12 Tips to Make Sure Your eCommerce Store is Ready for the Holiday Season

Christmas in July: How to Get your eCommerce Site Ready BEFORE the Holidays.

Summer is now officially in full swing. And with the 4th of July weekend just around the corner, it’s hard to think about prepping for upcoming holiday season. As you know, Christmas comes earlier for marketers each year and identifying a strategy to make sure your site is ready for what is the most important shopping season of the year can be the difference between success and disappointment.

Many retailers focus exclusively on their ability to quickly and efficiently fill orders received during the holiday season – often forgetting about the importance of making sure their site is  performing well. Marketing campaigns, if executed correctly,  can scale very quickly and drive a ton of traffic to sites in a short amount of time. All of this is fantastic as long as your site can handle it – what good are all of these customers if your site is down?

Ensure Your Site is Holiday Ready with our 12 sure-fire tips!

Small changes to how eCommerce stores manage their planning and marketing campaigns can help ensure your site performs well through the holiday season. Elizabeth Scott, Director of Technical Services from Tenzing, a hosting and managed services company dedicated to eCommerce, shares twelve tips to on how you can make sure your site is ready for the holiday season.

Campaign management success

1. Communicate your campaign plan internally and with stakeholders. Knowing the dates and times of predicted traffic increases helps during the planning process.

2. Institute a campaign change process. Identify who can approve changes to a campaign strategy and how they are communicated out to stakeholders.

3. Establish a change freeze on application and infrastructure. Once you have prepared your environment and planned your campaigns STOP making changes after a certain date. Freeze your environment and communicate these dates to your vendors. Make sure you understand all your vendors change policies and if they have a freeze which could impact your plan.

4. Limit publishing and catalog changes. Publishing and catalog changes are a huge drain on system resources. Establish a policy and process for applying these changes and be disciplined in following. This may mean you have to plan your changes better but it is worth the effort in the long run.

5. Watch your first marketing campaigns closely. Initial campaigns during the holiday season will give you an idea of your application performance in the upcoming weeks. If you received a higher than anticipated response or your application did not perform as expected, this might be a good indication of problems to come.

6. Keep it simple. The holiday season is NOT the time to launch complicated marketing campaigns and promotions that are hard to set up, even harder to track, and ultimately hard for your customers to understand.

The key to promotions and discount codes

7.  Take caution with promotions and discount codes. Discount codes are a key driver to holiday selling. We have seen a number of campaigns go horribly wrong when discount codes were incorrectly configured in the application or not tested appropriately.

8. Maintain a discount code library. Keeping a library of your discount codes, which are active, which are not and their parameters helps with designing your test plan for new codes and campaigns.

9. Don’t get too fancy or introduce new discounts. Make sure you do not introduce new discount structures in your peak season. If you have never used a “first time purchaser” discount, now is not the time to use it. Use new discount structures during off-peak times as a test before applying them in your peak season.

10. Develop test cases for all of your discount codes. Test all discount codes before using them. Test the new discount code, and perform regression testing with codes that are both active and inactive. Treat a discount code like an application launch and come up with standard test cases that can be used for each code release. Make sure your test cases both meet and break the rules of the discount. This is a good time to use your end user test group. Customers will always try doing things testers and application developers don’t think of.

11. Avoid using discount structures that require a database search. Avoid discount codes which can put unnecessary load on your database. Returning to the First Time Purchaser example, this type of discount requires your application to search your database to determine if the user is eligible to use it. The larger your database the longer the search. This activity will put unnecessary load on the database impacting other users using your site.

Most importantly…

12. Test, test, test! Testing your environment end to end is the best way to be prepared for the holiday season.

To help you prepare for the holiday season and understand what your website environment can handle, our friend’s at Tenzing are offering a free retail readiness assessment to review your store’s performance strategy. The test consists of a load test, application performance monitoring trial, and an evaluation of your site’s current infrastructure and strategy. They will benchmark it against retail industry best practices and methodologies and will work with you on a plan to address performance issues before they impact your business. Email testmysite@tenzing.com if you’re interested.

About Tenzing

Tenzing believes great IT managed services company should do more than just keep a site’s infrastructure running. That’s why they partner with their clients to deliver meaningful insights and impactful technologies that help them grow their online revenues.  Since Tenzing first launched back in 1998, they have been recognized 7 times by Profit Magazine as one of Canada’s fastest growing companies. They were recognized by The Branham Group as a top information and communications technology company for five years running. The secret to their success? A set of core values and industry-leading best practices designed to ensure the best outcomes for clients.