By Michael Harvey
Special to the eTail Blog
Rapidly growing sales and traffic volumes are high-class problems for any online retailer to have.
Still, growth can severely strain the infrastructure of an ecommerce site. The problem compounds when traffic is spiky due to seasonal or promotional factors such as Cyber Monday sales which will be at our doorsteps before we know it!
For many customers, the online shopping experience provides respite from long waits in stores and dealing with overzealous crowds. This advantage is completely wiped away though if the ecommerce platform crashes or slows to a crawl due to a sudden surge in traffic. For many, waiting in line online is even worse than fighting crowds in a store, on a line. But it happens all too often, to even the largest of retailers and businesses. Just a few weeks ago the online ticketing system for the 2012 London Summer Olympics crashed, and not for the first time. Instead of record sales and loyal customers, a crashed website creates a failure caused by too much success.
There are things that businesses can do though, when they expect a large surge in traffic, to make sure that their systems stay up and running properly. Here are four steps to take to avoid “success failures:”
1. Plan Ahead – Getting ready for a sudden influx of traffic and orders isn’t as easy as flipping a switch. It takes time and careful planning. At the very least, you need a few months to get everything ready. The sooner you can start working on upgrading your systems, the better.
2. Prepare for the Worst, Hope for the Best – You can’t make upgrades and just assume that they’ll work. The months of planning should include repeated tests of the system to make sure it can handle the amount of new traffic you expect. This will allow you to identify problems before they end up costing you money.
3. Staff up – In addition to making sure your technology systems can scale, be sure that other parts of your commerce platform are ready for the additional load. You may need to supplement your normal staff of customer service reps. Likewise, you might need temporary help in your warehouse to handle increased orders so that consumers receive products in a timely manner.
4. Make it Memorable – If avoiding a crash is your only objective, you’re not doing enough to prevent a success failure. Big events are an opportunity to review all aspects of your commerce platform, not just the back-end technology. Many visitors may be coming to your website for the first time; it is essential that they have a positive experience. Not capitalizing on a unique opportunity is as much of a failure as having the site crash.
A spike in orders and traffic is a wonderful thing for any ecommerce merchant. But without taking the proper precautions and building a strategy to satisfy all those new customers, a can’t-miss opportunity can quickly turn into an ecommerce disaster. So next time you think you’re on your way to a record sales event, make sure you don’t become a victim of your own success.
Michael Harvey is COO of CorraTech, a provider of ecommerce and multi-channel commerce solutions.