November 22, 2020

Lauri Kasti

How to prepare your website for Black Friday traffic

This year Black Friday will test the limits of e-commerce websites' technical performance more than ever before. In previous years, the number of visitors to online stores on Black Friday has been three to four times higher than on regular days.

The paradox is that the more popular your online store or website becomes, the more likely it is to slow down or, worse, stop working altogether, ruining the user experience. Websites always crash at the worst possible moment.

And why is that? Because nobody knows what happens to their website performance when the number of simultaneous users exceeds the normal levels.

Black Friday is an excellent opportunity for your online store to stand out from the competition with a fast-loading and smooth-running experience.

There is a lot of research on the impact of speed on e-commerce revenue and conversion rates. Accelerating the average page load time by just 0.1 seconds has increased e-commerce revenue by 1%. And a page-load should generally never take more than 3 seconds, or the average user will give up and head to the next link in Google.

Here are five tips to help ensure your online store works during high visitor spikes:

  1. Check with your hosting provider to see if you can multiply your hosting resources like CPU and RAM for Black Friday. The extra cost of a few days on your hosting bill is good insurance and will pay for itself when as many customers as possible get to shop at your online store.
  2. Check with your e-commerce software vendor to see if the e-commerce code could be improved to withstand larger user spikes. If you can distribute the load to multiple servers or containers and scale horizontally (splitting traffic to multiple servers/containers), it can solve a lot of problems. And using server-side cache or a CDN service can significantly improve the online store's performance.
  3. Keep in mind that your website speed is also affected by the 3rd party assets and tools you are using. You may have followed steps 1 and 2, but some external integration may still deteriorate the performance.
  4. Avoid making changes to e-commerce products or prices during Black Friday. Your online store may take advantage of the cache mentioned in step 2, which will be reset when you make changes to your online store. When a cache is reset during a visitor peak, the server capacity reserved for your online store may be no longer sufficient.
  5. You can't manage something you’re not measuring. Load test your website to find out how many simultaneous users it can handle with decent speed. Compare the load test result with last year's Black Friday to see whether you are on an acceptable level under 3 seconds. It is a good idea to do a load test first before steps 1 and 2 to know your current performance and again after the changes to confirm that the investments have taken your performance in the right direction. A load test will also help you find out what slows down your online store, leaving you with time to resolve the issue before Black Friday.

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