Simple Tips & Tricks to Survive Black Friday

On November 29, Black Friday hits us again. This year, the day falls on payday, so expectations of increased revenue can rightly be raised. This means that you should already be planning your day and efforts to ensure success.

Based on my own experiences, I have included some simple tips on how you and your site can both survive the day.

Preparation

Start planning well in advance and include both marketing and IT

  • I have seen several examples where the expectation and efforts are not aligned.
    • Look at the number of visitors you received last year and generally compare them with the possibly increased number of visitors during the year. If that number has increased by 25%, then the figure on Black Friday this year will increase at least the same as compared to Black Friday last year.
    • Compare this to any marketing campaigns last year. Increased marketing efforts will also increase the number of visitors.

Set a measure of the number of orders the business can handle

  • Although it is cool to sell more than you planned, it can adversely affect the rest of the business afterwards, with customers not receiving goods as expected.
    • It may work to have a limited number of offers on individual items if the shop allows this.
    • Remember that packing orders can take a long time. Scale your staffing according to the target for the number of orders and have a backup plan for if sales go better than expected.
    • Remember that customer service is more burdened by increased order volume, especially if the delivery doesn't come as promised.

Keep your promises

  • If, under normal circumstances, you promise next day delivery, be aware that the customers will expect this on Black Friday unless you communicate otherwise.
    • Experiment with a slightly longer delivery time on specific Black Friday deals. Customers will often accept this because of the better price, and it will give your packers some extra time.
    • Christmas shopping is close to Black Friday, so you probably don't have much ‘extra’ time to pack in early December, so don't expect a period of ‘normal’ conditions until after Christmas.

Website/IT solution

Make sure your IT solution can handle the increased load coming to the site

  • Load tests/stress tests are a must. Do them several times and start well in advance. Keep it up to the expected number of visitors – remember to add a good buffer and ally yourself with someone who has tried this before. Testing the front page and a product page is not enough. You have to go through all the page types and possibly various API’s (Application Programming Interface) that are behind if any.

  • Remember to have backup/disaster plans. For example, do you save orders in more than one place in the system?
    • There may be a single minor part that fails in the system. Can you restore orders if a ‘call back’ from your payment provider fails?
  • Search for bottlenecks. It is not enough to set up three web servers load-balanced if, for example, your SQL server cannot follow. All components of your setup should be scaled.

Small tips & tricks

If you are nervous about whether your site can handle the pressure that is coming, then you may want to use one or more of the following tricks:

Release your offers in advance   

  • When the clock strikes midnight, the masses come in. Everyone wants to see if the right offer is there and it gives extra pressure for 30-60 minutes. If, on the other hand, you show in advance what your offers are going to be, then visitors can decide whether they want to be there at midnight to make a purchase. Those that don’t will not burden your site.

Start at a time other than midnight

  • Although it may seem like cheating, some companies have started their Black Friday sales sooner or later to differentiate themselves, ensure less competition, and have better access to people/specialists.

Show Black Friday deals directly on the front page if possible

  • The people coming onto your site, especially around midnight, are looking for bargains. The more clicks people have to go through to find the goods that have been dropped, the more the server is going to lag behind.

Turn off ‘heavy’ features on your solution

  • If you use, for example, a ‘search as you type’ feature then it can be a heavy functional server resource. Consider disabling this (but, of course, maintaining the regular search) or alternatively slowing down between each server request.

Guard yourself with human handbrakes

  • On certain solutions, I have worked with performance switch/setting in the system; a feature that can be used to disable system resource heavy special features. For example, if you make a ‘live’ freight price calculation based on the user's location or postal code, it can run fine in everyday life, but at peak loads it may be better to make an ‘off price’ instead.

Restrict non-essential data runs

  • You may be in a situation where it is necessary for all server resources to be allocated to the site. Look at whether, for example, backup, major import or export of data is running during the peak period or similar. Postpone any of these for a later time.

Remove unnecessary third-party scripts

  • You may well be in control of your own web solution, but third-party scripts can slow your site down. Remember to test if this could be a problem on your site.

No new feature launches up to the campaign

  • Don’t introduce new features on the site leading up to Black Friday. However, tempting it may be with new initiatives, be sure to keep the platform stable. If you still need to do so, be sure to get both load and stress tests done afterwards.

Evaluate before the dust has settled completely

  • Evaluate how your process held up, on the day itself and the days that follow when the dust has settled, otherwise you will probably forget. What went well and what needs to be improved for next year?

 

You definitely need to keep an eye on your own business but remember to set aside time to chase the bargains yourself – great bargain hunting!