It seems like holiday promotions have already started for many retailers and the promotion timetables are even earlier than last year. On a recent trip through my local big box retailer I noticed that Christmas decorations are already out, just one aisle down from the Halloween decorations.
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With the continued growth in online commerce, one of the best ways to anticipate and prepare for the coming holiday season is to look back on what happened in 2014. A recent report from NRF captured data from 2014 holiday activities in North America. At a high level, the report found that consumers are more confident in the economy - leading to a likely increase in spending.
"...Confidence is on the rise -- 49.7% are confident or very confident in the economy, up from 42.2% last year -- and average gas prices are the lowest they've been in six years." 2015 Retail Holiday Planning Playbook, July 2015, National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.
Peak traffic from flash sales or new product launches can be problematic for many retailers during the holidays. With holiday season sales representing 25-35 percent of revenue for many retailers, getting your site prepared for peak can significantly affect your holiday revenue. A website's ability to deliver a great customer experience during peak can hinges on three key areas - infrastructure, application code and CDN configuration.
Though the holidays are still a few months away, 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 it becomes unresponsive. In a perfect world, everyone would have a staging environment that exactly mirrored their production environment to run this test on but that's not the case for many retailers. First things first for those running tests against your production environment -- make sure you coordinate with your IT teams, datacenter and CDN before and during testing to avoid any interruption to customer traffic. Without proper coordination, you could inadvertently cause a DDoS of your own website!
Picture this - you arrive to your office early in the morning to finalize your back to school promotions so you can move on to your holiday marketing plans. As you are busily trying to answer emails, you came across an ominous message explaining to you that if you don't pay 40 Bitcoins, a group you've never heard of would knock your site offline in 24 hours with a powerful distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. A DDoS attack can be carried out in many different ways but at the most basic, it is executed by flooding a website with more traffic or requests than the infrastructure can handle - thus taking it offline for legitimate customers. It may sound like the plot to a movie but unfortunately it's a reality. Check out our coverage of the DD4BC operation here.
Holiday season in July?
Has Amazon's Prime Day officially kicked-off the holiday selling period? Probably not, but its success does suggest people are ready for a discount, which means retailers should prepare for a busy holiday season. So what can retailers expect in the coming weeks and months?
Here are four trends retailers need to consider when planning for the holidays:
1. Consumer confidence is rising
Consumers seem increasingly willing to shop. The National Retail Federation (NRF) 2015 Holiday Planning Playbook has consumer confidence climbing in parallel with some of the lowest gas prices seen in six years. All signs are pointing to a strong holiday selling period.
Late last month I attended the Future Stores 2015 conference in Seattle. If you haven't heard of Future Stores before, here's some brief background: it's held by Worldwide Business Research and brings together retail, omni-channel, customer web experience, and IT execs to focus on in-store innovation and how to bridge the digital and physical retail environments. As Chief Strategist of Commerce at Akamai, I was excited to learn how future-thinking stores are innovating and better understand how Akamai fits into the picture. This is the second follow post that I'm doing to recap some of the highlights I heard at the conference. My first post highlighted how Macy's Go was personalizing and streamlining the omnichannel shopping experience.