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Avoid website overload over Christmas

Website hosting behemoth Rackspace is encouraging retailers to load test their websites to ensure they can withstand increased Christmas traffic.

Angus Dorney, Rackspace:
Angus Dorney, Rackspace: Website load-testing helps retain customers.

‘Load testing your site and ensuring it is capable of handling increased traffic can mean the difference between keeping and losing customers,’ said Angus Dorney, general manager, Rackspace Australia.

‘This is customer service for the internet. In the same way you wouldn’t leave your bricks and mortar store under-staffed at Christmas, it is essential that your website is optimised for peak season performance.’

The advice comes at the end of a press release based on yet another survey of consumer’s online buying intentions and experiences (which we have duly summarised towards the end of this story).

The Rackspace study shows that almost 70 percent of shoppers experienced online frustrations last Christmas, with over 40 percent of this group (of 70 percent) either abandoning their purchase completely or trying a different website.

The top frustrations were cited as complicated check-out procedures (27 percent), followed by slow-loading websites (12 percent).

‘Many of the frustrations cited by respondents are easily foreseen and can be planned and tested for in advance of any traffic spikes. Not planning for the festive crowds is a missed opportunity when you consider how much business can be lost simply because you didn’t take the time to test your site and provide a great online customer experience,’ said Albert Woo, managing director of online retailing consultants, Intershop.

Rackspace advises retailers to:
Check and test capacity: To avoid website slowdown, retailers should do a full audit of their web hosting environment to check if there is enough network connections and server space available to handle a high influx of web traffic. They should also load test websites by flooding them with a large volume and variety of requests, from simpler tasks like landing on the home page to key word searches, filling up baskets and checking-out. With over 40 percent of shoppers abandoning a purchase if they cannot quickly and easily use the website, retailers can’t afford for any system lag or unavailability.
Get support: Peak traffic demands over the Christmas shopping period and beyond will probably not happen during a 9 to 5 working day. The study found that 52 per cent of respondents will be shopping in the evenings, and 65 per cent will be online on Christmas day. Retailers need to have appropriate support to keep their website up and running whenever it’s needed.
Use a hybrid cloud: Testing may show that additional web capacity is required during high-traffic times. The public cloud is the ideal hosting environment for this, according to Rackspace, as it offers unmatched scalability on a pay-as-you-go basis. Use it in combination with dedicated servers or private cloud in a ‘hybrid cloud’ to deliver optimal security, reliability and overall infrastructure performance.
Keep improving: After peak season dies down, review the performance of your website, analyse any downtime or other performance issues, and use this to fix any issues. Over a quarter (26 percent) of Australian adults say that their main reason for shopping online is the convenience, so keeping it that way is crucial

Survey results:
– The average individual budget in Australia for Christmas presents and related items this year is $375;
– Almost three-quarters of the 1000 Australian adults surveyed said they planned to do ‘some or most’ of their Christmas shopping online;
– Gifts are the top category (59 percent), followed by Christmas drinks (11 percent) and travel tickets to see family or friends (17 percent). Just over 50 percent planning to shop at home in the evenings;
– On Christmas Day, 53 percent of respondents intend to send season’s greetings to friends and family and post pictures of their celebrations using cloud-powered social media channels. Others will be playing online games (16 per cent), surfing the web (14 per cent) and watching on-demand TV (7 percent). It’s a similar picture on Boxing Day, with 58 per cent going online;
– This year 13 per cent of those surveyed will be shopping online using a tablet, up from 7 percent who shopped in this way last year. Similarly, smartphone usage for online purchases is up from 7 percent last year to almost 11 percent this year;
– A third of Australian adults are planning to give someone a connected device – such as a tablet or smartphone – for Christmas, and the same again are hoping to receive a connected device. Just over half will be giving a digital gift, with shopping vouchers most popular (30 per cent).




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