The holidays are the most beautiful time of year – family, friends, good food and of course, lots and lots of shopping.
An increase in online commerce begins immediately after Thanksgiving and runs right up through the January sales, but while store owners notice an overall boost in traffic during this period, there are a couple of specific days that can send online store sales to another level all together.
The Rise of Cyber Monday
We analysed data from more than 1,000 Magento stores over 2014’s holiday season and made some interesting discoveries. On Cyber Monday the number of site issues tracked by the Shoppimon platform in critical customer scenarios (e.g. add to cart and checkout) increased significantly, and peaked again two weeks later while customers getting in their panicked last-minute Christmas shopping.
Our review of last year’s Cyber Monday activity on Magento stores found a 60% increase in issues experienced on these sites.
Another worrying finding was that store homepage response times slowed down. In fact, in a number of cases there was a 50% increase in the time it took for commerce sites’ homepages to load.
So how can you ensure your store stays up and stays strong during Cyber Monday and throughout the holidays?
Here are Shoppimon’s top tips.
Cyber Monday Tip #1: Learn from the Past
When forming any plan of action, it’s good to know what you’re up against, but while we can tell you what happens to most ecommerce sites at this time of year, only you know exactly what will happen to yours. Review 2014’s analytics to see what kind of traffic increases occurred and what percentage was linked to specific deals or marketing pushes. Use this to predict customer patterns and activity and make sure nothing hinders your customers’ journey this November.
If this is your first year running an online store, or if you don’t have your store’s performance breakdown from last year, be sure to set up analytics tracking code on each page to track user patterns, guaranteeing you’ve got this crucial information for next time the holiday season rolls around.
Cyber Monday Tip #2: Alert Your IT Team
Once you’ve reviewed changes in activity and the problems you experienced in the past, send a comprehensive list of issues to your IT team or hosting company. If they know exactly what to expect, they’ll be able to put the right measures in place for this season to make sure your site performs as it should.
Cyber Monday Tip #3: Make Sure Your Server is Up to The Challenge
A flexible hosting service is incredibly important at this time of year. Make sure your server can be boosted quickly whenever a spike in traffic is detected. You should also keep in mind that database server capacity is the most likely to suffer from increased traffic problems when it comes to online stores, so make sure your team is on top of this by the time Cyber Monday comes around.
Cyber Monday Tip #4: Check Your Mobile Service
Don’t forget to make this a priority when prepping your site for Cyber Monday. In the UK alone, one-third of all online purchases made that day in 2014 were on mobile devices, and mobile sales accounted for 27.9% of sales on Black Friday’s as well. So, if you’re site is not yet mobile responsive, of the mobile version isn’t up to par, you risk losing a substantial cut of your revenue.
Cyber Monday Tip #5: Consider Reverse Proxies
This is one for your tech team and can reduce the likelihood of page load delays caused by a boost in visitors. Reduce site access time by installing a web server accelerator and pre-empt the possible delays visitors could experience. Cache any content you can and filter out any ads that aren’t necessary for the client to see (it’s only one day). Programmes such as Nginx and Apache can be run on Magento and this should improve page loading times in the face of traffic spikes.
Cyber Monday Tip #6: Monitor in Real-time
Keep a close eye on your site’s function throughout Cyber Monday, so you can act quickly if a problem arises. Many of our clients find the Shoppimon monitoring platform to be a great asset that allows them to keep track of the functionality of their online stores in real-time. By constantly running through consumer patterns, Shoppimon technology is able to alert owners once an issue like slow page load speeds occur, ensuring that any problem is discovered and fixed before your customers notice.
Cyber Monday Tip #7: Prepare Landing Page in Advance
Your marketing team will love you for this one! Work with copywriters to create landing pages at the start of November that promote your Cyber Monday offers. It doesn’t matter if the discounts aren’t available yet – the advantage is that search engines will begin registering your Cyber Monday keywords in advance of the day, so you’ll have a ranking advantage once it arrives.
Your landing pages should contain ‘Cyber Monday’ and ‘sale’ or ‘offers’ in the headline, URL and H1 tags. It should also contain relevant keywords throughout the text and as image tags. Use this url in any social media advertising you do to help boost the page SEO quality and make sure it’s capable of handling any traffic surges.
Cyber Monday Tip #8: Prep Product Pages
When sale items have been decided, keep an eye on those product pages in advance, ensuring everything is running smoothly and that they will be able to handle spikes in traffic. If the product pages don’t already exist, set them up in advance with a note that says the items can’t be purchased until Cyber Monday. Not only will this help from an SEO standpoint, it also means you can iron out any kinks in performance before the big day.
Cyber Monday Bonus Tip: Don’t Underestimate Black Friday
Cyber Monday is the main day online store owners prep for during holidays, but while most people hit the shops on Black Friday, many are still choosing to grab their bargains online that day. Furthermore, many savvy shoppers spend the week beforehand searching for deals to pounce on once the clock strikes midnight on Cyber Monday, so don’t leave site checks until the last minute – issues in the days leading up to Cyber Monday can lose you quite a bit of business.