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Prepping and profiting from Black Friday

By Retail Technology | Friday November 17 2017

Simon Wharton, managing director of PushON, on how retailers can maximise their online sales and prepare for the rush ahead of Black Friday

The busiest shopping weekend of the year is just around the corner, and retailers up and down the country are preparing for the Black Friday and Cyber Monday rush. But, similar to last year, a large number of merchants will be focusing their attentions on ensuring their ecommerce sites are ready, rather than their brick and mortar stores. 

That’s because more consumers than ever before opted to take advantage of deals online in 2016. Last year, traffic increased by 220% for ecommerce on Black Friday, compared to a regular Friday. And this year looks set to follow a similar trend.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday will bring a whole weekend of opportunity for retailers, big and small. But, the question is: is your site ready?

Optimise for mobile 

In 2016, PayPal detailed that a third of all its payments were made on mobile devices and it handled $15,507 payments per second. 

In today’s mobile-first society, consumers are increasingly turning to their smartphones to make purchases – over half of online sales are now made on a mobile device. This highlights how important it is to have a mobile-friendly website, particularly over the holiday season where a large proportion of the year’s sales are made. 

Your mobile site needs to be easy to navigate, and quick to load – otherwise consumers will likely abandon their searches. It’s also worth considering adding a one-click payment option so people can easily add items to their basket and check-out as easily as possible.

Test page speeds 

40% of consumers will completely abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load. Every second counts.

So, with more traffic likely to visit the website over the sale weekend, it’s vital to ensure it can handle the pressure. Now is the time to be undertaking performance tests to see if your site can cope with the expected peak loads – this will also help pinpoint where the breaking point is. Look at last year’s figures to get a good idea of how many visitors will be likely to pay you a visit this time around. 

By testing the site, you will also be able to put in place a contingency plan to ensure you are well prepared for any unexpected surges. Issues can be identified, and any bumps smoothed out before the big day.

Enable queuing

So, what if your offers do bring in huge waves of unexpected visitors to your website? Can your site keep on working effectively, or will it crash altogether? 

The key is to prepare for the unexpected and put a queuing system in place. Queue management systems can put visitors into a ‘virtual waiting room’ that will allow them to access the site when other visitors have exited. Customers will be aware that they’re in a queue, and will know what position they’re in within that queue. This will make for a much better level of customer service, as consumers will know what’s going on and won’t feel as though they’re just stuck waiting around hoping to eventually get on the site. 

This will stop your site from crashing and will ensure it can cope with the volumes of traffic coming in, quickly and efficiently. Most importantly, page speeds won’t be affected. It’s worth speaking to your hosting company about the facilities they offer to manage traffic volumes. 

Monitor peaks and dips

Throughout your sale, you need to be constantly tracking how well your efforts are doing – this way you can spot peaks in traffic, or perhaps where numbers trail off. Using a marketing and measurement tool, such as Google Analytics, will allow you to analyse where the peaks are coming in – this way you can see what’s working, what’s causing interest and also prepare for traffic or order surges. Make sure you’re monitoring business metrics such as conversion rates, average basket value, sales volume and total sales value.

Without a proper monitoring tool, you’ll just be guessing the true success of your Black Friday campaign. 

It’s not too late to safeguard your website against Black Friday, and ensure it is ready to service all the new customers your sales will bring in. The rewards of doing so will be vast – a considerable increase in sales, a stronger reputation, possible new customers for the new year, and fewer technical glitches on the day. It’s a win-win.

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