Load Testing DO’s and DON’Ts this Holiday Season

Do's and Don'tsJust in case you haven’t heard it enough already, let me remind you one more time: The stakes for the upcoming holiday season are higher than ever before! According to Shop.org, online holiday shopping will increase 17% this year, reaching a whopping value of $92 billion in the U.S. alone!

E-retailers have already been investing in innovative social and mobile marketing programs this year, and have been launching attractive incentives, such a free shipping and layaway plans, ahead of time. The hope is that doing so will cause online shoppers to flock to your website in larger numbers, and earlier than ever. But is your website ready for that kind of avalanche?

 

There is a clear relation between current/future revenue and your website performance. In case you need to justify your load testing budget this year, here are some quick stats to present:

  • A 1-second delay in Web response time can reduce conversions by 7%, page views by 11% and customer satisfaction by 16%.
  • The average online shopper expects web pages to load in 2 seconds or less, after 3 seconds, up to 40% will abandon your site. 
  • Once visitors leave, it will be very difficult to get them back –88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience.

As online shoppers gear up for this holiday season, so should you. Here’s a quick load testing checklist to help you ensure website readiness and optimal Web performance this year:

DO #1: Talk to your business and marketing counterparts to properly estimate expected load.  With more shoppers, more mobile users, and new social media and mobile marketing programs launching, you need to baseline normal traffic (get your Google Analytics and Omniture stats from your marketing department) and jointly estimate with them the volume of expected visitors (both standard Web browser and mobile users) this holiday season. If you already have an existing load testing plan from 2011, you can use it as a starting point, but don’t forget to readjust as needed to properly support your 2012 marketing/business plans. 

DO #2: Decide which transactions and business functions to load test. There is no need to load test every single path that visitors can take on your Website. Focus mainly on Top pages, Top Visitors Flow and those mission-critical functions driving most of your business revenue (e.g. shopping carts, payment processing, database record retrievals, etc). Don’t work harder—work smarter.

DO #3: Understand your upcoming marketing campaigns to build realistic load testing scenarios.  The holiday season runs from Nov. 1st until Dec. 31th. While there are well-defined major online shopping days such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Free Shipping Day or Canada’s Boxing Day, there are other events you should plan for. For example, your marketing department may plan social media programs, geo-targeted campaigns for specific regions, or offer coupons and savings that are launched other days and will drive additional visitors to your Website. Get a clear picture of all your Q4 marketing plans and take everything into consideration as you design realistic load testing scenarios. 

DO #4: Build a joint plan to load test and monitor performance on an on-going basis this holiday season. Besides load testing, you need to proactively monitor your Website on a 24×7 basis and measure response time for your mission-critical transactions (shopping cart, database record retrieval, etc)  to immediately get alerted at the first sign of trouble. Get aligned with your IT Ops counterparts so they can reuse your load testing scripts for production monitoring as well. Remember, when your customers call, it is too late —you must react as soon as your Website starts to slow down. Proactive Website monitoring is the best way to find and resolve problems before your customers are impacted.

DO #5: Select a cost-effective, easy-to-deploy load testing solution that doesn’t require any programming skills. With a click-and-record solution, you’ll save a lot of time, and it is simply much easier to get started. Also, look for tools that offer both load testing and website performance monitoring capabilities all-in-one.

Okay, so we really only have one DON’T: DON’T WAIT until the last minute! Remember, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are right around the corner, and the longer you wait the more likely it is that one of our DO’s won’t work out.

 



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