4 ways to ensure you break your sales records — not your website

According eMarketer, for the first time ever in 2022, more than one third of the global population is participating in ecommerce. Imagine the billions of website visits and trillions of dollars in transactions that are taking place. That’s a huge opportunity for any company doing online sales.

But what if your site is not ready for that level of traffic? The slower your site load time, the faster your drop-off rates — and the higher the potential for lost revenue. According to Digital.com, 53% of online shoppers expect a website to load in three seconds or less. In an era where ecommerce sales are rapidly on the rise, it’s only fair to say that time is money — and it comes down to your retail website to carry more than the bulk of this load — especially during peak traffic seasons.

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed businesses to accelerate their digital transformation, leading to historic levels in website traffic, engagement, and orders to meet surging customer expectations. Optimizing website performance all year round is the key to building consumer trust and platform reliability to meet conversion goals. If a shopper encounters a slow or glitchy website, they are quick to abandon it before engaging with its innovative features and don’t trust that it safely process payments. And they may share this poor experience through their own social networks and discourage other customers from engaging with the brand.

Despite these high stakes, website performance often takes a backseat until it’s time for the year-end holiday rush. And even with proper planning for the holidays, glitches and downtimes are not uncommon. Without preemptive measures to identify potential threats, preparing for expected peak season traffic like the holidays becomes a challenge. To add to that, what about the unplanned surge of visits thanks to a viral video or influencer shoutout? Is your website ready to take on unexpected peak traffic?

Breaking it down

Here are 4 ways to ensure you break your sales records when peak traffic hits — and not your website.

1. “Peak season” is more than just one day or one event

While holiday sprees like Black Friday or Easter sale are obvious peak traffic events for online retail, they aren’t the only ones. Peak events also include marketing promotions, new product releases, influencer posts, big internal changes like a site relaunch, or even backend technology changes. When these are not considered in your ecommerce planning, you’re more likely to have a crisis causing severe performance degradation or unplanned downtime — and eventually loss of conversions.

Adobe Professional Services has seen retailers go through this exact experience. A company had to scramble for a last-minute solution that wouldn’t take the site down when it was given a two-day notice for a branded shout-out on a celebrity TV show. This cost valuable time, money, and effort that could have otherwise been spent promoting the event and driving even more traffic to the site to increase revenue. With regular tuning, the site would have been able to handle the unexpected traffic without any issues from the onset.

Year-round planning is crucial for optimal website performance. Be proactive and forecast the traffic and key performance indicators (KPIs) of events that you currently know — frontend or backend — so you have a performance target. Make website health checks a part of your regular maintenance cycle to assess your site’s current performance and prioritize your backlog accordingly to avoid a pile-up of crises that could lead to a crash.

2. Development metrics are as important as business metrics

We’ve all been there — your manager shows the team an analytics report showing declining conversions. As a retail marketer, you may think you’re unable to meet your business KPIs because your products are not engaging enough, or because your festive promotional offers are not appealing to your target market. But it may well be your ecommerce site that’s taking too long to load. Your business goals and strategy could be failing because your site is ineffective.

According to the Digital.com survey, one out of two online shoppers abandon their shopping cart if pages don’t load fast enough. Slow loading pages lead to high bounce rates that in turn may lead to your potential customer never returning. It’s important for the sales and marketing teams to understand that if your technology is not performing, you aren’t going to meet your business KPIs. Look at the bigger picture to understand how your development cycle is relevant to your marketing KPIs. Your site infrastructure, tech stack, and code all need to be constantly monitored to get a holistic view of your online retail performance.

Rather than reviewing your ecommerce performance when you haven’t met your peak season targets, opt for health checks proactively. An Adobe Commerce Health Check not only identifies the root cause of your site’s poor performance but also recommends solutions and uncovers other underlying problems that may slow down your website and drive customers away.

