Varnish Software General Manager APAC Peter Löfling zeroes in on the cost of poor website performance during the holiday season and how online retailers can mitigate performance issues with caching.
By Peter Löfling
Holiday shopping has evolved through the years. With the ability to shop online, consumers no longer need to deal with long queues during the holiday season, as they can easily and conveniently shop with just a few clicks — in the comfort of their own home, or wherever they please. It is no wonder that online sales have grown consistently during holiday seasons. On Singles’ Day last year, Singapore alone saw the average online shopping spend rise by 67 per cent more than in 2017/2018, according to iPrice Group. And with so much business at stake, retailers should jump in and take advantage of the holiday season.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, online retail sales are likely to soar further, as consumers continue to avoid crowded shops and malls. Ecommerce players need to get ready and brace themselves for the onslaught of web traffic during big cyber holiday sales like Singles’ Day and Hari Belanja Online Nasional. However, now more than ever, web performance will drive online retailers’ success.
In recent years, as online traffic has increased during the holidays, website outages have become quite common. In 2018, Taiwanese online retailer PChome, which recorded 1.5 billion transactions, saw its website crash due to high traffic during Singles’ Day.
With the expected exploding data traffic during holiday sales such as Singles’ Day, it is paramount that e-commerce platforms prepare accordingly to prevent website outages that can erode client trust and supplier confidence.
Research from Digi found that the average cost of outages like these can total more than USD 700,000 per incident for retailers, but at a period of higher-than-usual traffic like the holidays, the cost is likely even greater and more devastating. E-commerce is seen to reach its peak in the last three months of the year, with Southeast Asia seeing 40% of online sales happening during this period.
Subsequently, even one minute of downtime could result in a substantial amount of lost revenue for online retailers. And with high competition to shop the sales before they sell out, consumers are likely to jump to the next sale if they’re experiencing poor performance, so it’s not just revenue at risk, but also customer retention.
There are many options available for retailers to improve performance and ensure their website is prepared for the busy holiday season. Whatever option retailers choose, the trick is to start early to make sure everything is running smoothly by the holidays.
One option that can enhance performance and even give retailers increased control over their website is caching technology. Caching enables faster page load times and download speeds, reducing bottlenecks on servers and any risk of slowdowns or outages. It is extremely scalable and can accommodate the kind of large and sudden traffic surges retailers might see during the annual Singles’ Day this month.
Another option for retailers is to use a content delivery network (CDN). CDNs give retailers further control over content, increased flexibility and improved web performance. There are many options available on the market for CDNs, from more standardized solutions like Amazon’s CloudFront or Microsoft’s Azure CDN, or for a more customized option, such as Varnish Software’s DIY CDN solutions, retailers can build their own CDN.
The decision between a packaged or custom solution depends on retailers’ unique needs and how quickly they need to deploy the solution. Typically, packaged CDNs can be deployed more quickly, but are limited to what is offered by the CDN provider, whereas custom CDNs require more time and upfront investment but can offer more flexibility and cost savings in the long run.
Both of these solutions result in reduced slowdowns, smoother performance and more positive online experiences for holiday shoppers. Customers will come away from their shopping experience happier, and retailers can have peace of mind knowing their website will run smoothly even in the event of a larger-than-expected surge.
At least for this year, the days are likely gone of customers waiting in long lines and crowding into stores to shop the holiday sales. With new social distancing requirements, Singles’ Day as usual may not be allowed, or safe, for retail customers or employees.
When news of the pandemic first began to circulate in January, it was hard to imagine we would still be in this situation months later. COVID-19 has shown us that we need to be prepared for anything, especially the unexpected, which can be a difficult task. We don’t know what is to come, but adopting caching technology or a CDN solution will ensure that at least retailers’ websites are prepared for the unexpected this holiday season.