Blog Post

A Look Back at Black Friday Weekend ’14

Looking back at last year's Black Friday Weekend performance results an effective way to prepare for this year. Learn more about what you can expect here.

Black Friday weekend is around the corner, and while most people are counting down the days until they can feast on their favorite Thanksgiving dishes, others are focusing on getting their eCommerce websites ready for a weekend of shopping madness.

Despite the importance we’ve placed on preparing and optimizing your site several weeks before Black Friday weekend, it’s also a good idea to look back at last year’s results to get a glimpse of what could transpire during the nation’s biggest eCommerce weekend of the year.

Mobile Traffic Spikes Affect Load Times

Each year it seems like Black Friday evolves into something bigger than it was the year prior; this is especially the case for mobile traffic.

According to IBM’s Digital Analytics Benchmark, more than half of last year’s traffic between the hours of 6 pm EDT on Thursday and 6 pm EDT on Black Friday came from mobile. What’s even more astounding, though, is that mobile sites performed nearly as well as desktop sites during this time, but were still almost a second slower in loading other page assets which could negatively affect customer experience.

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Another side effect of rapid mobile traffic increases can be severe outages. A major electronics retailer’s mobile site went down for 90 minutes on Black Friday last year as a result of mobile traffic spike.

A Surge in Requests Comes with Serious Consequences

Mobile traffic influxes weren’t the only culprits of performance problems last year; major retailers experienced problems and outages due to an increase in bytes and requests on their websites. Most of these cases consisted of primary content loading faster than average, while JavaScript or third parties caused serious lag in performance times.

One clothing apparel company in particular was among the slowest in mobile speed rankings for Black Friday Weekend 2014 due to a single third party element that was blocking other elements on the page from loading, which may have left their customers unhappy and navigating to a competitor’s site. This is a prime example of why limiting the amount of objects and properly configuring these requests on your page is crucial.

Using flashy design elements to lore your customers to the featured discounts and deals makes it a challenge to maintain lighter pages; therefore, paying close attention to optimization and page construction is a key ingredient to your business’s success. Ensuring that the non-essential elements be placed after onload is an effective way of minimizing their impact on your overall performance.

Have a Plan for When Failure Strikes

As we mentioned in one of our recent posts, some failures are just bound to happen. Having a contingency plan ready to be deployed will minimize the damages of the inevitable outage. Last year, Staples executed their contingency plan when they suffered from a series of partial outages and slowness on Cyber Monday. This consisted of an error screen that displayed a link to their weekly ads and a customer service phone number.

Black Friday Weekend 2014 was no stranger to performance problems. Issues like latency and outages hit some major retailers, and while some of which could have been prevented, others were simply unavoidable. The biggest lesson to be learned and carried into next week is that failing compromises your customers’ satisfaction, which obviously puts your revenue at risk. Taking the last few days before Holiday Shopping Season 2015 kicks-off to double check your site and build a contingency plan can mean the difference between keeping your customers happy and losing them to your competitors.

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