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November 15, 2021 by Aaron Shifer

Preparing Your Store For The Holidays, Part 2: Technical Setup & Site Performance

Welcome to the second part of our two-part series on preparing your eCommerce store for the holidays. In the first part (which you can read here), we focused on marketing your store, user experience, and converting visitors into customers during the holidays.

And that’s great, but it’s only part of the puzzle. If your website crashes due to peak traffic volumes during the holidays, even the best UI and slickest marketing campaigns won’t help you save your sales. 

So in this blog post, we’ll turn to the more technical side of things, and discuss how you can prepare your website for the surge in holiday traffic. Read on, and make sure that your Magento or Adobe Commerce storefront is properly prepared.

Measure And Anticipate Holiday Traffic Volume

First, you want to use past data to make predictions about your holiday traffic volume this year. The most important metrics for anticipating holiday traffic are: 

  • Your website’s peak traffic load during last year’s holiday season
  • Your website’s overall traffic load in the six months leading up to last year’s holiday season

Basically, you want to compare your data from the six months leading up to last year’s holidays to your current data – how you’ve been doing over the last six months. Then, you can use this to add more bandwidth to your store.

As a simplified example, let’s say your store averaged 100,000 visits per day during December last year. And outside of the holiday season, your store averaged about 50,000 visits per day. This year, your store is averaging 60,000 visits per day.

That means you’re getting 20% more visitors before peak season, so you should expect to have 20% more visitors during peak holiday shopping season, too – so you need to make sure you can handle 120,000 visitors per day.

When in doubt, don’t skimp. Paying for a bit more processing power and bandwidth than you need is much less costly than a crash or errors on your Magento or Adobe Commerce store – especially during peak holiday season.

Test Your Plan To Check Your Website’s Performance

Once you’ve determined the number of visitors you can expect during peak hours, you should take steps to validate your findings and see how your website holds up to the expected load.

Load testing is the way to do this. Introducing an artificial load to your website lets you test your existing infrastructure, identify improvements that need to be made, and ensure that everything keeps working, even during the most resource-intensive shopping spikes. Load testing lets you check a lot of different things, like:

  • Throughput, which refers to how many requests the server can handle in a certain period of time
  • Latency, which is how quickly the server can respond to user requests
  • Overall percentage of memory, CPU, and network capacity being used
  • User load, which is the total maximum number of users that can be handled by your infrastructure

There are a lot of different tools you can use to check your website’s performance, so ask your technical team which ones are right for you. 

Find Areas Of Improvement & Prepare Accordingly

Once you’ve predicted your peak traffic for the holidays and you’ve tested your website’s performance, you’ll be able to find areas of improvement and take steps to deal with high traffic loads. Here are a few things you and your technical team may want to do to prepare for the holiday season.

Add more server/database capacity

If you’re using a cloud-based system like Adobe Commerce, this is as simple as contacting your cloud provider and asking to add more CPU, memory, storage capacity, or bandwidth to your store. Depending on your needs, you can add surge capacity temporarily and scale back after the holidays, or you can permanently add more capacity to your infrastructure.

Speed things up with a CDN 

Adobe Commerce natively supports the Fastly CDN (Content Delivery Network). You can think of a CDN as a sort of “super-cache.” It’s a set of servers distributed in different geographic locations, where much of your website’s data is stored. This can include HTML, Javascript, CSS, static media files, and more.

Basically, this speeds up website response time. Customers are able to retrieve most of the files they need to display your website from the CDN. Since the CDN is much closer to their geographic location compared to your main server architecture, this results in much faster loading speeds.

If you’re not using Adobe Commerce, there are lots of other CDN services you can use to improve speeds at your eCommerce store, so we recommend discussing your options with your technical team.

Double-check your caching configuration

A properly-configured cache helps boost loading times by storing essential files locally on each customer’s device, like a phone or a computer. Because these files are stored locally, they don’t have to be retrieved from your server every time a customer clicks on a new webpage. This saves bandwidth and also dramatically speeds up loading times.

The holiday season is a great time to double-check your caching configuration, and to make sure that you’ve set yourself up for success. If you’re using Adobe Commerce, you may even want to consider implementing Full-Page Caching to ensure peak performance.

