Patience is a virtue, but unfortunately it’s not one that that e-tailers can count on from their customers, especially when it comes to peak digital shopping events like Mother’s Day.
Consumer impatience and demand for consistently high performance and speed is a well-documented fact in today’s digital economy. The so called "Google effect" has drained attention spans to the point that users aren't even willing to wait a mere three seconds for sites to load anymore. Obviously there's more than one factor that determines overall customer experience, but speed and performance remain critical. This is especially true for the flash-sale sites we monitored this past Mother’s Day. Retailers like Gilt and Zulily rely on buyers making quick impulse decisions on limited-time deals and limited quantities of exactly the right merchandise. When you have a buyer ready to make an immediate purchase, the last thing you want is to dampen their sense of urgency with a website or mobile app that can’t close the deal quickly and easily.
With this in mind, Dynatrace monitored top flash retailers leading up to Mother’s Day. Anytime buyers are scrambling to make last-minute purchases, as they were this Mother’s Day, there's a huge opportunity for retailers to win big if their sites don’t slow down or crash under the increased traffic load and range of different actions being taken on their sites at once.
As the graph above shows, it’s clear that some flash sites understood and properly prepared for end users’ expectations for a smooth, high-velocity experience. Yet others didn’t. MyHabit led the flash pack on Mother’s Day with response times that were two times to five times faster than most of the competition we tracked.
For retailers determined to learn from this event and take full advantage of future peak shopping occasions, there are simple steps they can take to optimize digital performance under the crush of major shopping events:
1. Streamline. It’s a common mistake for retailers to pack their websites full of "bells and whistles" (e.g., pop-up chats, sales help, pay-later options) in an attempt to be more engaging. However, this competing noise can backfire more often than not. Many of these intended enhancements are driven by third-party applications or hosted on content delivery networks, where issues are generally difficult to diagnose without a robust digital performance solution in place. E-tailers can benefit most by thinking about what can be removed from a site to speed performance, rather than what to add.
The same can be said for the application side. Retailers need to understand where performance bottlenecks are within their applications. Are their applications streamlined from a server, database or code perspective? Are their internal processes for creating and delivering those applications streamlined?
2. Track your performance. Just looking at aggregate traffic analytics and taking a sampling of user experience doesnt tell you what’s happening with your site or app. If you're serious about performance, you need an application performance solution that offers real user monitoring. Otherwise, you'll be blind to issues until they're already out of control and impacting your end users and brand. You don’t want customers’ angry tweets to be the first warning sign that something is wrong.
Load testing is great, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle, not the full answer. Be sure your users get the most out of your site by prioritizing load testing AND using synthetic monitoring and real user monitoring.
3. Adjust for mobile. Another thing we often see during peak web events is organizations that fall flat in the mobile space. Why? Because they don’t adjust their content based on the device accessing it. Too many retailers try to push the same amount of content over mobile as they do for web. This just isn’t practical. Even the best sites will experience issues if they aren’t adjusted to perform responsively and appropriately for different devices. Users participate in peak events across all digital channels, and if you want to cash in you need to delight ALL digital users, not just those using laptops and desktops. Delivering an excellent web experience but forgetting about mobile is like showing up to an exam and only answering half the questions. Adjust to deliver exceptional digital performance to all of your users.
The calendar year is packed with events like Mother’s Day, each representing a unique opportunity for online retailers. However, if you don’t plan well in advance and put a robust digital performance strategy in place, these will be missed opportunities that can damage your brand equity and hurt your bottom line. Get smart now, and if you haven’t already, prepare for Father’s Day before it’s too late!
David Jones is the field technical evangelist director at Dynatrace, an application performance management software provider.