2nd time lucky: Are UK websites ready to grab their share of the £1 billion Black Friday frenzy?

This Black Friday is set to be record-breaking. It is expected that retailers in the UK could take as much as £1 billion in online sales on this one day alone, while online sales over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend could exceed £2.2 billion as British bargain hunters try to get hold of the best deals.

But the expected surge in traffic is both a challenge and opportunity. Will retailers – and their web properties – be prepared for the shopping frenzy that awaits them on the 27th November?

Last year, websites belonging to the likes of well-known retailers such as Currys, Argos and Tesco buckled under the strain of the millions of shoppers flooding their pages for the best deals. Sites crashed and pages loaded more slowly under the atypical surges.

John Lewis reportedly saw its online traffic increase by 307% between midnight and 6am on Black Friday last year, resulting in a number of customers not being able to access the company’s website whilst the Currys website instructed shoppers to join a virtual queue with an estimated waiting time of 30 minutes to shop online.

Today, customers do not have the patience to wait – they want instantaneous performance. In fact, a Dyn study from earlier this year found that nearly half of British consumers (47%) are willing to wait a mere five seconds for a web page to load when shopping online before abandoning the page.

Furthermore, over a quarter (27%) said they would drop  a purchase if the website is too slow. Evidently, customers are looking for speed and efficiency, as well as accessibility.

Therefore, it’s crucial that the online customer experience doesn’t suffer because of a traffic peak, especially on days such as Black Friday. If the page is slow to load or process an order, retailers will not only lose customers and money but also potentially face damaging their brand reputation.

In fact, 42% of UK consumers in our survey said their trust in a brand would be damaged if the site was slow-performing.

For the second year running Argos appears to be struggling under the strain of Black Friday. UK shoppers are reporting slow loading times, webpages timing out, webpage crashes and a warning message from the high street retailer stating that “demand for this part of the site is really high”. You can find more on this news here. In response to this, I wonder if you would be interested in a comment from Paul Heywood, EMEA managing director at Internet performance company Dyn on the importance of Internet Performance for retailers on days like Black Friday?

With so much at stake, then, knowing how to withstand the huge influxes of traffic to websites is crucial to making days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday the biggest success possible for retailers.

Performance management

First and foremost retailers need to take a hard look at their online infrastructure. At busy times it is not just the website, but rather the performance of the entire online network that can impact retailers’ success on annual, one-off sales weekends.

With visibility of the global infrastructure and insight into how customers connect to their site, retailers are able to spot ways to improve it.

Improving performance can be just simple as monitoring performance of online stores and load balancing traffic during spikes of activity. When high traffic volumes affect one part of the global network, end-to-end path analysis can alert retailers to latencies and outages, allowing them to carry out remedial actions much more efficiently.

Furthermore, managing traffic through the DNS layer enables retailers to select alternative routes and take preventative action to avoid downtime, slowly loading pages load and uncompleted transactions caused by traffic spikes.

> See also: How technology can be used to decode customer behaviour in-store

This will be critical to retailers’ success on one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year – not only from a sales perspective but also from the perspective that the brand’s reputation needs protecting.

Reaping the rewards

Consumers expect a trouble-free, consistent online experience even during peak sale periods. Brand reputation and customer loyalty is at stake here and it is, therefore, very clear that brands cannot afford to lose out because of a transaction failure or outage.

Without a reliable and high performing online infrastructure in place, retailers are at risk of damaging their brand if their website crashes and they cannot accommodate the huge volumes of web traffic to their site on high profile sales days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Internet Performance is the key factor for businesses to meet customer demands online, no matter the scale of the sales on offer. The result? Both retailers and customers get to reap the rewards this record-breaking day promises.

Sourced from Paul Heywood, director for EMEA, Dyn 

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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