The November nationwide month-long lockdown could not have come at a worse time for the retail sector. Last year, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, UK shoppers spent around £50 billion on gifts, clothes, toys and consumer tech, according to research. But the latest UK government restrictions mean retailers and brands are now wholly dependent on their digital resources to capture peak shopper spend. With just weeks to go before Black Friday kicks off, retailers must ensure their e-commerce web and mobile applications are ready to run at top speed.
Of course, even prior to the lockdown announcement, the majority of shoppers were preparing to steer clear of high street shops and head online to bag a bargain. According to a survey by personal finance experts at money.co.uk, 77 percent of adults in the UK were already planning to shop for Black Friday bargains, with 50 percent saying they would be doing so exclusively online. As 40 percent of those surveyed intend to spend more on Black Friday purchases than in 2019, retailers will need to act quickly to ensure their internet and application infrastructure can handle the anticipated increase in web traffic if they want to keep customers happy – and coming back for more.
One thing is for sure. Retailers and brands can’t afford a repeat of the ‘Bleak Friday’ chaos of two years ago when websites crashed, and thousands of online shoppers were frustrated at being greeted by holding pages informing them they were in a queue awaiting access to sites. So, what steps should they take to optimise their e-commerce capabilities?
Prioritise web and app performance
Web and application performance, not just availability, will be crucial for e-commerce this year. Retailers and brands will need to reinforce their infrastructure to support periods of higher sustained application traffic and frequent spikes that push already strained systems to the limit. To succeed, retailers and brands will need to assure redundancy down to the core network (for example DNS) to eliminate single points of failure and stress-test systems in production now to identify any potential areas of weakness.
With network resilience and elasticity being tested to the hilt, delivering consistent connectivity and performance will be vital so that consumers consistently encounter the shopping experiences they expect. So intelligent traffic management and dynamically managed DNS are critical for seamless connections throughout a purchase transaction. That includes delivering improved response times and site resilience, all of which will depend on having the ability to control Internet routing to the optimal endpoint.
Keeping websites and customers secure
A secure DNS is essential for maintaining a secure online presence and protecting revenue and brand reputation. With DNS attacks becoming more frequent and sophisticated, retailers will need to take steps to ensure they don’t fall victim to DDoS, domain thefts, or hijacking attacks that reroute website users to bogus sites.
Countering these kinds of malicious activities ultimately depends on maintaining secure control over the DNS and enforcing strong security protocols that include monitoring, detection, and filtering capabilities — all of which will be key to maintaining 100 percent availability, performance, and security.
DNSSEC can help with this. Malicious actors are notorious for using major events, such as Black Friday, or trends to take advantage of customers. DNSSEC, however, protects customers by ensuring DNS responses are legitimate and customers are not susceptible to man-in-the-middle attacks that route users to fraudulent websites for nefarious reasons.
Preparing for the online holiday shopping surge
In recent months, retailers and brands have had to pivot fast to cope with an unprecedented jump in e-commerce demand. With all but essential shops now closing as the UK endures a second lockdown, more and more consumers will be forced to buy online or wait until the country re-opens in early December.
Consumers are nervous that lockdown may be extended, and many are also concerned about the potential health risk of shopping in person once high street stores reopen, which means the retail industry needs to prepare for significant uptick in digital commerce in the coming weeks.
Assuring the availability, performance, resilience, and security of their online infrastructure will prove to be critical for retailers that want to make the most of the lucrative pre-Christmas trading period and deliver the high performing experiences brands promise and customers expect.
By Mark Fieldhouse, general manager EMEA at NS1