Maintain And Monitor Your Website Wisely

The holiday season is the best time to double down and make sure that you’re properly managing, maintaining, and monitoring your website. Here are a few things you should focus on during the holidays:

Optimize media and product images

Fast page loading speeds are critical to your success, and uncompressed or too-large images can lead to serious slowdowns. Make sure you’re optimizing your images. Adobe Commerce and Magento offer native features and add-ons that can help you automatically optimize your images and cut down on loading times.

 

 

Be smart about deploying changes to your website

Make sure you identify the least busy times to deploy changes to your website. This means you won’t miss out on sales if something goes wrong and you have to rollback or restore from a backup. With Adobe Commerce, you can even benefit from zero-downtime deployment, which means you can make changes to your website without having to take it down at all.

Manage your backups to avoid downtime and rollbacks

Speaking of backups, make sure you’re backing up your eCommerce store regularly. Accidents, errors, and crashes happen – and the high stress of the holiday season means they’re inevitable.

Having recent backups allows you to restore your site functionality quickly, even if you’ve had a serious error or problem with your infrastructure. Regularly-updated backups are absolutely essential for your peace of mind.

Monitor your site performance

There are lots of different options available for monitoring site performance, such as New Relic for Adobe Commerce. If you’re not already using a performance monitoring suite, you can ask your technical team about your options. There are a lot of tools out there that will let you monitor your site’s real-time performance and ensure that it’s running smoothly.

Keep in touch with your technical team

Make sure that you’re regularly touching base with your technical team about site performance during the holidays. Constant communication is essential to staying on the same page during peak shopping season. 

Ideally, you’ll want to work with a company like 121eCommerce. We use a proactive approach to monitor Magento and Adobe Commerce sites, and ensure that any potential problems are identified and dealt with before they become serious. 

Make Sure Customer Data Is Protected

The holiday season isn’t just a great time for shoppers. It’s a great time for hackers and identity thieves, too. Everyone’s so busy during the holidays that you may not notice an attack until it’s too late – and that could lead to a serious data loss incident. So make sure you take the appropriate steps to keep your eCommerce store secure. 

 


 

Update your eCommerce platform

Whether you’re using Adobe Commerce, Magento, or any other eCommerce platform, make sure you’ve updated to the latest available version. eCommerce platform updates always come with security patches that fix known vulnerabilities – and these are exactly the kinds of vulnerabilities that hackers may use to gain access to your website and user data. 

Look out for security patches and other website updates

Major platform updates may be out of the question if you can’t get to them before the holidays. If that’s the case, make sure you at least install the latest security patches from your eCommerce platform provider.

For example, Magento and Adobe Commerce let you skip platform upgrades while still patching known vulnerabilities. If you don’t have time to handle the potential complications of a full-scale platform update, this is the next best thing.

You also should consider any third-party extensions your website is using. Patching and updating these extensions is just as important as updating your main store. Bad extensions are a common cause of Magento security breaches.

Test your website’s security

If you’re using Magento Open Source or Adobe Commerce, you can use the Security Scan tool to check for known vulnerabilities. This tool runs more than 21,000 security tests to identify malware and other issues with your store.

If you want to take things to the next level, you could also ask your technical team to perform security testing on your store, or hire an outside contractor for penetration testing. This isn’t always cheap, but considering the high cost of data breaches, it’s worth the investment.

Follow These Steps To Prepare For The Holidays

We hope this two-part blog series has helped you understand the steps you should take to prepare your eCommerce store for the holidays. The peak shopping season offers great opportunities to eCommerce entrepreneurs – but it can also be a time of stress, particularly if you haven’t prepared your store properly.

Need help? 121eCommerce is here for you. We’re experts in building, deploying, maintaining, and running eCommerce stores, and our technical team specializes in Adobe Commerce and Magento. 

If you need technical experts to help you prepare for the holidays, we’re standing by to assist you. To learn more, just contact us to schedule a consultation. We’d be happy to talk about your needs in more detail, and discuss how our team can help you overcome obstacles and reach your goals for the holiday season – and beyond! 

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