Retailer Tips for Unlocking Holiday e-Commerce Success

Klaus Enzenhofer, Technology Strategist,
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The online retail marketplace continues to get more competitive every year, so delivering superior online experiences that drive conversions should be the top priority for e-retailers. Regardless of how much inventory or bells and whistles a retailer’s websites offers, conversions and loyalty depend on performance. So what do e-retailers need to do as they gear-up for the most important season of the year? Here are five tips:

1. Keep your eyes on application performance

If you don’t have a solid Application Performance Management (APM) strategy in place, you need to act fast. When application performance isn’t adequately pre-planned, performance problems can occur. Applications need to be ‘load tested’ ahead of time to make sure they can withstand high traffic and heavy use, otherwise users will be disappointed and businesses impacted.

Remember that your competitors are only three millimeters and one click away from sales that could be yours. In fact, Harris Interactive holiday shopping research in 2013 verifies it takes seconds for consumers to give up on a site and head elsewhere with dollars, loyalty and opinions to share on social media. So, don’t get caught off guard–focus on application performance now!

2. Hone your understanding of end-users

Retailers, who are serious about success, need an APM solution that provides visibility from every perspective as it relates to the end-user. To manage performance, especially as complexity increases, you need insight into all transactions at all times. Sampling won’t cut it. You can use this insight to ensure your sites and apps are performing for users regardless of their devices, browsers or operating systems.

3. Simplify

You need an APM approach that shares a unified perspective with all stakeholders, from development to testing and QA to production. To simplify application performance, get a shared perspective on where challenges stem from.

We looked at a major e-retailer that optimized its site for minimal trips to download content–their performance was over 50 percent better than competitors who packed in lots of fancy features. Keep things simple–rather than include every option under the sun and then disappoint with a sluggish experience.

4. Don’t miss the boat on mobility

Mobile shopping will be ubiquitous in 2014. Projections from Forrester Research reveal that by 2017 holiday mobile spending will reach $370 billion . But mobile shoppers still demand performance. In the Harris survey, 37 percent of smartphone and tablet users said they would shop elsewhere if a company’s mobile site fails to load within three seconds. This means that companies who want to capitalize on holiday rush periods need to be sure the end-user experience they deliver on tablets and smartphones meets or even exceeds the level of excellence users have come to expect from traditional PC browsers. Consumers will shop with their devices wherever they find the best experience (and deals). Last year, most companies failed to deliver the mobile experience consumers wanted. Response times averaged over 18 seconds to complete a multi-step transaction, which led to increased abandonment, bounce rates and revenue loss. Your mobile app strategy must match your shopper’s level of urgency and expectations for performance, if it doesn’t it is akin to handing wads of cash to your competitors.

5. Open your eyes to performance blind spots

A full application lifecycle approach is key to eliminating blind spots that wreck performance. You need synthetic load testing and monitoring, with real-time, 24x7 tracing of real-user activity and performance to understand how changing activity and unanticipated pressures are experienced by every end-user.

Once you’ve gotten your apps in top shape, don’t let a third-party cause your customer frustration. Be attuned to increasing reliance on external services in ecommerce website environments–advertising and web analytics for example, can introduce performance problems, too.

The Bottom Line

Think carefully about what’s essential to profitability. You might have great deals on your sites and apps, but if users aren’t satisfied with the experience they have, you will lose revenue. Seconds matter and performance is the key ingredient to winning customers, brand loyalty and revenue.

If you don’t have one, put an APM solution in place now to be sure you’ve got all the 2014 holiday bases covered. 

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