Earlier this week, Amazon kicked off Amazon Prime Day with a disaster: a landing page that failed to load and numerous website errors that left users confused and frustrated. Despite predictions that this year’s Prime Day would be the biggest yet, the eCommerce giant failed to adequately prepare their site for both the traffic and the transactions.
Instead of shopping and saving on deals, users were shown Amazon’s error message, a lighthearted mea culpa that features the furry friends of Amazon employees.
Unfortunately, the dog pictures couldn’t answer everyone’s biggest question: how could such a large eCommerce company not be prepared for one of their biggest shopping days of the year?
The answer isn’t as simple as you might think. Even the company that owns 37% of the eCommerce space isn’t immune to website struggles. The reality is that plenty of website giants fail to properly prepare their websites for the traffic that they anticipate on large sale days. Just think about the last time you shopped on Black Friday or Cyber Monday—our guess is that many of your favorite websites were slow, down, or throwing errors.
As a UX design and development company, we see our fair share of retail sites that just don’t fit their business’s needs, especially in these critical shopping scenarios. When a company decides to pursue a sale or event, we see them spending hours on their marketing efforts, but dismissing the accompanying technical tune-ups their platforms need. While these marketing strategies will help them reach audiences and increase traffic, they alone won’t help them sustain it.
If you don’t want to end up in a situation like Amazon did on Prime Day, there are a number of ways you can prepare your website for a high-traffic day. Here are a few that are at the top of our list:
Sometimes, eCommerce companies choose to host their websites with platforms that aren’t easily scaled. This means that it’s hard to upgrade or downgrade your servers as needed, creating a major issue when it comes to high traffic scenarios.
Unlike Amazon, which has its own hosting service, most eCommerce companies should build their sites on an eCommerce platform that includes hosting, like Shopify. The eCommerce stores powered by Shopify are able to quickly and easily scale their sites as needed, avoiding Amazon-sized disasters. As Shopify Plus partners, we understand just how beneficial their platform is when it comes to solving eCommerce challenges.
50% of visitors will abandon a website if it takes over three seconds to load, a less than ideal situation when you’re expecting a ton of traffic. Not to mention that slow landing pages can also affect your Google ranking. If your website’s code and tech stack have gone untouched for a while, there may be outdated technologies cluttering your site or updates that desperately need to be made.
Be sure to double check your website’s bandwidth, code, cache, and plugins. Particularly with eCommerce stores, it’s easy to uncover dozens of widgets that could be replaced with just one great app. If you’re curious on some of the specific steps you can take to optimize your website for speed, check out “4 Steps To A Faster Website”.
If you’re already revisiting your existing tech stack, it makes sense to take a second look at your design and content as well. Getting a professional opinion can help you prepare even more—once the page loads, you’ll want users to enjoy and understand what they see.
In Amazon’s case, it wasn’t just the Prime Day landing page that failed to load. Dozens of links and transactions failed to load too, making the site hard and clunky to navigate. You’ve probably had a similar shopping experience to that before, but it doesn’t mean your users should.
A second (or tenth) pair of eyes can be extremely beneficial to any eCommerce company. It’s not just about the words and whether they make sense; all of the content on your website needs to be functional and lead your users to the actions you want them to take. It’s like we’ve said before: “You can’t market bad design.”
Some of these changes can be made quickly, while others, like a retooled design or a revised sitemap, can require a larger time investment to create the best experience for your store. No matter what, it’s always a great idea to jump ahead. That way, you won’t have an “oops” moment like Amazon did this week.
So, lesson learned—thanks to Amazon’s fail. The best companies not only plan their sale events months in advance for marketing purposes but also to give themselves ample time to technically prepare with the help of a UX design agency.
Are you ready to optimize your online business for high-traffic success? Talk to an expert eCommerce web design company today to see how your site can boost sales and actually function when it’s crunch time.