3. Performance fuels innovation

Trust and reliability are keys to a good customer experience. High-end CX innovations won’t pay off if your overall site acts glitchy or doesn’t load fast enough. In an innovative environment where the goal is to create a user-friendly interface and reduce IT dependencies, performance tune-up is something that’s often missed.

Businesses are always asking for innovative features, new code is being built, and development teams are deploying these features faster than ever before. If you are only prioritizing site tune-ups when something breaks or when a KPI is too low, you’re missing out on insights that can be implemented before the launch of your peak event to improve your performance.

That’s why it’s critical to balance your release priorities. When you’re reviewing your innovation backlog, also include those high-priority performance items to keep your site ready for it. Regular evaluations of the code base, server configurations, and production environments provide an improved customer experience, which can lead to increased conversion rates and revenue.

Business teams will always want the new shiny thing. Instead of constantly being at odds, development teams should not stifle innovation, but enable it to thrive.

4. It’s not a set-it-and-forget-it.

You’ve got a reliable website that is built to handle whatever scenarios you’ve modeled. So now you can set up some automated monitoring and walk away, right?

Well, not exactly. While the monitoring tools are always active on your site infrastructure, they trigger a notification only when a problem is detected. They’re reactive in nature and will show a snapshot of the current issue but will not help proactively predict or prevent future occurrences.

Proactive scenario planning is required to reduce the risk of catastrophic failure. Predicting trends and traffic forecasts for your website should be an ongoing practice. Staying up to date with the latest releases, practices, and measures of ecommerce technology will help you deploy the best line of defense against any potential setbacks. This proactive approach, paired with a reactive monitoring plan, will give you a leg up when the unexpected happens.

Stay ahead of issues with a health check

It’s clear that businesses need a systematic way to resolve potential issues before they arise, but how will they accomplish that without breaking the bank? With a health check.

A health check helps you understand how all the components in your tech stack work together to advance business goals. It’s a proactive three-to-four-week process to investigate and review. It produces a detailed report of all findings, prioritized by severity. Each item in the report includes a recommendation to resolve the issue and avoid potential future issues. These recommendations are then passed to the development team based on their established process and are typically prioritized into their backlog as appropriate.

Adobe Commerce architects perform a targeted load test of your production environment. This is usually limited to the critical path, like finding products, adding to cart, and completing checkout. The results are analyzed to identify bottlenecks and other performance degradations.

For infrastructure, we analyze service configurations to generate recommendations. For issues in application performance, we investigate the specific areas of code identified by the load test and provide specific recommendations on potential resolutions. We can also find performance issues related to slow database queries and external dependencies, such as slow API calls to a third-party vendor.

Since the health check process can take three to four weeks to generate a list of prioritized recommendations and implementation, it’s imperative to do the health check early and often so the teams have the right decisioning tools while prioritizing the backlog.

Adobe Professional Services is here to help

In the digital-first world, you need to be constantly innovating. Performance should always be in mind for all new deployments. A successful ecommerce site is a constantly moving target that is critical in achieving business goals. Regular audits of your commerce technology are imperative to ensure all components of your stack work and perform together. And Adobe is here to help your organization maximize the performance of your site while limiting the risks of peak-traffic periods.

Contact Adobe Professional Services to understand how your website is performing today and how it will stand up to the next spike in traffic.

Check out our infographic Preparing your eCommerce website to perform in peak traffic for more tips and tricks.

This post was co-written by Lizeth Almaguer and James Doyle.

About Lizeth Almaguer

As an Adobe Commerce architect, Lizeth Almaguer provides strategic technology leadership to deliver efficiency, scale, and growth. Originally, she was an Adobe customer, and now, as an adobe consultant, having seen different challenges that require complex solutioning, she has a wide breadth of knowledge and experience. Liz is originally from Mexico and earned a master's degree in software engineering from Queen Mary University of London.

About James Doyle

James Doyle provides strategic technology leadership to deliver efficiency, scale, and growth. He has worked with Lizeth in Adobe Consulting since they both started on the same day, and he has a wide breadth of knowledge and experience having seen different challenges that require complex solutioning.