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The Holiday Readiness Countdown

It's never too early to prepare when you're a retailer gearing up for the holiday rush, especially with the continued growth in online commerce. Now is usually the time that shoppers begin making their shopping plans, and even start to make purchases. To help prepare, we've pulled together three essential elements for providing an exceptional customer experience during the holidays, and ultimately converting shoppers into buyers! 

Personalization: 
Customers expect retailers to understand them and provide a personalized experience both online and in store. This requires retailers to intelligently use data to provide contextually relevant offers that don't seem intrusive or out of place. Whether it's greeting customers as they enter your store with special offers through geo-fencing, sending personalized emails and digital receipts or tailoring offers based on previous purchase behavior across channels - personalization increases customer engagement and should be a top priority year round to increase conversion and average order value especially during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.
Stress-test:
Now is the ideal time to run a peak threshold load test to determine how many users or how much traffic load you can have on your site before reaching the limits of your infrastructure. When running tests on your site, they should be done in patterns that real users would use to access the site. You can utilize usage patterns from your analytics to build the flow through the site from product browsing, add to cart and checkout. Factor in at least 20 percent additional traffic for unexpected peaks and identify areas that require additional caching or visitor prioritization functionality. Lastly, make sure you have a plan in place to mitigate DDoS attacks or handle unexpected high traffic volume. 
SEO/SEM:
Verify that your SEM campaigns are up-to-date and the links point at the proper pages. When users click through your SEM campaign or the landing page, make sure it is optimized with the products and services that customers expect. Otherwise, you're paying for traffic that will just have a high bounce rate and not convert. It's also worth noting that shoppers are increasingly relying on their mobile device to research the latest news, product information, special offers, and brand suggestions so don't forget to make sure your site is mobile friendly to increase user acquisition through SEO as mobile friendliness is one of Google's ranking factors.
Although the massive peak in online traffic can seem scary for some retailers, these simple tips can help you stay ahead of the curve this holiday season. For more best practices, be sure to check out the Akamai holiday readiness webpage, and follow along in real time on social media as we track this year's holiday ecommerce trends via #HolidayReadiness or https://twitter.com/Akamai!  

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