Engagement Director, Christopher Bousquet, Outlines a Successful Ecommerce Holiday Readiness Strategy
March is upon us and we’re looking forward to Spring. Enjoying warming weather, budding flowers, and chirping birds in the morning hours. It’s a wonderful time and in our ecommerce business lives we start to shift our focus towards… Holiday Readiness! Right?! No? Too early in the year for that? Did you just think “We JUST finished the 2021 season”? Well, I invite you to read on to understand how embarking on your strategy now can take some of that pre-cyber week pressure off for 2022.
Rock solid Holiday Readiness takes coordination and collaboration across internal teams and external partners. Successfully prepping for the pinnacle event of the year, that will capture over 20% of total annual online revenue, will take time and planning. So, let’s kick off our two-part Holiday Readiness blog series with tactical talk and step through the “what?” and “why?” of a solid ecommerce readiness effort.
The strength of one’s Holiday Readiness effort is, in part, rooted in the accuracy of the coming event’s projected performance. To do this effectively, folks have to be in their data and the data has to be accurate. Doing an analytics health check is a wise investment to make early. It will ensure that the various ecommerce websites in operation continue to enhance on track and maintain an accurate flow of data back to business intelligence tools/efforts.
Once we know the data capture is accurate and any efforts identified to “true up” data (due to any found inconsistencies or discrepancies) have been executed, business analysts can confidently look back over past holiday events to inform future events. This look-back will give us the baseline trended growth expectation before making any adjustments to marketing plans and any considerations to overall brand growth to come in the market. Specific to Holiday Readiness, we want to focus in on “peaks” at an hourly level to identify where the “red line” of storefront performance might be. We want to identify the busiest moments to ensure our digital infrastructure can handle the demand successfully.
Key Top Line Metrics: Visits, Pageviews, Transactions, Page Speed, and Server Response Timing
At this point, we are looking to gain insight to visits, pageviews, and transactions from our Ecommerce Business Analyst team members. The remaining metrics we will pick up on the technical end of Holiday Readiness. While other ecommerce focused metrics (i.e. units per transaction, revenue) are important to the consumer story, these selected metrics have direct impact to the stability and performance of your individual ecommerce sites.
With the baseline in hand, we can now look to our partners in the marketing area of our teams. Our technical teams need to know how the planned schedule of campaigns across channels will impact the baseline metrics. Our technical teams will also need to understand if the planned campaigns will change how consumers typically engage with the online store.
Let’s break that down with a high-level example:
For the past 2 years, Key Partner Ships (not a real store, but that name right?) has been a growing gifts destination for folks in New England, selling nautical themed gifts. They have been marketing regionally and leveraging social media, email, and some minor paid search engine advertising. They, mostly, direct potential customers to either the home page or a themed campaign landing page. Maintaining that consistent strategy has seen a 5-10% increase in metric peaks year over year.
This year, this online retailer decided to broaden their reach and increase the dynamic nature of their marketing. The company wants to open up their target geography to reach coastal destinations along the eastern seaboard. The business team expects to see a 150% growth in visit rates and has provided additional metric projections based on the impact of that traffic increase to known baseline trends.
In addition to the increased market size, the company plans to include a select product “Deal of the Day” among their overall marketing campaigns. This means that the Product Detail Page (PDP) template will take on significant entrance traffic, thus identifying a need to ensure that the PDP template and any integrations present on the page can take on the projected increase in traffic demand without sacrificing any level of performance to individual customers.
The above example is simplified to illustrate the level of helpful information technical teams need in order to successfully model levels of testing to ensure that the platforms, partners, architecture, and integrations can withstand projected demand generated by retail marketing teams.
With the business side effort well underway, let’s shift our focus to the efforts from our technical team members. Each organization is unique and Holiday Readiness might fall on a 3rd party partner providing technical ownership or an internal team of Developers/Site Reliability Engineers/Support Engineers. These folks will look at the remaining key metrics from the list above (Page Speed & Server Response Timing) through 3 lenses: past performance results, real user monitoring, and synthetic testing (aka Load Testing).
Technical Performance Measurement can be as broad and deep as the Mariana Trench and become overwhelming very quickly. Taking a “minimum requirement” view, a combination of Salesforce Commerce Cloud’s own available toolset, mixed with the review of error logs and free-to-use/low-cost-entry tools from providers like Google or Pingdom or Catchpoint can be enough.
These tools should be in consistent use to establish an ongoing baseline for performance against typical business demand, particularly after new development releases are promoted to production. This will ensure the site experience either maintains or improves the consumer experience, while also calling immediate attention to areas needing optimization, with respect to performance and stability, in a coming sprint.
The Load Test
Often the load test is the dress rehearsal for the coming holiday period. The lead up to this moment pulls together the business team’s plans and projections to meet the technical team’s optimized codebase. All the work to build out the right plans, target the right metrics, and execute the right fixes and enhancements is tested here. Technical team members create synthetic scripts that will instruct virtual users to enter the site in a manner that matches the patterns within the marketing plans at a rate that meets (and slightly exceeds by up to 30%) the projected peak rates. Following the testing, the results will be reviewed collaboratively, adjustments identified and made, and testing rerun until the results indicate strong confidence for the coming holiday period.
Key point – Increasing the projected peaks by up to 30% will ensure there is a buffer for overperformance accounted for while not overly taxing your platform provider and partners for resources.
You Don’t Have To Drive This Alone.
Still with me? That was a lot, right? And, that’s just the first half of the story. In Phase II of our Holiday Readiness blog series, we dive into the Code Freeze phase which ensues after a successful load testing effort. In the meantime, even while this past holiday season lingers in our memory, now is the right time to start digging into your data and considering all the different conversations, tools and teams needed to be engaged with.
PixelMEDIA Managed Services and Partnerships can help both strategically and tactically with every step of the journey towards Holiday Readiness. For every item above, PixelMEDIA has the expertise to help guide, plan, and execute. We are ready to work with you from the very first step of an Analytics Health Check, all the way through to exploring our Service Center offerings for monitoring and response, and every step in between.
– Christopher Bousquet, Engagement Director, PixelMEDIA