MMW Op-Ed: The Holidays Are Officially Here, But Is Your Retail E-Commerce Strategy Ready?

MMW Op-Ed The Holidays Are Officially Here, But Is Your Retail E-Commerce Strategy ReadyThe following is a guest contributed post to MMW from David Hsieh, Vice President of Marketing for Instart Logic.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, retailers, you know that the holiday season has officially begun, and this means there is no time for mistakes. With a predicted $89 billion from online shopping to be made this holiday season according to Forrester Research, and just three weeks until Christmas, retailers don’t have time for long, drawn-out plans. Though the Yuletide season can be daunting, retailers must act now to ensure their e-commerce strategy is up to par so as to maintain secure availability across all devices, while providing rich content and visuals.

Don’t expect mediocre web page and web application download time to get you across the finish line.

As web applications become more sophisticated and the proliferation of mobile devices continues to congest wireless networks, retailers must find new ways to manage and speed up performance.

According to Forbes, “A widely quoted study by the Aberdeen Group found that, ‘A one-second delay in page load time equals 11 percent fewer page views, a 16 percent decrease in customer satisfaction and 7 percent loss in conversions.’” And though the study is from 2008, Forbes wrote, “user expectations of fast page loads are on the rise.” In fact, according to Harry Shum, a computer scientist and speed specialist at Microsoft, even 250 milliseconds, either slower or faster, is enough to deter visitors.

Now, take a minute to imagine the revenue that is being lost simply because of page load time. Oh, and before you do that, did we forget to tell you? With e-commerce, a mere minute of downtime can cost a whopping $10,000, according to research shared by Evolven. Retailers literally don’t have an extra minute to lollygag for when the surge in web traffic comes because thanks to the holiday season, it’s coming fast.

Seek technology that will make your organization stand out from a performance perspective.

To maintain visitor engagement, while delivering the best experience, retailers must ensure that the proper technology is in place — a solution that will, in some cases, replace the need to invest in multiple backup servers during downtimes and disasters. Retailers need an end-to-end solution that will not just improve speed and performance for e-commerce platforms, even as the business grows, but also security — something that has been lacking from even major retail chains such as eBay, Staples and Target.

In order to take full advantage of the many benefits offered from today’s evolved application architectures, retailers must seek an e-commerce platform that offers a distributed client-cloud model. These SaaS cloud-based providers not only help manage the entire application delivery process from start to finish, but also protect retailers’ e-commerce platforms during times of increased traffic.

Additionally, cloud-based providers are able to categorize image contents and then optimize how the image is delivered, so that it maintains its high quality and richness without sacrificing speed; representing a departure from hardware-based content delivery networks (CDNs), which primarily use physical storage databases, cache frequently used static elements and are thus unable to meet the needs of mobile users. Providing high-quality images in less time is especially crucial when considering, for example, a recent survey on holiday shopping and Millenials in which 68 percent said they will not wait more than five seconds for a page to load on a mobile device.

CDNs are an antiquated technological approach that will not accommodate modern-day consumer expectations. They were built for an environment that predated the explosion of web-enabled devices and wireless access networks, and were never designed to solve the new performance challenges inherent in access over a wireless last mile and end-user device diversity.

In contrast, a software-based approach to application delivery is flexible enough so that it takes into account the Internet, the wireless last mile, devices and the application itself to improve performance for the user.

Think “mobile first;” plan for wireless network congestion and traffic spikes, and possible DDoS attacks.

To build on the previous point, mobile and device diversity is king. With the rise of digital mobility and increased connectivity, organizations with e-commerce platforms must keep “mobile first” in mind moving forward, especially as an inordinate number of their users are likely accessing their site via a mobile device. These users often experience slow load times due to congested or unpredictable wireless network connections. But it’s crucial that their experience is no different than a laptop or desktop user.

To drive the point further, consider this fact from the 2014 Mobile Behavior Report by ExactTarget, the Salesforce Marketing Cloud: 83 percent of consumers want a seamless experience across devices, but 54 percent said mobile website content today doesn’t provide enough information.

Security too, is top of mind during the holiday season. Whether distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks come from hackers or legitimate customers, retail organizations must ensure their application delivery solution isn’t the weak link in their security strategy.

What’s the gist of it all?

We all procrastinate sometimes, but the holiday season is not the time. Research shows that businesses lose profit each time their mobile application or web page either fails to load or loads too slowly. And though the holidays represent congested networks and increased traffic, with the right technology to act as the fast lane, retailers can bypass network bottleneck issues and maintain availability when it counts most.