by Corey Gelato, Senior Commerce Strategy Consultant, Adobe Commerce
The journey to success in your organization’s peak season – be that the traditional holidays or your industry’s specific busy period – starts with making sure the infrastructure of your digital storefront is ready to perform. Whatever this annual opportunity looks like for your business, preparation for your peak season should start with your ecommerce site.
To prepare your organization for peak season performance, we recommend for you to consider “the Five Ps of Peak Performance". Implementing these recommendations is a small investment of time, but should be high on your organization’s priority list so that you can smoothly ramp up to meet your peak sales traffic.
We recommend that you start this work at least three months ahead of your most critical calendar dates to ensure that you are well prepared.
The Five Ps of Peak Season Performance
1. Predict Your Traffic and Order Volume
When it comes to your organization’s most important opportunity of the year, a data-based approach should rule your planning. Four key benchmarks serve as a guide to make useful predictions about the peak season traffic you need to support:
Your site’s traffic load over the past six months on a daily and weekly average
Your site’s traffic load during last year’s peak season dates
The calculated percentage increase for last year’s peak season traffic over the last year’s six-month average prior to peak season
The year-over-year percentage growth rate in traffic between last year’s and this year’s site traffic
Once your team gathers the data outlined above, first calculate expectations for the coming peak season by applying last year’s calculated percentage growth against your site’s running daily and weekly averages for traffic. Use the overall year-over-year growth rate to validate the resulting prediction from the step above by applying this percentage to last year’s peak season numbers. If the numbers are not generally in agreement, discuss with your team how to adjudicate the differences. A strong approach to resolving questions about large differences between the two numbers is to plan for traffic volume at the higher number.
Another methodology for making a prediction about the required resources is to identify your typical peak sales hour and review the load it places on your infrastructure (such as memory, CPU, and disk space). Multiply these metrics by 3 to calculate a reasonable approximation of the resources required to handle a heavy peak traffic incident. If your resources do not meet a tripling of these metrics, your site might require additional resources to meet peak demand.
And, of course, remember to give some consideration to how COVID-19 has already impacted your digital storefront and whether your site might experience peak season traffic levels far different than last year's peak levels.
2. Put Resources to the Test
With your predicted resource model for this year’s peak season, load test your infrastructure to validate how your site might hold up against the expected traffic.
Typically, this testing exposes several deficiencies. Be sure to have a robust process in place to both document these failure points and to communicate them within your organization so that you can develop a shared action plan to address them. If you’re working with a partner or an SI, be sure to ask them to share these findings with you or to include the information when they develop an action plan.
3. Prepare Your Site Accordingly
Increase server capacity and/or database capacity
Now that you have completed site load testing and determined areas requiring additional capacity, the next step is to plan how to meet those needs. You might need flexible capacity to cover the periods where you expect higher traffic. If your site has routinely been running at a high percentage of load, however, you might take the opportunity to increase capacity to both meet your peak season needs and give your organization more breathing room as you grow. Since many consumer behaviors have permanently changed during the pandemic, you might want to assume that the web traffic and transaction increases over the past year will continue.
Additionally, you might consider adding Web Nodes to meet resource requirements exposed in the load test.
Use a content delivery network
Another way to meet the peak season performance needs identified during load testing is to use a content delivery network (CDN). A CDN super-powers your cache, creating a global cache network of your static media files, HTML, JS, Style Sheets, and much more to decrease load and improve response times.
Update your caching configuration
You can also approach resolving infrastructure needs by reducing the number of hits on your server through better caching configurations. Along with our Best Practices on Cache Management, we also recommend taking advantage of Full-Page Caching.
4. Practice Good Habits
Optimize images for a fast eCommerce site
Images are a critical piece of the sales process, but these can be a net negative when improperly managed due to slow load times that impact site performance. We recommend that Merchants use 72 dpi images that are WebSafe.
Don’t let deployment get you down
It’s important that visitors can shop uninterrupted during the holiday season, but you might need to push changes to your production environment during this time. Did you know you can configure your project so that the customer experiences zero downtime during these deployments? Applying these configuration best practices ensures that your customers engage with a live site, regardless of your deployment routine.
Back up your eCommerce site
Employ proper back-up management to prevent a time-consuming environment rollback. A Snapshot allows you to back up and then restore specific environments at any time, which can save time and cost if something goes wrong with a deployment.
Monitor your performance
It’s always a good idea to use well-designed monitoring tools to keep an eye on performance. You have many options when it comes to tools and processes for monitoring site performance, so be sure to pick a method that pairs well with your organization.
5. Protect Your Site (and Your Customer Data)
Upgrade to the latest version
As hackers become more sophisticated, it’s critical that merchants are running the latest software, and this is especially true as we head into Peak Season. Bad actors know that businesses are distracted during busy periods, and often use the noise of the holidays to pull off their biggest frauds of the year. If you haven’t upgraded your site to the latest version, we recommend you do it before Peak Season.
Even when you’re not up to date, stay safe
Security patches allow businesses to keep up with the latest security trends, even if they are not using the most current version. We recommend installing security patches as they become available. Don’t let them stack up. The Magento Quality Package can help you access and apply patches, so your site stays up to date.