Three Holidays Not On Your Radar that Could Cripple Your Website

easter-shoppingWhen the first day of the New Year begins, countless e-commerce companies breathe a sigh of relief. After all, the craziest period of online shopping has finally waned and all that’s on the horizon is the occasional holiday. Right?

Wrong.

The truth is that being able to maintain peak website performance and 100 percent availability is critical even during the slowest times of the year. That’s because today’s consumers are more expectant and demanding than ever before. In fact, 47 percent of consumers expect a web page to load in two seconds or less and 40 percent will abandon a site that takes more than three seconds to load, according to data aggregated by KISSmetrics.

So with Black Friday, Christmas and Valentine’s Day officially in our rearview mirror, let’s take a look at a few imminent holidays that could serve as potholes along the way if you are not prepared:

  • Easter: Nothing says Easter like a vase of lilies or an Easter gift basket rife with jelly beans, eggs and milk chocolate bunnies. This Easter consumers will be flocking to online stores to send a little extra love to their family and friends this holiday season.
  • Mother’s Day and Father’s Day: From canvassing Groupon for the latest golf deal to scouring 1-800-Flowers for a lovely bouquet, consumers will visit their favorite e-retailers in a few weeks for the perfect gift for their parents. In fact last year, the National Retail Federation predicted that Mother’s Day spending would increase considerably, with each consumer spending an average of $168.94 on mom, up 11 percent from 2012’s $152.52. Dads weren’t ignored either with the NRF predicting consumers to spend $119.84 on dad’s gift, up from $117.14 the year before.
  • Graduation: Whether your grad is closing the door on high school or college, graduation is right around the corner meaning that online shopping will soon be on the rise with this not-so-obvious-holiday. In fact, just three years ago industry pundits found that 59 percent of graduation gift seekers planned to complete their shopping online, meaning consumers are no longer looking for the perfect commencement present in a department store.

We want to hear from you… have you begun shopping for these upcoming occasions? Which sites do you frequent? And, more importantly, do they always stay up?

Three Things to Know about Green Monday for Next Year

By now, you probably have your Black Friday/Cyber Monday plan down to a science: rigorously test your website months before those peak shopping days; regroup with IT team to assess the health of your website; and determine places where bottlenecks could occur. But have you even given a second thought to Green Monday?

Here are three things you need to know about Green Monday—the second Monday in December—to prepare for next year:

  1. Your Competitors Are Prepared: There’s no breathing easy following Black Friday and Cyber Monday as more and more consumers are taking advantage of this mega retail day, Green Monday. Accordingly, many companies offered similar deals on Green Monday this year as they did on Cyber Monday. Amazon, for example, offered 20 percent off a selection of Kindle e-readers and Kindle Fire tablets,  while Walmart offered low prices on a selection of electronics and toys, including Zoomer the robotic dog, a BouncePro 14-foot trampoline, and KidKraft Mejestic Mansion. Everyone from the biggest named companies to the smallest of online retailers are getting more competitive in December.
  2. Sales Are Up: This year, Green Monday reached $1.4 billion in online spending, up 10 percent a year ago and representing the third-heaviest online spending day of the holiday season-to-date, according to data aggregated by comScore. Moreover, sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas were up as a whole indicating that the trend of shopping after Thanksgiving will only continue.
  3. Your Website is Still at Risk: While e-commerce companies used to take comfort in knowing that their peak days were Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas Eve, today’s online shopping platforms have to ensure the uptime of their website throughout the year but especially when they know traffic will spike. There is a lot of money for these companies to leave on the table if their websites fail and therefore it’s imperative to keep a steady eye on uptime and availability during Green Monday.

Now is the perfect time to gear your e-retail platform up for the impending 2014 holiday season.

Time to rest now that the Holidays Are Over…Think Again: Why Uptime Still Matters

With Christmas carols officially off the radio and your number of e-commerce website visitors returning to normal, you may be inclined to take a deep breath and relax for the next few months. But don’t for a moment be fooled into thinking that the shopping season is over.

The fact is that every month brings with it a surge of online consumers for a variety of reasons. Just consider the fact that the second quarter of 2013 marked the fifteenth consecutive quarter of positive year-over-year growth in U.S. retail e-commerce sales, and the eleventh consecutive quarter of double-digit growth. Here’s some other food for thought:

  • E-Commerce sales are growing by more than 19 percent a year; industry analysts predict that the space will reach almost $1.4 trillion by 2015
  • More than 80 percent of Internet users turn to the Web to purchase items
  • 50 percent of the online population has shopped online more than once

While Cyber Week and Black Friday might be in your rearview corner, a whole new slew of holidays are creeping up from Valentine’s Day to Mother’s Day to college graduation weekend. If you fared well during the online shopping rush at the end of 2013, chances are you already have a plan in place to handle these upcoming occasions. But if November and December were dictated by bouts of downtime, disgruntled consumers and abandoned shopping carts, now is the time to think about enlisting the help of a managed hosting provider.

