August 8, 2019
Quality Engineering

7 Tips to Prepare Your Ecommerce Site and App for Usage Peaks

7 Tips to Prepare Your Ecommerce Site and App for Usage Peaks

We know this for sure: 2018 broke all previous holiday online sales records and hit the reset on how customers shop and what they expect from ecommerce sites.

“The strong online performance of Black Friday this season shows that consumers are moving further away from leaving their homes to do holiday shopping,” said Taylor Schreiner, director of Adobe Digital Insights.

But it was mobile that dominated, proving it’s now the platform of choice for online shoppers. “Mobile in particular has ramped up in a significant way, driving $1.4 billion in online revenue on Black Friday alone,” Schreiner added.

Cyber Monday gave mobile its first $2 billion day. For the entire holiday season, revenue from smartphones and tablets totalled $35.9 billion, a 28 percent year-over-year increase and accounted for 37.6 percent of retail visits and nearly 21 percent of total holiday revenue. This should be a stark warning to retailers who have yet to integrate mobile in their ecommerce solutions.

To prepare for the big revenues retailers have to think about their ecommerce websites.

1. Plan Your Usage Peak Calendar

The November/December holiday period dominates usage peaks, but depending on your retail strategy, there are other periods when ecommerce sites experience a boost in traffic. Plan enough time before these dates for preparing and testing your ecommerce site or app:

Prepare Your Ecommerce Site and App with Usage Peak Calendar

2. Does Your Website Need an Interface Update?

The 2018 trends that could lead to higher conversions online might drive you to consider updating your ecommerce solutions. Consider these trends:

  • Consumers are demanding that payment strategies are diverse in options and fast and easy in performance — all thanks to Uber. They want an effortless “Buy with 1-Click” button, a “frictionless checkout,” where the “transaction happens invisibly” — quicker, easier, one-touch syncing and fingerprint recognition without logging in (think Apple Pay, PayPal One and Amazon Go). They want the “next wave in great mobile experiences is Progressive Web Apps (PWAs),” which increase responsiveness in a fast, app-like experience in the browser. They want “consumerization of delivery” (like Amazon Prime’s same-day or 2-day delivery).
  • Shoppers are expecting “Ferrari Fast” online stores, since around 4 in 10 people leave a website if it takes more than a few seconds to load.
  • They expect more personalization in their shopping experience, and that often involves artificial intelligence technology.

3. Don’t Forget Your Mobile App

Therefore, with your websites, mobile apps or solutions must be in the mix in consideration of these usage peak periods.

  • Is your app scalable when volume increases? Estimate based on the maximum transaction rate during peak time how many users could be active during the season. Then, load test to the appropriate level of load balancing to prevent a crash.
  • Test your app’s performance and quality, including ensuring pages take less than three seconds to load and that navigation has been usability-tested for mobile-user preferences (such as online wish lists or gift registries).

4. Optimize All Your Content

According to a recent Kissmetrics study. A simple way to speed up pages is to just clean-up your content and code:

  • Optimize images: Photos should be JPEGS set to 72dpi. Responsive images for mobile-quality should be included in the mix. Logos, social media buttons, other simple graphics should be saved as PNGs or GIFs (and SVG files are effective for various size and resolution shifts in mobile screens). Videos should be saved to the accepted open-source files types (MP4, etc.).
  • Ensure HTML and CSS front-end code is error-free: Anyone can easily test this using their URL or the direct code at for HTML and for CSS.
  • Be careful with third-party entities: Streaming social media content from Facebook, Instagram and YouTube is commonplace, but it can also slow down your site and create glitches. That’s true also for third-party ads, services or JavaScript. Use with great discretion.

5. Focus on Performance Testing and More Testing

Performance testing validates the speed, scalability or stability of a site or app to achieve response times, throughput and resource-utilization levels that meet the performance objectives. Implementing performance testing via the Cloud to simulate any number of users provides a multitude of benefits:

  • Enterprise performance testing virtually on demand
  • Conducting tests globally by replicating virtual users in a variety of different locations
  • Elasticity in scalability for affordability

Mykola Kovsh, Performance QA Manager at Ciklum explains that there are two approaches to performance testing: 

1. Application performance testing (back-end)

Types of Tests to Prepare Your Ecommerce Site and App for Usage Peaks 

  • A load test verifies an application’s behaviour under normal and peak load conditions using simulated traffic to see how many simultaneous users it can handle. This will test performance, but also the back-end stability as that traffic flows in to include: database reliability and locks, “garbage” collection, hit ratios, maximum active sessions, disk queue length, processor and memory usage, coding errors, connectivity and bandwidth tolerance and response time, structural incompatibilities and so on.
  • Stress tests validate an application’s behaviour when it is pushed beyond normal or peak load conditions.
  • Capacity tests determine how many users or transactions a given system will support and still meet performance goals.
  • Soak or endurance tests your website’s endurance against the peak traffic for a longer time, effectively prolonging stress testing for a long duration.
  • Spike testing is testing your website’s performance against the sudden increase in traffic from normal to peak.

2.  Browser-side performance testing (front-end)

  • Rendering page in the browser 

Online customers that enter your web pages expect them to be interactive and designed for a seamless experience. Not only pages have to load fast, but also run smooth with all the animations and interactive objects. The front-end of your page is where the user experience, so take your time and effort to ensure the code on your page runs as efficiently as possible. To create responsive websites and apps, it’s important to understand how HTML, Javascript and CSS are handled. 

Read how Ciklum helped Salecto to prepare the solution to guarantee flawless performance of the platform during high loads on Black Friday and other holiday peaks: [Salecto Case Study]

6. Test Your Shipment Strategy

Send test orders early, well before the holiday season, especially when you have updated or expanded your check-out process in your online store.

“In the mobile arena, speed, agility, innovation and testing have to happen every 24 hours to stay relevant in the global marketplace,” said Mike Edwards, CEO of eBags, the online luggage retailer that helped pioneer dropshipping. The company routes orders via a dropship supplier who then ships the order directly to the customer (to leverage a third-party supplier’s inventory and eliminate overhead and carrying costs.)

7. Other Issues to Check Off:

  • If you do choose to make structural improvements to your site or app, do so early enough to be able to properly test those changes.
  • Make sure you are using the latest encryption technology to ensure you have solid security for online payments.
  • Employ full-page caching where applicable to save resources and handle the traffic.
  • Add object caching to reduce server load generated by database interactions.
  • If you’re running PHP, make sure you have the latest stable version to make your site faster and more stable.

Need assistance with your ecommerce solution? Tell us about your challenges and we’ll get back with ideas on how to ensure your webshop seamless performance during high loads.

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