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Avoid a crashing headache

There are a few precautions retailers can take to avoid suffering a Christmas nightmare on their websites.

This year has seen a number of well-publicised launches and collaborations that resulted in retailers’ websites crashing. Earlier this year, Essex indie Minnies Boutique went down an hour after its launch because of high levels of traffic due to its The Only Way Is Essex connection, and more recently demand for the H&M and Versace collaboration crashed H&M’s site. These are extreme cases, but retailers will need to prepare for increased traffic online at Christmas.

Eric Abensur, chief executive of etail software firm Venda, advises retailers to get resources in place now for the Christmas rush: “Ensure you have effective stock control across all channels. You may not always have volumes or flexibility to manage a rush on products, so while you work to restock a particular item, ensure you redirect consumers to similar products or alternatives.”

Retailers must also look at their statistics to try to predict issues that might occur and estimate traffic figures. Abensur says: “Traffic statistics from last year should help inform their retail strategy as well as Google Analytics figures for key term searches around their product base. However, retailers need to take into account the mood of the moment financially and the challenges consumers faced last year.”

If a big traffic increase is expected, retailers can turn on certain tools to manage this. Richard Bailey, director of application management and support at global systems firm Salmon, recommends a few: “The ‘waiting room’ concept that content delivery networks (CDN) provide, where if a certain level of load is reached, the CDN will allow customers already on the site to continue using it while arriving customers will be sent a page asking them to wait until the site becomes available. Another option is to use cloud or virtual environments that may be able to allocate more resources when needed, either by allocating idle resource or borrowing it from non-critical systems.” 

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