## The spikes are coming
September is nearly over, and Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Halloween, Super Saturday, and the festive season will soon be upon us. With the holidays comes increased sales opportunities, driven by increased traffic. When you’re ready for the spikes, you welcome the traffic and the sales. If you’re not, you put both profits and reputation at risk.
The holiday eShopping season presents to your business a chance to shine. It’s time to assess your readiness to manage the increased traffic, and put some appropriate measures in place to guarantee that your customers, many of whom will be new, have the best experience possible.
## 1. Review your numbers
How much increased activity are you actually expecting? Take a look at your current load, and try to calculate your projected load. Some indication of what to expect can come from figures recorded in previous years, if you have them. These figures won’t always be entirely reliable depending on the dates and days of the week when holidays and promotions fall, what marketing and awareness are being generated, and what the event is. Looking at the percentage increase in previous figures (compared to the normal traffic in the previous year) will help, but is rarely, truly, accurate. A contingency above 20% is always recommended. If you don’t have these figures, we found [this document]() a solid and comprehensive start for general [web capacity planning]().
It is, in addition, often worth considering traffic after an event. Will there be an increase (above your normal load) in visitor numbers from people redeeming gift certificates or making additional/expanded purchases? Will traffic increase in general, due to increased site awareness and the effects of digital marketing?
## 2. DDoS protection
Even very short periods of website downtime can be costly in lost sales traffic and serve as a cause of negative PR and alienated potential customers. Protection at the edge, to further minimize the chances of site downtime, helps websites and applications guarantee delivery through automatic optimization. Relying on manual network management and load balancing is no longer an option. Staying ‘up’ in a time of peak activity is critical, and an obvious call for [distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack mitigation](). When traffic peaks, it’s possible to cache pages, minimize page rendering time, and offer patrons a more frictionless user experience. Guaranteeing business continuity without performance impact is crucial, and DDoS protection enables organizations to do this without the added cost of increasing bandwidth.
## 3. Improve the queuing experience
eCommerce platforms must offer the best possible user experience, even on their busiest days. Setting expectations with your customers can be a real benefit for customer retention. If a potential buyer knows they only have to wait two minutes, they’ll likely wait. If they don’t, they’ll likely get confused, frustrated, leave, and take their money elsewhere.
You may use a [virtual online queuing system]() to streamline the visitor experience during peak traffic times. These branded, first-in-first-out, virtual waiting rooms enable you to communicate to a customer continuously updated estimated remaining wait time. Potential customers remain in the virtual waiting room until it is their turn to access your website.
## 4. Server scaling
While there are ways around this, you should consider increasing server capacity once you have a realistic estimate of increased traffic. Behind every eCommerce site is a physical group of servers – your server farm, be they local or in the cloud. This provides the computing power necessary to give website visitors the experience they expect, under normal load.
When loads are increased through increased activity, however, it may be necessary to “scale up” server bandwidth and capacity to deal with the additional traffic. This is not as simple as it sounds – especially if your hosting is in-house, requiring new physical resources, rather than in-cloud – and will require detailed prior planning and additional budget. It is also worth noting that, while visitor capacity is obvious, there are other factors to consider. Detailed planning of a variety of elements needs to be conducted, including increased concurrency under increased traffic, guaranteeing consistency, allowing for the difficulty of customers searching at scale within bulk data, and speed.
## 5. Consider page load time
Do you know how fast your pages load? [Google Page Speed Insights]() will help you find out. Not only is this an SEO ranking factor, but it’s also an important consideration for your eCommerce visitors. A 0-4 second load time is preferable for online conversion, with the highest conversions occurring in the first 2 seconds. With each additional second of load time, website conversion rates drop by an average of 4.42% [[Portent]()].
Using a global [content delivery network (CDN)]() can seriously speed up page load time by employing local PoPs to deliver content, load balancing, content caching, and (in the case of our [Imperva CDN]()) native failover into your [Web Application and API Protection]() (WAAP) platform.
## 6. Sales support
Have your online chat team primed and ready to offer advice. Getting your support team in sync, and having the right number of informed staff ready to help potential customers, will be vital for the smooth delivery of the sales experience. Organizations need to give customers a minimal amount of friction and the maximum amount of help in their purchase journey.
Capacity testing, interface accustomization, and roleplaying with FAQs can be a big help. Creating scripts for the buyer process, as we would with traditional UX testing, can prepare sales advisors and get them accustomed to interfaces and processes before they have to do so under increased load.
## Be ready, or lose out
Customers will go to your competitors if they have a bad experience, and now is the time you can make buyer relationships that last. Starting now, a little prior planning, and a little investment in the right tools, can make all the difference to your busiest sales season and in creating those long-term relationships with customers beyond the holiday season.
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