Steps Online Retailers Can Take Now to Evade Disruptions This Holiday Season
There’s a new Black Friday tradition and it’s much more problematic than long lines and empty shelves: IT outages.
During 2020’s Black Friday weekend, nearly 50 major brands suffered outages or site performance issues. PetSmart and Missguided experienced the most issues, per data from web optimization software company Yottaa, while brands like Zara, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Toys“R”Us, Adidas, Macy’s, and Walmart also had website problems.
In the short term, website downtime shuts off revenue. However, in the long run, the ramifications could be much worse, including reputational damage and loss of consumer trust — both of which could have lasting effects on an organization’s bottom line for years.
The stakes continue to rise every year. While holiday sales are projected to increase 7 percent to 9 percent overall in 2021, e-commerce figures are expected to climb 11 percent to 15 percent this holiday season, reaching between $210 billion and $218 billion, according to Deloitte’s annual holiday retail forecast. In fact, 57 percent of consumers plan to do the lion’s share of their shopping online, per a recent Roku and Harris Poll study.
While it’s probably too late to make any major infrastructure changes, here are two steps online retailers can take right now to limit disruption during the holidays.
Test Your Environment’s Capacity
Retailers are accustomed to surges in online shopping during the holidays and usually adjust accordingly. But 2021 brings a whole new angle to testing — remote IT infrastructure users and increased scale.
Not only are even more individuals shopping online, but because of the global supply chain crisis, 51 percent of U.S. consumers plan to begin their holiday shopping earlier this year, per a survey from The NPD Group. This change in consumer behavior could lead to unexpected and sporadic spikes in traffic.
Can your applications scale up to meet these greater volumes of website traffic and scale down when the busy season passes? You won’t know for sure unless you test your environment’s capacity.
Know Your Risks
Ransomware is on the rise, and retailers are in the crosshairs.
Forty-four percent of retailers were hit with ransomware attacks in 2020, per a 2021 Sophos report. Barnes & Noble suffered a cyberattack in October that may have exposed customer data. Kmart fell victim to the Egregor ransomware operation in December, taking its websites offline and leaving back-end servers encrypted.
If you’ve made changes to your security posture in your production environment over the last 18 months, you should have accounted for them in your business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) plans. Failing to replicate those to the DR site or accommodate those changes in DR plans could put your business at risk.
Test your plans to identify weaknesses, security gaps or other risks to your business, and address what you can before it’s too late. Testing these plans ensures that in the event something does go wrong, employees are confident in how to respond quickly to get operations back up and running.
Time to Get Proactive
In 2018, Walmart lost $9 million in sales when 3.6 million shoppers had issues with Walmart.com over Thanksgiving weekend. Costco left nearly $11 million on the table last year because of 16.5 hours of downtime.
Surges in online traffic can be great for online retailers — unless they’re not prepared to handle the demand. With the holidays upon us, time is quickly running out to make even minor alterations. Checking capacity and understanding your risks can help to avoid headaches (and lost revenue) down the road.
Girish Dadge is senior director of product management at Sungard Availability Services (Sungard AS), which helps businesses transform their IT environments, ensuring they are resilient and recoverable.
Related story: The Secret to Avoiding Website Crashes This Holiday Season
Girish Dadge has over 15 years of experience unravelling data backup, restore, and recovery challenges, as well as architecting and implementing IT infrastructure and advanced recovery solutions across several industries. He currently serves as senior director of product management at Sungard Availability Services (Sungard AS).