Ensure Your Website Doesn’t Crack Under the Christmas Pressure

By Robyn Foyster Robyn Foyster has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
on 22 December 2021

Mark Randall, Country Manager, WP Engine ANZ, explains how to ensure your website doesn’t crack under the Christmas pressure.

With the countdown to the holidays well underway, many e-commerce sites are experiencing the pressure of increased customer traffic. For many independent e-commerce retailers, this increase in traffic will slow, and in some cases completely crash their site. Recent industry benchmarks from Google tell us that 53% of users will leave if a site takes too long to load, spending that holiday budget elsewhere. With the Australian economic climate proving unpredictable this festive season, there is little room left for lag, delays, or errors on your online store.

One of the best ways to mitigate risk and identify key performance issues is through load testing. Often overlooked, a load test is when you simulate peak traffic on your website, assessing how it will function under pressure. Load testing allows web developers and marketers to identify exactly where the cracks in the system are, providing the opportunity to proactively fix issues before they impact your sales figures or brand.

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Why load test?

Load testing helps mitigate the losses associated with downtime. These losses are amplified when retail seasons peak, making every minute count.

  • Lost productivity
    When downtime happens employees must set aside their core roles and responsibilities to focus on disaster recovery. Their focus shifts from revenue-driving work to reactive troubleshooting and putting out fires.
  • Recovery costs
    There are costs associated with recovering your production environment, including the potential loss of critical data, leading to potential security risks. 
  • Intangible costs
    The costs associated with your brand’s damaged reputation are less measurable. How likely is a customer going to come back if they didn’t get what they needed the first time?

Load test best practice

So now that you see why load testing matters, here are some tips and tricks to minimise error and maximise success during the busiest time of year. 

  • Test early and test often
    The earlier you can test, the more time there is to fix any bugs or address any bottlenecks. For normal day-to-day activity, you should perform a small load test after any major site changes that way you can see how the changes might affect your daily users. You should also load tests in the days ahead of retail peaks or key events that would result in increased online traffic, including Christmas, Boxing Day, and Black Friday.
  • Don’t test on production
    To avoid potentially affecting everyday users and daily revenue, do not test on production. If you’re going to put your site under heavy load and simulate maximum traffic, it’s best to do this on a separate environment that is as similar to the production environment as possible.
  • Ensure that you are considering 3rd party suppliers
    When running a load test, note that you are also impacting third-party scripts on your site and could crash their services if you do not prepare for it. In order to avoid this, you should touch base with your partners ahead of time to prepare for the load test.

As consumers turn to online stores to snap up those last-minute Christmas gifts, it’s important for organisations to be prepared for all sorts of crises that may present themselves during high-traffic periods. If you’re already having trouble managing the surge in traffic and noticing cracks in your back end, run a load test and identify the issues now before it is too late. 

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