Learning from Currys, Argos and Tesco: How to ensure you don’t crash on Black Friday

The countdown to Black Friday has begun. In just one week, UK retailers could be set to take more than £1bn in online sales on this one day alone and it is predicted that the entire weekend could rack up more than £2.2bn as deal-seekers hit online shops.

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This will be a huge boost for retailers but this huge influx of traffic poses a unique set of challenges even for the most tech savvy retailers.

On Black Friday last year, Currys, Argos and Tesco all experienced outages as a result of peak web traffic. But your website does not have to crash under the weight of eager customers.

Preparing for heightened traffic with optimised performance, multi-vendor backups and an integrated customer support approach in the event of an outage will help protect your company’s brand reputation, grow revenue and provide customers with an online experience that will leave them coming back for more.

Optimise for performance

Today’s customers do not have the patience to wait for slow websites (and even less patience for sites that are down). A study we carried out earlier this year found that nearly half of British consumers at 47 per cent are willing to wait just five seconds for a web page to load before moving on to a competitor.

Elsewhere, more than a quarter at 27 per cent said they would abandon a purchase if the website is too slow. Optimising internet performance is the only way to ensure greater speed and network flexibility.

When a customer types your URL into a browser they’re making a Domain Name System (DNS) request, which translates that URL to the corresponding IP address. Often, there are as many as 10-20 DNS lookups, incorporating not only your various website assets but also plugins and other dependencies storing any information pertaining that IP address.

Each of those DNS requests is not only an opportunity to improve the end user experience, but also a risk to delay the performance of that web page.

The difference between 20ms DNS requests and 100ms requests doesn’t seem like much. However, this can significantly affect the page load time if there are 10+ requests. Therefore, monitoring the performance, availability and reachability of the entire online infrastructure will be crucial to retailers’ success this Black Friday.

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Having a back-up plan

If you’re expecting heavy volumes of traffic over the Black Friday weekend but don’t have a strong backup plan in place in the event of a slowdown or internet hiccup, you’re asking for problems.

Apple’s March 2015 App Store outage cost the company $34m in lost sales and severely reduced the quality of the customer experience. During the 11-hour outage, customers couldn’t access the online store and even some physical stores were interrupted – hampering sales and disappointing customers. 

Imagine the damage a similar outage could have on your business during one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year.

So what is your backup strategy and how easy is it to implement in the event of a change in Internet conditions?

Some 78 per cent of retailers have said they intend to build extra capacity into websites and rent additional bandwidth over the Cyber Weekend shopping period. But it is also important that retailers start with the DNS layer and consider connections across cloud providers, CDNs and ISP hosts.

By using multiple clouds, CDNs and data centres, retailers can ensure that the infrastructure can be engineered to sustain an outage. The Black Friday shopping frenzy isn’t limited to the UK – customers from around the world could be willing shoppers on your site so make sure it is optimised and available.

Monitor and control assets in one place

Accessing and controlling the assets in your IT infrastructure across technologies in a single place gives you the total picture of connection and performance issues. If you’re not using a tool that gives you a comprehensive, end-to-end view into the speed, availability and global reachability of your information across the Internet, your ability to rectify critical situations is disadvantaged.

Real time data, root-cause analysis and total asset visibility, as well as being alert to issues, is a must as slowdowns and downtime can have serious impacts on sales and brand reputation. Only with these in place can you take corrective action, quickly.

Making Black Friday a success

Consumers expect a trouble-free, consistent online experience even during peak sale periods. Brand reputation and customer loyalty is at stake here and it is, therefore, very clear that brands cannot afford to lose out because of a transaction failure or outage this Black Friday.

Without a reliable and high performing online infrastructure in place, retailers are at risk of damaging their brand if their website crashes or is slow-loading. Internet performance is the crucial factor for businesses to meet customer demands online, no matter the scale of the sales on offer.

Paul Heywood is MD and VP of EMEA at internet performance company Dyn

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