How to Scale Enterprise eCommerce: Managing Peak Traffic Times

How to Scale Enterprise eCommerce: Managing Peak Traffic Times

Scaling your eCommerce business means you must manage peak traffic times to keep the shopping experience smooth for customers.

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You’re most likely here because your eCommerce business is achieving scale. It’s time for you to start thinking about growing the business strategically and effectively. In part one of this conversation, we walked through a few specific ways to prepare for long-term growth. But you can’t stop there. Is your brand equipped to handle high-volume, peak eCommerce traffic?

A growing eCommerce business means more traffic to your shop, particularly during peak times like Black Friday and the week leading up to Valentine’s Day. Managing traffic at the enterprise scale is profoundly more challenging than with a smaller brand.

In a recent survey of infrastructure and operations leaders, 88% of respondents reported that an hour of critical server downtime costs them more than $300,000, and 40% said their costs totaled $1 million. In short, learning to manage peak traffic times is critical as you grow.

Even some of the biggest brands sometimes struggle to keep up with traffic. For example, Walmart’s website displayed every item as out of stock during the peak shopping hours on Black Friday. And even if demand doesn’t bring your shop to a standstill, peak traffic can slow load times. And slow load times cost conversions. A study by Portent found that the highest ecommerce conversion rates occur on pages with load times between 0-2 seconds. However, website conversion rates drop by about 4.42% with each additional second of load time.

Your site doesn’t have to suffer the same fate if you prepare adequately. Here are three tips for managing peak traffic times as you scale your enterprise eCommerce business.

Use a Server that Can Handle Increased Traffic

Managing peak traffic times: A black and white photo of a person with an open laptop illustrating eCommerce

For eCommerce sites, the server is the foundation of everything else. If your server is underpowered, your site could get bogged down or even crash during peak traffic times. 

There are a few things to cover here:

  • Exploring the option of dynamic scaling.
  • Testing the performance of your site.
  • Considering other elements of performance by choosing a scalable software solution and integrating systems.

First, you should frequently test your site performance.

Testing page speed is a good indicator of whether your site is ready to handle a spike in traffic. Still, you will want to drill down further. Don’t stop your testing at your homepage and main landing pages. Be thorough in this assessment. Test calls to action, specific conversion paths, and product pages.

Then, explore your options for scaling server capacity when needed.

Some servers can create more capacity when necessary by automatically watching your site’s traffic trends. Autoscaling or dynamic scaling is a good option for ecommerce sites that face variable traffic levels. A flexible hosting plan that can scale vertically when high traffic hits increases your available server resources and then returns to your typical usage once the spike is over. For a self-hosted store, this means building scalable architectures.

While hiccups still happen with major retailers during big shopping events, most have learned from their scaling mistakes. Don’t be one of the eCommerce sites that crashes because basic scaling isn’t available.

Look for Scalable Software Solutions

While performance testing is important, page speed is not the only consideration when preparing your site for peak increased traffic during peak seasons. As Ana Gotter at Disruptive Advertising puts it, “Your site may look great, but how well does it function?”

This question speaks to your shop’s entire back end, from the CMS to servers. In short, handling increased traffic also has a lot to do with your content and how you manage it. Chris Wraight, director of industry marketing at Akamai Technologies, points out that page speed is not the only factor affecting UX or bounce rate. Getting conversions means a top-notch customer experience from beginning to end.

“Providing visual content optimized for both desktop and mobile devices and combating security threats will help you drive traffic and improve conversion rates during the holiday shopping season and beyond.”

To handle these aspects of the shopping experience, you’ll need an eCommerce software solution (and connected content management system) that can scale with your business. That software must be able to handle new pressures on the CMS, site traffic, and more. A lack of scalability and speed is one of the main reasons to replatform your eCommerce shop.

As you invest in a scalable software solution for your shop (or decide to replatform based on your growing needs), don’t forget about the importance of mobile for performance. The market share of mobile commerce continues to grow. In 2021, retail mobile eCommerce sales hit $359.32 billion, an increase of 15.2% over 2020. Even more staggering, by 2025, mobile sales may double to reach $728.28 billion and account for 44.2% of retail ecommerce sales in the US.

Omnichannel shopping increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, so your shop needs to be able to handle the ever-increasing amount of mobile traffic, and the right eCommerce solution should take this need into account.

Consider Your System Integration

So far, these tips have had to do with keeping your site fast and responsive during increased traffic. But peak traffic doesn’t just mean an influx of visitors to your eCommerce site. It also means increased sales, customer support needs, order fulfillment, transactions, and more.

This can quickly become overwhelming when you have different platforms supporting different parts of your business.

Integrating your eCommerce systems can not only keep you afloat during peak traffic times; it can also help you grow more efficiently across channels. Building flexibility into your shop’s back-end systems through integration creates a truly scalable environment. 

For example, Alexander Pirinsky at Forbes writes that integrating an enterprise resource planning system with your eCommerce stack has two significant benefits:

  • Integrating your operations and data flows, especially important with peak traffic.
  • The ERP can then play first fiddle in everything except what is presented to the shopper.

This system lets you put on a great public face with your eCommerce software while maintaining a strong, organized system on the backend.

Integrating software and systems may not be your first concern while preparing to handle peak traffic to your eCommerce s. Still, it should be a major consideration as you continue to scale your eCommerce business.

Preparing for the Main Event

DTC and eCommerce retail brands use big sales events to generate hype and rake in revenue, fast. Whether it’s a flash sale, a pre-sale, or a new product drop, your customers are paying close attention to your site’s performance. They don’t want to see the hype and face disappointment when the purchase process is slow or even broken. 

Scalefast’s platform is built for velocity and volume. So, no matter how many hundreds of thousands of visitors are on your page, you can reduce the risk of overselling or disappointing customers with costly downtime.

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