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#HolidayReadiness: 100 days to #HolidayShopping2015, are you ready?

The calendar may read September but for the retail industry, it's time to start preparing for holiday season, as traffic volumes to their websites and apps will start to increase. While increase in traffic volumes can certainly correlate to positive impact in sales, surges in activity can also result in downtime, if retailers are not ready for it.

Why is this a problem? Even a minute of downtime can cost thousands - or hundreds of thousands - of dollars and can damage a company's brand for years to come.

To make sure you don't run into these problems and have a successful holiday season, Akamai Commerce Professional Services team has compiled a few trends and tips to help you prepare for both the expected - and unexpected - spikes in holiday traffic.

1. Expect and accommodate early shoppers

While Black Friday is traditionally seen as the start of the holiday shopping season, many deals and promotions can begin as early as November. In fact, we're beginning to see that consumer confidence is rising and people are ready for discounts, for example, Amazon Prime Day, which means retailers should prepare for an extremely busy holiday season. Cyber Monday typically still sees higher peak traffic than Black Friday, meaning retailers will see some of their highest traffic levels before November comes to a close.

Retailers can prepare for early shoppers by doing 10For10 assessment to understand the existing bottlenecks (infrastructure, network  page size and third party calls etc.). It'll be important to identify and mitigate these bottlenecks to ensure the most optimal performance and user experience, regardless of how many visitors are browsing your desktop or mobile site during this holiday season.

2. Mobile Influence  

Retailers are quick to realize the shift in consumer behavior toward mobile device. In fact, it's predicted that half of all sales will be influenced by mobile . Retailers should make sure that its retail web experience is mobile-ready and delivers on any device via responsive, adaptive or app.

Retailers can leverage Akamai ION solution that works on optimizing native application delivery via API acceleration, API response and media support. It also optimizes mobile website performance by overcoming challenges of network latency through content acceleration.

3. Be prepared for cyber attacks

One of the most overlooked aspects heading into holidays is the need for robust security practices.  Unfortunately, cyber attacks have been an unavoidable component of the holiday season. Just as retailers aim to capitalize on this traffic, so do attackers and fraudsters. For example, last year's holiday season saw an increase in attack activity ranging from DNS hijacking, to SQL Injection, XSS injection, and Web Scraping.

The first step retailers should take is updating their websites to the latest Kona rule set. Threats are constantly evolving, and so is our rule set so make sure you have the latest.  However, it's also important to ensure that IT teams, security professionals and network architects work together to ensure the proper balance between security and performance. We also recommend updating operational run books in case of DDoS or other web attacks so that operational teams are well prepared for holidays.

4. Conduct load tests

Retailers can gain a better understanding of their website capacity and vulnerability by simulating realistic holiday traffic with third-party load testing providers. These tests will reveal the website's breaking points based on the volume of traffic, which retailers can then use to avoid glitches in real user scenarios.

And while load testing is certainly useful, retailers should still plan for failure, even if they think they've tackled all potential vulnerabilities. It's important to acknowledge what could possibly go wrong and determine what steps will be taken to recover the site. Retailers can take this a step further by simulating failures of parts of their infrastructure to see how the rest of the system handles it. By doing this, retailers can take comfort in knowing that even if the worst does happen, they are as prepared as possible to rectify the problem and get back to normalcy.

5. Communicate with us

Work with your partners to develop a plan for your anticipated holiday traffic and the potential threats it presents. The Akamai Professional Services team can work with you to establish an operational run book to define key components, key contacts and key dates for holiday promotions and activities.  By completing these deliverables, clients and partners are able to communicate better, enjoy faster response times and increased efficiencies in solving business-critical needs.

Hopefully at this point, it's clear that not only is it a good idea for retailers to plan for both expected and unexpected spikes in holiday traffic - in addition to both legitimate and attack traffic - it's absolutely necessary if they want to reap the benefits of the shopping season. The more and earlier retailers prepare the better equipped they are for a more successful holiday season.

This is a post from Chirag Kalra, Engagement  Manager.

1 Comment

Great post! Nice job to the author, Chirag! Holidays are upon us.