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eCommerce Holiday Preparation: When and How to Plan

Posted by Dominique Robinson on Aug 9, 2016

ecommerce holiday preparationWhat happens around the same time every year and is something that eCommerce retailers are always nervous about? The answer….peak season.

Peak season is an important time for all retailers. Many retail stores prepare by hiring more workers, advertising deals, and increasing inventory. However, as an online retailer, peak season is less about beefing up your workforce and more about improving your operating systems. In this article, we will discuss ecommerce holiday preparation to optimize your online selling potential.

The Time for eCommerce Holiday Preparation is Now!

In the summer when the weather is hot and people are still vacationing, Christmas time is not typically in the forefront of anyone's mind. But as an online seller, this is the perfect time to start thinking about how you can prepare for the soon coming Christmas shoppers. November and December are important months for your business, and there are things that you can be doing now to prepare.

Preparation starts from the inside out. Take advantage of the months before November and December, when sales are steady, to look over last year’s sales data. What areas did you do well in, and what areas still need improvement? Typical issues faced by online retailers during peak season revolve around site functionality and warehouse efficiency.

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Test Your Site

During the peak season, it is imperative that your site is able to handle the expectations of your consumers. Poor running websites cause uncertainty for potential customers and cause them to search elsewhere to fulfill their needs. In fact, according to research conducted by New Relic, 18% of online shoppers will abandon their cart due to slow page load times, which accounts for approximately $3 billion in lost sales across the United States each year. So what can you do to improve your webpage’s functionality?

There are multiple reasons for a web page to run slowly or malfunction. It is your job to get ahead of any setbacks before they become a problem. To do this it is important to know where to look. When preparing for peak season you need to check for how your website responds to high traffic levels, slow databases, slow external API’s (application program interface), and see if there are any errors in the code.

After you know what to look for, its time to put your website to the test. Perform rigorous load testing ahead of time to identify and correct breakpoints and bottlenecks on your site. You can test how your site handles higher levels of traffic using software tools like LoadRunner. In conjunction, analytic software like cacti, MONyog, and statsd are great tools to use to help you analyze the data you find.

Testing: Problems and Solutions

Common issues that testing uncovers:

Load balancing

If traffic testing shows an increase in the number of refused connections, you have a problem with your load balancing. When your service capacity is too small for the amount of traffic your site generates, you start to see these errors. There is no magic number of load balancers you need for your website. However, you can use the analytic testing data to assess your needs accordingly.

Better compression

It's no secret that reducing the amount of storage space on your web page can help speed up your site, but yet this is commonly overlooked. Better compression helps lower bandwidth requirements and can increase the CPU loads. To achieve faster speeds, smaller files are needed. Minimizing your CSS and JavaScript are the most common options. Software like YUI compressor and smush.it can help ease the process.

More efficient code

There are various sites and services available for online retailers that provide code to enhance their websites and pages. The code provided, HTML/JavaScript, may use external request from third party extensions which cause lag for the user. Choosing solutions for common page elements that avoid third party code can save your site from unnecessary performance issues.

Warehouse Efficiency

Whether you are a seasoned vet or new to warehouse operations, there are certain steps that you should take to ensure your warehouse is peak season ready. Efficiency is key! If you have been through peak season before, consider everything that you struggled with the year before, and implement necessary changes ahead of time.

Remove any unnecessary steps and get organized. An automated warehouse management system, like SkuVault, not only helps you stay organized but also helps eliminate unnecessary steps caused by human error.

Our software keeps track of all your products across multiple channels so you’ll always have an accurate account of inventory at your disposal. We also make picking a breeze with our order by location systems. This feature maps out the most optimal route for picking, minimizing the amount of back-and-forth and miss picks your pickers experience. To learn more about the benefits of SkuVault schedule a demo on our website at www.SkuVault.com.  

Along with optimization and organization, consider what changes you should make in spacing and ordering. According to F. Curtis Barry & Company, during peak season holiday based businesses often see inventory increases as much as 40+%. This increase can cause a strain on the ordering process and space needed for the extra inventory. By thinking ahead you can already have additional storage space prepared and staff accordingly to make warehouse operations run smoother than ever for the upcoming peak season.  

Ready, Set, Go!

When preparing for the peak season, the time to act is now. “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail”. Take advantage of the months before peak and test your website. 56% of holiday shoppers plan to shop online this year. By ensuring your site is able to handle the high levels of traffic that peak season brings, you increase your ability to convert prospects into customers.

Also remember to take steps to get your warehouse in shape. Take note of issues faced in the past and make the necessary adjustments. If you successfully take all of these steps you are preparing to have a successful peak season and can ease the stress of the holiday rush.

Optimize Your Supply Chain with SkuVault WMS. Request a demo.

Topics: eCommerce, eCommerce Businesses, Peak Season