How to Prepare eCommerce Sites for Peak Traffic
A brand or product can receive sudden popularity from a targeted promotion, a long-anticipated launch, or sheer luck. As if on cue, thousands of users flood the website to browse and buy, and then, the website crashes. If the website goes down, customers click away and do not come back— traffic gone to waste and potential revenue lost.
Without proper preparation, even the most established brands are in trouble. When Sony launched the PS5, demand surged and users crashed Walmart’s website despite attempts to offer staggered release purchase times. Peter Morics from Screen Rant reported, “In some cases, players were hit with error messages even after they’d gotten the new console into their cart. The website crashed even faster during the second wave at 3 pm, and once again during the third at 6 pm.” (The console release was so chaotic, we wrote about what led up to the confusion and how a specialty eCommerce site and pre-sale pipeline could have helped here.)
Whether you are launching a limited-edition item or your products are subject to seasonal demand spikes, here is how to prepare your site for the surge and keep the shopping experience smooth and satisfying.
Scale Up Web Hosting and Optimization
If you know a time of peak demand is coming, start a conversation with your hosting provider early. They can provide you with scalable choices that level the highs and lows of demand including load balancing and cloud options.
The burden of optimization should not lie solely on the hosting provider. Before traffic swells, audit your website for usability and any elements that might be slowing you down. Reformat images, videos and other content and design pieces to keep the site running smoothly.
Axel Amigo Arnold, head of IT at Scalefast, says eCommerce providers should know their platforms: “It doesn’t matter how many good practices you put in place. Anything could and eventually will happen during a big launch, so always plan for the unexpected with the engineering team.”
And finally, do not forget to optimize your website for mobile devices. According to Business Insider’s Andrew Meola, mobile commerce’s share of the online retail market is picking up, and U.S. mobile commerce volume is “poised to increase from $128.4 billion in 2019 to $418.9 billion through 2024.” Many online purchases happen on a phone or tablet, and a poor checkout or user experience on mobile devices kills the flow and risks sales.
Prepare Internal Logistics Systems and Level Demand
Pinpointing your stock availability, shipping capacity and other internal processes ahead of a launch or expected traffic surge ensures that you can fulfill orders and that customers know exactly what to expect with their purchases.
Investing in processes and inventory systems ahead of time also means that you will not risk overselling and disappointing customers with refunds or out-of-stock notifications. Arnold says, “If stock is a problem, use backorders instead.”
You can also level demand by offering pre-orders, in-stock notifications, and discounts for targeted customer segments, creating a rich purchasing experience without the problems that plague unprepared sites. Customers do not spend time frustrated with a poor website experience, and you still make the sale.
Use an eCommerce Partner and Specialty Web Store
For flash sales and special releases, a unique site to host your event makes sense. Instead of hosting a large-scale event on your main page and possibly disrupting regular traffic, you can complete the entire event on a micro-site, known as a specialty web store.
A third-party provider host delivers an optimized site that is ready to handle an influx of visitors — no extra work required — and it works on any device without a hitch. You can also add features such as countdowns, wish lists, collector’s items, and pre-orders to build anticipation and level demand. An eCommerce partner can also provide the additional support you might not have available:
Scalable agile infrastructure
Faster page speeds and load times and stable server uptime
Better customer flow and queuing capabilities to keep users from crashing the site or constantly refreshing the page
Checkpoints for stock in real-time to prevent disappointing refunds
Prevention against bots and fraudulent activity that can derail your event
A customized look and feel without a complete site redesign
Specialty web stores can scale for your event and then shutter once the traffic surge is over. This saves you the hassle of optimizing your main website and managing hosting and distribution. As a result, your customers get an engaging and flawless experience.
Embrace Demand with Ease
Organizations never need to fear loss of function from demand, so long as they prepare their websites or a specialty web store properly. Instead, special events, launches, or peak demand periods can run smoothly, resulting in a successful eCommerce experience that closes sales and keeps customers happy:
Work with hosting providers to scale your site as needed
Optimize site content for usability, speed, and mobile before anticipated surges
Invest in quality inventory and logistics systems
Host eCommerce events on specialty web stores to divert traffic from main websites
Ready to dive even deeper into preparing for a launch or peak demand event? Read how Scalefast prepared flawless flash sale experiences for Hasbro subsidiary and American game publisher Wizards of the Coast. Download the case study to learn how you can make your next large-scale event a success.