The holiday shopping season will be upon us very soon. This year will once again be a record setting jump-up for online retail. According to the National Retail Federation, online shoppers say they will do half their shopping online and will spend nearly 22% more than the average consumer. Adults aged 25-34, many of whom have small children and crave convenience, will complete 43.7 percent of their holiday shopping online, the most of any age group.
Last year’s holiday shopping season, starting with Black Friday/Cyber Monday, saw multiple website crashes within the online retail industry due to heavy user loads in connection with succesful campaigns. Cyber Monday 2010 alone was the single biggest shopping day online ever, exceeding $1 billion sales for the first time, up 19% from 2009.
If you have ever experienced one of your online campaigns actually causing your website and shop to crash when users rush to your special deal, you are aware of the monetary and image losses that result from shop failure.
So, how do you prepare for this holiday season to make sure you get the expected return on your campaign investment?
At Queue-it we deal with heavy user loads every day, and these are our best tips on how to best make use of the virtual queue – or waiting room if you like – in combination with other important steps to prevent your online succes from causing website failure:
Host your campaign landing page in a highly scalable location
There are a number of ways to achive this:
- Create a reduced version of the landing page, where the user can navigate directly to the queue from the first page. The landing page should contain a link the the special offer, which redirects users to the virtual queue system.
- Cache the page described in (1) in the infrastructure.
- Host a simple campaign page outside your infrastructure, e.g. on Akamai or Queue-it’s Amason AWS platform (get help from firstname.lastname@example.org). Users are then redirected to the campaign page through a link from the landing page, while another link (if needed) will lead other users to the “general” site. . This does, however, require your infrastructure to work.
- As (2), except that DNS is changed to point directly to the external campaign page. This way a user can get into the queue even if your infrastructure does not work. Set a low DNS TTL to make it possible to propagate changes to DNS.
Activate the virtual queue before launching the special deal
Before the launch of a campaign, you are able to direct all “early birds” to Queue-it. As soon as the sale initiates, queue numbers are assigned at random. Any user, who enters the queue after the launch of the campaign, will of course still get his or her correct (chronological) place in line, according to the time stamp of entering the sale. As the user load builds up before the queue event start, users are moved to the queue and are therefore no longer consuming resources on your webshop. Before the event start your customers will see a Queue-it page, which includes information about the actual start time of the deal.
Managing the user load ahead of campaign launch is quite useful, as it displays the total number of users waiting to be redirected. That information can help you throttle the speed of redirects and enables you to post information directly to users about the situation.
Optimize your “Known user” code
The Queue-it “Known user” module transfers the individual user’s queue-number in an encrypted URL-parameter string to the protected site (see “Queue-it Known user white paper” for more information). This enables you to implement code on your shop to use the queue-number, e.g. for:
- Checking that the user has in fact been redirected from Queue-it
- Supporting the underlying business process, e.g. storing the queue-number together with the transaction for one-per customer deal validation
Control the queue redirect speed
The queue redirect speed determines how many users enters your shop per time unit. So, you can use the “Max. redirect” speed to throttle the user inflow to your shop. Start with a safe low value and increase slowly while monitoring the health of your shop. This is very useful, when you first launch your campaign, or if you are really not sure which volumes your site can handle.
Pause the queue if you run into problems
If your shop starts running too slowly or in case of unidentified technical issues, the queue can be paused. When the queue is paused, then users who have not yet been redirected to the site yet, will stay on the queue-number page until the queue is reset to “Running” status. The queue number pages will display information to your customers about the queue being paused.
Move customers back to a scalable location after the campaign ends
After your campaign runs out, you may still have potential customers waiting in line to enter your shop. Those users can be moved to a specific URL at the end of the sale, e.g. a “sold out” or “waiting list” page. By offering your potential customers the opportunity to sign up for a waiting list, newsletter or another coupon promo, you may be able to still capture contact information from users who would under normal circumstances have left your shop disappointed and without a trace. All users waiting in line after the sale has ended will be redirected to the specified location within minutes after the set end time. Be aware that the website that you redirect users to does need to be able to handle the load of course (see “Host your campaign landing page in a highly scalable location” above).
To try some of these tips out on your own shop, sign up for a free trial. We hope that these tips and tricks can help save your holiday season sales, and maybe even top those NRF predictions!