Retailers should spend less time polishing the window displays and instead prepare for a traffic surge from online shoppers this Christmas, according to the results of a survey conducted by web hosting and cloud services company Rackspace.
As many as three-quarters of shoppers could buy some or most of their Christmas shopping online, a survey of 1,000 Australian adults has found. Online shopping was more likely to be done in the evenings (52 percent) and items would include gifts (59 percent), Christmas drinks (11 percent) and travel tickets to family gatherings (17 percent).
The number of online shoppers using a tablet to buy goods had doubled (from 7 percent to 13 percent), and smartphone usage for online purchases had risen to 11 percent (up from 4 percent).
Just over half (51 percent) planned to give a digital gift, with shopping vouchers the most popular (30 percent).
The study found that almost 70 percent of shoppers experienced online frustrations last Christmas, with over 40 percent of this group either abandoning their purchase completely or trying a different website.
The top frustrations were cited as complicated check-out procedures (27 percent), followed by slow-loading websites (12 percent).
“Many of the frustrations cited by respondents are easily foreseen and can be planned and tested for in advance of any traffic spikes,” said Albert Woo, managing director of online retailer Intershop, in a press release.
“Not planning for the festive crowds is a missed opportunity when you consider how much business can be lost simply because you didn’t take the time to test your site and provide a great online customer experience.”
Rackspace released a checklist to help retailers prepare their websites for Christmas shopping.
Check and test capacity: To avoid website slowdown, e-tailers should do a full audit of their web hosting environment to check if there is enough network connections and server space available to handle a high influx of web traffic. They should also “load” test websites by flooding them with a large volume and variety of requests, from simpler tasks like landing on the homepage to keyword searches, filling up baskets and checking-out. With over 40 percent of shoppers abandoning a purchase if they cannot quickly and easily use the website, e-tailers can’t afford for any system lag or unavailability.
Get support: Peak traffic demands over the Christmas shopping period and beyond will probably not happen during a nine-to-five working day. The study found that 52 per cent of respondents will be shopping in the evenings, and 64 percent will be online on Christmas day. Retailers need to have appropriate support to keep their website up and running whenever it’s needed.
Use a hybrid cloud: Testing may show that additional web capacity is required during high-traffic times. The public cloud is the ideal hosting environment for this as it offers unmatched scalability on a pay-as-you-go basis. Use it in combination with dedicated servers or private cloud in a “hybrid cloud” to deliver optimal security, reliability and overall infrastructure performance.
Keep improving: After peak season dies down, review the performance of your website, analyse any downtime or other performance issues, and use this to fix any issues. Over a quarter (26 percent) of Australian adults say that their main reason for shopping online is the convenience, so keeping it that way is crucial.
The survey was conducted in late October by a market research company.