importance of load testing on high traffic days is a no-brainer, but there’s a method to mid-sale madness. Last year, we saw Amazon.com crash on Prime Day when its site wasn’t properly load tested. However, Amazon's homepage worked just fine. It wasn’t until shoppers clicked into different products or navigated to other areas of the site that they were directed to an error page. This taught e-commerce businesses a valuable lesson: you need to load test the entire user journey to prevent downtime when it matters most.
- Ensure shopping carts can handle spikes in traffic. For consumers, sale events aren't about how much they spend, it’s how much they save. Therefore, people might be filling up their carts to the brim. While this is great for your sales goals, it won’t be so great if they aren’t able to make it through checkout. You want to make sure that your cart can handle heavy use and abuse. What happens if consumers leave the website for a certain amount of time? Do items with limited inventory stay in their possession, or does their cart get emptied? Can someone add 20 different items with no issue? What about 50? What happens when someone wants to buy large quantities of one item? You might want to do some exploratory testing to see what your shopping cart can handle.
- Visually verify new landing pages. You should update your homepage to reflect your sale, which means you might want to switch up your images, video, and other visual elements to excite visitors and inform them of deals. However, unless you’re doing visual testing, this may be better as an idea than an implementation. Even when everything’s functionally efficient, you still need to be cautious of visual bugs that could compromise the user experience. With consumers coming to your website through various devices, you want to ensure the experience is consistent using visual testing, no matter how they choose to shop.
- Actively monitor. You don’t want your customers informing you that your site is down during a sale through social media. While load testing should give you an idea of how much traffic your site can operate under, monitoring is instrumental when it comes to understanding site performance and knowing when downtime happens as soon as there’s an issue. This way, you can get your site back up again before your customers have time to hit the “Tweet” button.
A sale is an opportunity for profit and press — both positive and negative. But fear of downtime or functional failures shouldn’t mean you should avoid the seasonal flash sale altogether.
The testing techniques listed above can help you plan for the worst and expect the best, enabling you to better prepare your website and keep the sales coming year-round.
Alexandra McPeak is a content marketing specialist at SmartBear, a software testing, monitoring and developing tool.
Related story: Beware of Visual Bugs Compromising User Experience
Alex McPeak is a Content Marketing Specialist at Zaius, the B2C CRM that connects customer data and orchestrates your campaigns. In her role, she strives to assist marketers at every touchpoint in the customer journey and stay atop of the trends of retail and e-commerce.