Out of 4,000 US and UK adults, over half will be Christmas shopping online and almost two-thirds of those surveyed will be participating in some form of online social networking or entertainment up to and including Christmas Day, according to a recent Rackspace survey.
Although there is an enormous revenue potential for retailers, Christmas shopping hasn't always been a cheerful experience for customers. More than half of online shoppers ran into problems last Christmas, with 44 percent abandoning their purchase altogether and another 34 percent shopping elsewhere, the survey shows.
Rackspace also found that slow moving websites and overly complicated checkouts were the main reasons why potential customers went to other websites and retailers, further noting that financial success will depend on how well of a online experience vendors can provide to holiday customers.
Rackspace provides a few recommendations for online retailers to consider before the holiday rush:
- Check the website's overall capacity. Physical inventory won't do much good if potential customers can't get to it. Similar to how physical retail stores gear up and check their stores and staff to make sure they can handle additional shoppers, the same should be done with the online store. Test it by flooding it with orders and requests to make sure that it can handle the additional load. Just like in the real world, if a customer can't get in the door, he will find somewhere else to shop.
- Provide off-hours support. Not everyone will be buying during the day, and if problem arise, the online retailer should be available for help during off-hours. Also, technical support will need to be available to fix any problems that might pop-up with the network and infrastructure. If a site goes down at 3AM and there's no one around to deal with it, it's lost revenue.
- Ensure there's enough bandwidth and server space to handle the influx of shoppers. If you don't think you have enough bandwidth or ability to handle a large influx of shoppers, consider investing in a pay-as-you-go public cloud to manage the overflow. Combine it with your existing private cloud or dedicated servers during the rush and then scale it back after the holidays.
- Learn and improve. Finally, once the holiday rush is over, vendors should do an analysis of how well their site performed and then consider making improvements for next year.
About the Author
Bill Oliver has been working in Healthcare for the past 30+ years in a variety of management roles including Material Management, Purchasing, Nurse Registry, and IT. In the past 12 years his focus has been on the business end of IT Contracts, Software Licensing and Purchasing.
Rackspace's study shows that 86 percent of those surveyed will buy something online related to Christmas and a little over half will be doing this online shopping in the evenings. Another interesting thing to note is that there will be an almost 10 percent increase in the number of mobile shoppers this year; the survey indicates about 18 percent total. This means that websites need to be just as mobile friendly as they are desktop friendly.
"Our study suggests that this may be the most connected Christmas ever. This means that all companies with an online presence -- not just retailers -- need to ensure they have the hosting infrastructure and support in place to deal with inevitable traffic peaks over the entire festive season. Imagine the frustration if you are unable to shop at a certain website before Christmas, or use an app with your brand new tablet on Christmas Day. With so much to gain or lose over the festive season, it’s high time for businesses to ensure that such frustrations do not become unwelcome Christmas traditions," said John Engates, CTO at Rackspace.