Teaming with the right provider can bring a host of benefits such as: making sure your website is appropriately load tested to ward off bottlenecks; stressing your website during testing periods to see how it handles peaks in traffic; and assigning percentages to browsing and purchasing transactions, based on a combination of usage statistics and industry benchmarks.

Mentora, a pioneer in the managed hosting space, boasts a Holiday Readiness Program, designed to cost-effectively and efficiently prepare your e-Commerce company for the most important times of the year. To learn more, click here.

Mobile Usage Causes Black Friday Sales to Surge

phoneThere are a variety of reasons why Black Friday sales are back to where they were pre-recession: consumers are feeling more confident; companies are offering more and more doorbuster deals to entice customers; and companies are starting offer the same great in-store deals online, which allows consumers to shop from the comfort of their homes. But perhaps the biggest driver of Black Friday sales is the surge of mobile devices and the ability for consumers to purchase items right from their trusty smartphones or tablets.

In fact, out of the $1.512 billion in sales that United States retailers wracked in on Black Friday this year, mobile commerce sales accounted for nearly 21 percent, at $314 million, and about 17 percent of Cyber Monday sales, $350 million out of $2.085 billion, according to Internet research firm comScore. In other words, mobile commerce accounted for one in five digital dollars, or 18.5 percent, spent during those two days. According to comScore industry pundits, this number is “significant… because that percentage is far higher than we’ve ever seen in our quarterly spending data.”

It comes as no surprise, however, that mobile commerce is on the rise especially with the number of smartphones increasing exponentially. In fact, 80 percent of the world’s population now has a mobile phone; 89 percent of smartphone users use their devices throughout the day; and 84 percent use their phone for Internet browsing, according to an infographic compiled by Go-Globe.com. With mobile commerce becoming exceedingly ubiquitous, it is more paramount than ever for e-commerce platforms to test the performance and uptime of their mobile applications, as well as their everyday websites.

To learn more about the importance of teaming with an application hosting provider to ensure the peak performance of your mobile platform—and how Mentora can help—click here.

A Look at the Most Crippling Website Holiday Outages of 2012

iStock_000014218954XSmallWith Black Friday and Cyber Monday in our rearview mirror, it’s all about the December holidays for consumers. And for e-commerce platforms, just because Thanksgiving is in the dust does not mean that these companies can take a break from running at peak performance and high availability. Conversely, now is the time to really dig deep and assess the health of your platform before heading into crunch time for online shoppers.

In fact, December shopping days can be extremely busy. Last year, the latter portion of the November-December holiday shopping season saw particularly strong growth, especially for Free Shipping Day on Monday, Dec. 17 (up 76 percent to $1.013 billion) and Christmas Day (up 36 percent to 288 million), according to comScore. But last year also saw some of the most crippling holiday season outages to date.

Let’s review some of the most disastrous website holiday outages of 2012:

Amazon Web Services (AWS)

It was bad enough for AWS that its platform went down June 29 and October 22 in 2012, but when a major outage hit on Christmas Eve due to an elastic load balancing failure in AWS, some of the largest casualties hit Netflix. During a time in which infinite numbers of consumers comb the video streaming platform to catch up on the newest movie releases and television episodes, the outage was a true disaster for the company.

Kohl’s

Last year on Nov. 21, shopping aficionados everywhere were foaming at the bit when Kohl’s unveiled 500 early bird specials, 20 percent discounts on already low prices and free shipping orders over $50 in honor of Black Friday. But they were met with huge disappointment when they were unable to take advantage of the attractive deals. For several hours on Thanksgiving Eve, customers were met with an outage message, delays and an overall unresponsive site.

Our Favorite Retailers

From even the 3,000-foot view, many of our beloved e-retailers did not fare well during last year’s holiday season with mega-names like Kmart.com experiencing 10 hours and 50 minutes of downtime; Sears.com coming in at 10 hours and 30 minutes; TigerDirect.com logging six hours and 21 minutes; and Victoria’s Secret reporting six hours and 18 minutes of downtime. In fact, according to Panopta, 41 sites failed to meet the goal of 99.9 percent uptime last year.

With a few weeks left of this holiday year, perhaps now is the time to consider how a managed hosting provider can help you. Click here to learn more.

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