Guest Column | November 27, 2013

Attention Online Retailers: Are You Ready for Cyber Monday? Here Are Seven Tips to Make Sure You Are.

By Martin Mackay, CEO, Neverfail

By Martin Mackay, CEO, Neverfail

As the retail industry gears up for its biggest season, online retailers need to not only make sure they have the best deals and products to attract consumers, but they also need to make sure they’re prepared for the influx of traffic they hope to see on Cyber Monday. Because, let’s face it…if they are not, it doesn’t matter how good those deals are.

With consumers becoming less and less patient, it’s critical for any retailer with a focus on ecommerce to be prepared ahead of the big day to make sure each consumer’s shopping experience on their site is flawless. So, get ready – and read these seven tips to help you do so. 

  1. Confirm Availability

Wild weather, cloud storms, malicious attacks... there are many things that could impact the availability of your datacenter.  Whether you own the building, use co-lo, or leverage the cloud, there is no telling when services could go dark.  Have a failover plan in place, have it tested before you need it, and understand how to operate it on short notice. Make things as transparent to your users as possible. Have internal failover capabilities for small failures, and site-wide failover capabilities for large ones.

  1. Ensure Scalability

Sometimes success is your own worse nightmare. When it comes to capacity planning, it's hard to predict what a seasonal rush may look like. Make sure you have the ability to bring more capacity online if you need it. Be able to scale up quickly, as waiting until tomorrow will be too late. While bringing up more front-end servers can be simple enough for scaling, remember that everything eventually ties in to a back-end database. Therefore, make sure your database can scale as well as the web front end. Also, reduce overall page weight (loading size) through image optimization. If possible, use a content distribution provider to off-load the most used images. Bottom line, if your site is slow people will go shopping somewhere else.

  1. Offer Approachability

Some users are going to have questions, run into problems, or generally feel the need to reach out and touch someone. Make yourself easy to reach.  If feasible, have an online chat system available from the web site, and keep it staffed throughout the day. Chat is easier to manage than phone calls and scales out with fewer reps. Have an FAQ page ready with the most commonly asked questions and requested answers. And have phone support available as well – with the number easy to find.

  1. Provide Usability

This may be an obvious one, but it's especially import on big shopping days. There are a lot of vendors out there having sales, so don't give your users a reason to go shop somewhere else. Make searching easy, keep your layout simple and intuitive. Keep users informed to where they are in the sales process with a progress indicator in the checkout process.

  1. Deliver Mobility

Smartphones, tablets, and minis are everywhere. People are shopping from many different platforms – and that means you need to be ready to support them. Have a mobile version of your site available, and have your site tested from different platforms as well. Internet shopping doesn’t just happen at the desk anymore, it's happening from couches, pillow-tops, and comfy chairs. Be accommodating to these needs and expect your mobile site to see nearly as much traffic as your full browser.

  1. Present Sociability

It’s no secret that social networking has as big, influence on consumer shopping decisions. Enable social media sharing options from your store so people can share what deals they find. Engage on social media directly, both for generating interest and for responding to potential customers. And, there is such a thing as bad press if it goes unrecognized – how you address a public criticism speaks louder than the criticism itself. Be where your prospects are, and don't be afraid to engage with them. Draft a social media guidelines document and share with all of your employees.

  1. Maintain Security

One thing that should go without saying – make sure to keep your site and your data secure. Use SSL for web traffic, encrypt user data, and protect your internal networks from intrusion. Have data protection policies in place and inform users of proper procedures. Encrypt mobile data and laptops and enforce data use policies with employees.

By making sure you are prepared, you ensure this Cyber Monday – and the entire holiday shopping season – will be a lucrative one.

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