Black Friday Sales set to quadruple this year. Will your ecommerce site be ready?

Date: 21st July 2015
Author: Louise Arnold

It may be sunny outside but retailers are already working hard to plan for this year’s Christmas peak.

black-friday-graphicAccording to a survey by eDigitalResearch, four times as many UK shoppers plan to buy online during this year’s Black Friday event on November 27th, than last year.

The study carried out with over 6000 consumers in June, revealed that while 8% of those surveyed made online purchases on Black Friday 2014, 30% planned to buy on Black Friday 2015.

Black Friday, first brought to the UK five years ago by Amazon, has shifted the start of the seasonal peak and is growing fast in popularity with UK shoppers. 2014 online sales were much higher than predicted and caught many retailers off guard reaching an estimated £810m.

For some retailers, and not only the smaller ones, poor website performance on Black Friday 2014 was damaging. Big names that struggled to meet demand, leaving online shoppers stranded in virtual queues, included John Lewis, Argos and Tesco Direct. Evidence that every year the challenges for ecommerce sites preparing for pre Christmas sales change and getting it wrong can be costly.

The explosion of mobile and omni-channel retail will hugely affect how and where people search and purchase gifts this year. And for UK retailers in particular, the impact of mobile will bring online performance to the fore.

Britain leads the way as the largest m-commerce market in Europe. Visits to ecommerce sites via smartphone and tablet devices account for more than half of all ecommerce traffic and more than 1 in 4 online sales. UK sales are expected to reach almost £15 billion via mobile devices in 2015, almost 78% up on 2014. A massive 83% of UK shoppers review purchases on mobile devices before buying. (Source: RetailMeNot and the Centre for Retail Research).

The speed with which the mobile opportunity has arrived means that many retailers have been left behind, a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed by UK consumers. The IMRG reports that 40% of consumers feel the mobile experience could be improved. According to Barclays less than 3% of retailers believe their business is at the cutting-edge when it comes to being mobile ready and a further 70% said they do not currently offer a mobile website or a mobile app for consumers.

To help you cash in on potential pre-Christmas sales and protect your brand from embarrassing failures this holiday season, here are our top tips. Download our eBook for more information on getting performance right this holiday season.

#1 Set up a realistic load testing programme 3-6 months prior to peak sales

Though many ecommerce operations plan a Load Testing programme this time of year, the majority still don’t take load testing seriously enough. To ensure your ecommerce platform will cope with real usage levels in the run up to Christmas plan a load testing programme 6 months prior to peak periods leaving you time to implement any necessary changes. Make sure your load testing is comprehensive and realistic enough on which to base valuable decisions and ensure success, so you don’t end up in the news for the wrong reasons.

Run realistic user journeys under load as well as mixes of journeys that will help you identify more accurately how your system will perform in the real world.

Load testing is complicated and time consuming so consider a full service solution from planning to execution.

#2 Monitor key mobile journeys

The mobile experience will be absolutely critical this Christmas. It’s now essential to monitor key mobile journeys on appropriate mobile browsers for visibility into web performance across mobile devices 24/7.

To ensure you are providing a consistent, positive mobile experience, you need an ongoing process to continuously test mobile journeys. Measuring the impact of web performance on mobile devices 24/7 enables you to optimise the mobile experience.

#3 Keep it simple – small is beautiful

In this age of mobile web performance optimisation is critical. Consider stripping down your site for Black Friday like flash sales, it’s likely that price will be the biggest influencing factor, so some rich functionality may be less important at these times. Last year SciVisum’s Christmas mCommerce survey revealed that 60% of UK retailers monitored, reduced their page sizes by nearly 20% for the Cyber weekend but 40% did little to help their customers or worse crammed more on to their web pages.

Check you are monitoring for oversized pages; ensure images are optimised, Java Script and CSS is minified and consider deferred loading.

Download SciVisum’s mobile ecommerce survey to find out how well UK retailers delivered mobile experience over the Christmas period in 2014.