Getting Ready for Black Friday 2020 [Partner's Post]

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black friday 2020

Black Friday 2020 will be unlike any other with many major retailers, including Walmart, Best Buy, and Target, all closing on Thanksgiving Day for the first time in many years.

Retailers are having to reinvent themselves because the market landscape, as they know it, has shifted. And while open-air markets and parking lot pop-ups may well increase in popularity across the U.S. as retailers look for ways to replicate the in-store shopping experience in lower-risk environments, there can be no doubt that most retailers are looking to the e-commerce arm of their businesses to fill the gap.

The U.S. Department of Commerce reported that e-commerce as a percentage of all US retail sales jumped from 11.8% in the first quarter of 2020 to 16.1% in the second quarter, representing a 31.8% increase. That represents a decade’s worth of growth in just a few months. If an example was needed, Target's second-quarter 2020 e-commerce sales grew by a whopping 195% year-over-year.

Studies estimate that COVID-19 has accelerated the shift from physical-store to e-сommerce by roughly five years, as e-commerce is projected to grow by nearly 20 percent in 2020, while department store sales are projected to decline by more than 60 percent. Retail leaders like Macy's CEO Jeff Gennette are seeing this and have publicly stated that they will focus on digital sales and curbside pickup during the holiday season.

Is your storefront ready for what could be the e-commerce industry’s biggest year to date? Based on our experience managing 3000+ storefronts through many holiday seasons, here’s the list of Top 10 Things we work with our customers on to ensure they have a smooth, successful holiday season:

#1. Production code freeze...

for two weeks around your major sales periods to prevent erroneous changes affecting your storefront.

#2. Marketing Plan

Identify the specific period you expect high traffic. Ask the questions: What is your marketing plan heading into the holiday? Do you have any planned launches or email campaigns that are expected to help drive traffic? What is your expected traffic lift from your sales events? Broad percentage metrics are adequate for planning purposes.

#3. Team Schedules

Identify peak times each day and plan your team schedules and vacations around it. Ask the questions: In your experience are there times in the day that matter more for your user base like early mornings or late nights? Do you see your peaks during holiday sales events, and which ones drive the most traffic? Do you plan to launch any specific promotions?

#4. Load Testing...

for expected traffic using third party tools, companies in the industry, or Webscale Load Testing. Ideally, running small sales events on production will give you some insight into preparedness for the holiday period.

#5. Access management...

to avoid unforeseen changes and managing issues. All administrative functionality should be limited to whitelist IPs preferably no later than the code freeze date in production.

#6. Best Practices

Discuss best practices for high volume events like when to flush caches to relieve performance bottlenecks. Flushing caches during peak traffic will create an unpredictable increase in demand for CPU that can disrupt the user experience.

#7. Additional Infrastructure

Setting additional hardware or cloud instances in advance of the demand. Remember, a slight increase in costs will be offset by revenue and user experience.

#8. Capacity on Database or Network

Any other changes to be made to your database size or bandwidth needed.

#9. Security Posture and Virtual Patching

Reviewing security posture and all suggested security patches to ensure the backend of your site is secured.

#10. Backup Validation

Validating your most recent backup and ensuring you have a backup done right after code freeze and have a clean copy of your site in case of disaster.

At Webscale, we have already started working with our partners and customers to ensure they are thinking about each one of these steps, and are battle-ready to scale while remaining blazing fast and secure. But in this "new normal," all retailers should get the above in place to offer a frictionless digital experience and make the most of the 2020 holiday season, and take full advantage of the anticipated spike in e-commerce sales.

If you'd like some help readying your storefront for the digital moment of truth in retail, give us a shout at [email protected].

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