This year’s Singles Day netted a staggering $38 billion in sales for Chinese ecom giant Alibaba. Within the first 30 minutes of sales hitting, consumers spent about half the total recorded over the entire 2019 Thanksgiving shopping period. China’s postal service claimed that it would handle almost three billion packages, which equates for two deliveries for every household in the country.
Those are but three of the press cuttings which emerged from Singles Day 2019, but looking ahead (and looking West), what are the stories retailers are hoping for from Black Friday and Cyber Monday? What are the headlines they’re hoping to avoid? And how can they ensure that they deliver an optimum shopping experience, and get the best of out the sales?
Website crashes! Thousands lost in Black Friday sales!
There’s a chance for retailers to earn big on Black Friday, but there’s also potential for heavy losses. In 2018, fashion retailer J.Crew’s website experienced technical issues, resulting in frustrated shoppers and a reported $775,000 in lost sales. Even some of retail’s heavyweights have experienced difficulties in handling extreme traffic peaks, displaying messages to their website visitors such as: “Sorry about the wait, please try again soon. It’s our Black Friday event so we’re busier than usual.”
Apologies might placate some shoppers, but they won’t make up for sales losses – and potential reputational damage in the long-term. Keeping your platform up and running is the most basic requirement of an ecommerce brand. Performance testing should be ongoing, and ahead of Black Friday, retailers should ask themselves: are there third-party components slowing
things down or keeping the user from completing a purchase? What journeys or services are most likely to add the biggest load to my site and the experience? Where can I eliminate or reduce strain? Test under several times higher traffic demands to ensure a more realistic outcome.
Personalisation drives traffic and sales on Black Friday!
Now this headline sounds more like it. As well as helping to create and build brand loyalty, a personalised user experience can also drive repeat and impulse purchases. According to one report, 44% of consumers will likely become repeat buyers after a personalised ecommerce experience, and 49% say they have purchased a product that they did not initially intend to buy after receiving a personalised recommendation from a brand.
However, challenges arise when a retailer must guarantee a personalised experience for each and every visitor to their site, in addition to handling huge levels of activity during sales periods. But personalisation doesn’t have to negatively impact site load times. The solution here is to leverage smart caching technology which integrates with your existing platform and offers a dedicated tool to dynamically cache personalised content. This involves fetching the content, breaking it into components and re-assembling it where needed. The personalised content becomes cacheable and can be reused across requests, meaning each of your thousands of Black Friday shoppers gets a personalised experience which isn’t impacted by sluggish page loads.
XXX unveils feature-rich site in time for Black Friday rush!
Who is ‘XXX’? And how has the retailer in question managed to integrate new features and functionality into its site and ensure the site will hold up over the Black Friday/Cyber Monday period?
Chatbots, virtual assistants, social commerce, augmented and virtual reality, and AI are steadily making their way into ecommerce, to the benefit of consumers (a more varied, engaging experience), and retailers. According to a recent report, over a third of consumers said that VR would motivate them to purchase more frequently. We’ve already seen AR successfully adopted by a number of retailers – including IKEA with its Place app and Sephora with Virtual Artist – so it’s only a matter of time before VR becomes part of the ecommerce mix.
However, all of these additions to a website can impact its performance and add latency. Instead of a traditional ecommerce platform that claims to ‘do-it-all’, retailers should look to dedicated caching technologies which have been specifically developed to deliver content-heavy, rich, next-generation ecommerce experiences.
A solution which is scalable, flexible, enhances the user experience, and allows you to maintain optimum site performance at all times is an investment. But so is having to scale your infrastructure every time you want to prepare for a major shopping event. In order to not just manage, but profit from, Singles Days, Black Fridays, and Cyber Mondays in the future, dedicated caching technology is a pretty essential investment. And one that will help your brand make the headlines for all the right reasons.
Credit: Lars Larsson, CEO of Varnish Software.