Forget Black Friday. Cyber Monday — the Monday after Thanksgiving — may be the new big retail day. In 2015, consumers spent a record $3.07 billion online on Cyber Monday, according to Adobe Digital Index, which expects that figure to jump 9.4 percent this year, to $3.36 billion.
How can retailers ensure they have the necessary IT infrastructure in place to prevent their websites and mobile applications from crashing as shoppers make their purchases? They need to test their digital platforms and make sure have enough bandwidth to handle spikes in traffic, according to retail technology experts.
Retailers need to work with the companies that have set up or are hosting their websites and digital platforms to ensure they are robust and secure. If websites and apps fail, not only will retailers lose sales, but also their brand reputations are likely to suffer, marketing efforts will go to waste, and they will see staff productivity decline, writes Celina Padavil, marketing manager at content delivery network provider CacheFly.
Paul Griffiths, technical director for the advanced technology group at Riverbed Technology, notes in a blog post that “website failures are often a result of a number of network performance issues, such as poor change management, denial of service attacks, or simply lack of capacity on the hosting platform.”
“If a company doesn’t have the monitoring and diagnostics systems in place to detect where the issues lie, it can take much longer to resolve and have the website back online as normal,” he adds.
Retailers need to plan for Cyber Monday at the beginning of the year to ensure they have enough network capacity, says Ulrike Mueller, chief technology officer of NewStore, which makes an end-to-end mobile retail platform. Mueller says by late September or early October that capacity should be in place.
Mueller suggests that retailers purchase tools to simulate high levels of internet traffic on their websites and mobile platforms, to test their resiliency. She also suggests that retailers avoid large updates to websites or apps in the days ahead of Cyber Monday.
Retailers can do a lot to make sure their mobile apps and solutions are architected in a way that enhances the customer experience, Mueller says. They can cache a lot of product information and put that onto the mobile device itself so that the app can be fast and have functionality even if connectivity is poor, she says.
Retailers need to approach website and mobile design as projects that need to be planned out. Apps should updated in mobile app stores by late September and early October at the latest, Mueller says, so that customers can use them and deliver feedback to retailers, and the IT team or external developers can make tweaks.
Mobile platform providers are working to make sure their secure mobile payment services are as ubiquitous as possible, Mueller adds. Apple is already enabling secure payments via the Safari web browser on iPhones and iPad tablets using its Apple Pay system, and Google is bringing its Android Pay service to the mobile web as well.