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Is Your Website Ready For Black Friday?

Black Friday is a phenomenon in online retail and is the Friday following Thanksgiving, a tradition celebrated every year in the United States. In 2014, Black Friday will fall on November 28th. Every year online retailers introduce massive discounts across their entire product ranges for one day only, and with this Friday also being a national holiday in the US, customers quickly hurry online with the intention of grabbing as many bargains as possible. Whilst Black Friday has been a tradition in brick and mortar stores since about 1975, as shoppers move from the street and onto the Internet it has also become a big Internet event for many companies.

If you are planning on hosting a number of Black Friday deals on your online shop this year, then you can expect a deluge of traffic that is likely to be far above what you are use to. Black Friday also lends itself to providing interesting statistics about consumer habits and how people are access online shops, with online retailers failing to recognise this in some cases. With this in mind, you need to ask yourself the question ‘is your website ready for Black Friday?’

Here we will look to discuss some ways in which you can ascertain as to how prepared you are, and what you can do in preparation if you believe that you’re not quite there yet.

So, some statistics to start you off

Black Friday in 2013 set some new, crazy highs for online shopping. On Black Friday 2013, online sales were up 19% year-on-year compared with Black Friday 2012; this is a huge figure and we can certainly expect to see a similar increase in 2014. The average order value on Black Friday last year was $135.27, meaning that the average customer was spending this amount; this was up 2.2% on 2012 and should be a figure that you’re always looking to increase – the more the average customer spends, the higher the revenues are for you and so the scope for profit is also increased.

On a day where $56bn is spent both online and in the shops, it is quite easy to see how failing to prepare your website for Black Friday could have a detrimental effect on your business.

Be mobile friendly

Statistics captured in 2013 reveal that customers use smartphones to browse offers, but tablets are more likely to be used to purchase items. Smartphones drove 24.9% of all traffic on Black Friday in 2013, whilst tablets clocked up around 14% of all traffic. On the other hand, tablets were responsible for 14.4% of all online sales, whilst smartphones were only used in a mere 7.2% of all online sales. These statistics point towards a new trends – customers are now using mobile devices more to perform online purchases on Black Friday and are ditching their desktop or laptop.

So that you can capture customers shopping on their mobile devices, you need to have a smartphone- and tablet-friendly website in place. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to go out and spend huge sums of money on creating an app specifically for your online shop, but having something in place that can be used on either device is a necessity if you are to receive sales from this market.

Responsive web design is a more cost-effective alternative to achieving these aims however, as web pages will automatically adapt to fit the screen size of the device on which they are being viewed. With this in mind, you could easily create a single website that will function across desktop/laptop, smartphone and tablet platforms so that the maintenance required is minimal. Mobile traffic rose by 39.7% on Black Friday in 2013 and this is only going to grow in 2014, so neglecting to have a website that will function on mobile devices could mean you’re denying yourself a highly lucrative revenue stream.

How the cloud can support you

A deluge of traffic is going to place extra pressure on your infrastructure and resources. For a website that is hosted purely on dedicated servers and especially shared hosting, the result could easily be that the website crashes because the existing hosting arrangements are unable to handle the load spikes that the additional visitors are creating.

In a dedicated server environment, additional capacity can be added to aid the situation, but again this may not be without its downtime. Depending on how your website is setup, there is potential for interruption as dedicated servers are added to a cluster, servers are upgraded, or the website is moved across to a server with additional resources.

None of this is ideal. The best solution for dealing with Black Friday traffic is the cloud.

Cloud computing environments are designed to be scalable in their design so whatever challenges may come along, you can provision the extra capacity to deal with the load spikes in just a few clicks – but crucially, with no service disruption. Whether you choose to host your website on one cloud VM or on a cluster of VMs, extra resources can be quickly allocated to your machines when they need it most so that you are able to deal with the Black Friday traffic effectively. These resources are then sent back to the wider cloud for use by another customer when you no longer need them, creating a highly efficient resource cycle.

The best part of the cloud arrangement is that you’re only ever paying for the resources that you’re using. So rather than having redundant resources in place that you’re paying for in anticipation for a load spike that may never occur, you can choose to have resources added the moment you need them and you will only have to pay for the period of time that they are allocated to your VMs, saving you vast sums of money.

So as a summary, we would say that for your website to be ready for Black Friday, you require an infrastructure that is capable of handling load spikes effectively, and a website design that offers universal access no matter what device your customers are using. So if you haven’t prepared your website, what are you waiting for? Friday 28th November represents a real opportunity to make a lot of money in a single day, and it would be a shame to miss out!

Posted by Asher Ross.  Nov. 25, 2014