If you have visited a major retailer recently, you will have witnessed evidence that the holiday season is on its way. That means retailers flocking online to the high street to grab the latest bargains and heavily discount must-haves. With Black Friday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year just around the corner, retailers are preparing for a bumper eCommerce season, and most have spent all year planning for the peak festive season.

Online retailing surged in popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic, especially during extended lockdown periods where online was often the only way to ‘go shopping.’ Shopping habits changed dramatically during this time, and shoppers primarily continue to shop online as we enter a post-pandemic era. As a result, online traders report record profits as shoppers turn their backs on the high street.

IT infrastructure is under immense pressure during the peak season as customers flock to eCommerce and non-store retailers. The numbers are mind-boggling; in 2021, over $200 billion was spent online in the United States alone. In addition, most major online retailers have an international presence, putting even greater pressure on IT systems.

This article will advise preparing your eCommerce platform for the peak season. Planning and load testing should be already underway for the 2022 season, and if you are forward-thinking to the 2023 season, you will learn how to plan and support all business areas during this critical time for retailers.

Failing to Prepare is Preparing to Fail

Retailers make most of their annual sales and profits during the holiday season, and preparation is critical to avoid downtime during the peak season. Downtime equals no sales and a bad customer experience, potentially forcing loyal customers to shop with your immediate competitors.

This site gives you an exciting insight into how much money some of the major US retailers lose in the event of downtime. Downtime is the enemy of the retailer. Here are some of our top tips to prevent downtime.

#1: Scalability: The ability to scale your IT resources is essential during peak trade. Online retailers achieve sustained high traffic throughout the holiday period, with peak traffic surges at various points during the season. For example, traffic peaks at go-live and peaks when new items are discounted, so it is essential to scale the computing resources horizontally and vertically to meet demand. It isn’t easy to achieve this on-premise, but scalability is standard with most cloud service providers.

#2: Load Testing: Schedule out-of-hours load testing on your application in the weeks running up to the peak season. If you have auto-scaling, you can fire traffic at your servers to simulate the traffic volumes expected at peak. If you have manual scaling, testing will give you an idea of the resources and number of servers you would need to scale to meet demand.

#3: Stay Flexible with Bandwidth: The network that connects your customers to your infrastructure must be able to cope with the surge in traffic expected during the peak season. Site performance is critical for sales, and any issues with slow websites or connection timeouts will turn off the customer, who may look elsewhere. Reach out to your service provider asking for guaranteed uncontended bandwidth assurances.

#4: Stay Focused on Cybersecurity: On Black Friday and Cyber Monday (in particular), hackers come out in force to disrupt online retailers. Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are common, where hackers attempt to bring down your site or flood the site with network traffic, so the site appears offline to your genuine customers. DDoS prevention is an everyday requirement for businesses and is typically a third-party solution that detects and blocks hacking attempts instantly. Retailers must also be extra vigilant to phishing, javascript sniffing, form jacking, and Magecart skimming. If you are using digital platforms and WhatsApp business platforms, pay close attention to security to keep customers’ personal information safe.

#5: Know Exactly Your RTO: The Recovery Time Objective is part of a disaster recovery scenario regarding how long your business can remain offline until service is restored. Managed Service Providers offer RTO with specific guarantees covering the time it takes to become operational again. Companies may opt for disaster recovery services that can be invoked if the primary infrastructure fails during a peak. DR capabilities enable production services to be switched to an alternative location allowing business as usual to commence within minutes.

#6: Choose a Resilient Hosting Provider: Outsourcing IT services to a provider is common practice, but choosing a reliable provider is essential. A good indicator of their performance is the guaranteed service level agreements (SLAs). The very best hosting providers will offer 100% uptime SLA. In addition, these providers have the best infrastructure and the most highly redundant configurations possible to meet this target.

Cloud Computing For Retailers

Every year during peak retailer season, you read stories or witness firsthand websites that cannot handle the stresses of key retailer events like black Friday. The businesses that falter and go down lose customers. The companies that power through with no issues gain customers and sales and cement a reputation for reliability.

Atlantic.Net provide virtual private servers, dedicated hosting, and an award-winning cloud platform to businesses worldwide. Retailers and eCommerce champions trust us to keep their infrastructure serving customers throughout peak trading. Retailers can experience a 600% surge in traffic at crucial moments during peak, and our engineers stand ready to help your business prepare and thrive in this environment.

Atlantic.Net has been providing cutting-edge hosting services for over 30 years. Are you looking for a leading PCI compliant hosting provider to host your next project? Our full suite of managed services and always-available professional support team will build a reliable and durable solution for your business or organization.

Atlantic.Net data centers are accredited by SOC 2 and SOC 3, HIPAA, and HITECH standards, and our 24x7x365 support, monitoring, and world-class data center infrastructure are available now. For faster application deployment, free IT architecture design, and assessment, visit us at www.atlantic.net, call 888-618-DATA (3282), or email us at [email protected].

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