Holiday Code Freeze & Preparing Your Site for Black Friday - Cyber Monday
As ecommerce retailers are preparing for Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) it's considered best practice to have a holiday code freeze. It's common for ecommerce businesses to bring in 40-60% of their annual revenue in November and December alone and it's vital the website is in tip top shape well before then! Typically a holiday code freeze would start sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving and generally end on January 1 – so if you have any updates to do in preparation for the BFCM bump in site traffic and orders, consider this blog your last minute warning.
Special Website Considerations Tied to Black Friday Cyber Monday
- Sitespeed Optimization
Before the holiday code freeze, you should do load testing of your site to understand how much traffic and activity the site can handle before having issues, slowing down, or breaking. In addition to a natural bump in shopping activity this time of year, it's likely that you'll also be pushing a lot of traffic to the site through marketing efforts such as email marketing, pay-per-click (PPC), and social media campaigns. Anything that was an issue earlier in the year that was not addressed adequately is going to be magnified this time of year. Test early to make sure your site doesn't go down.
- Don't Deploy Any New Code
- Don't Launch Any New Products
- Plugins and 3rd Party Integrations
- Security Updates
- Try and Leave Your Cache Alone
For sites with large product catalogs or complex pricing rules, avoid clearing the cache during the holidays. When your site is already under more load than normal due to increased traffic, clearing the cache could result in significant slowdowns or, worst case, downtime as the cache is rebuilt. If you absolutely need to clear the cache to support specific promotions, do so in the middle of the night when traffic is typically much lighter. Keep in mind when auto-scheduled email marketing campaigns are going out, as well as what time zone a lot of your customers live in. Last thing you want is to think you’re good to go at 4am PST and realize that your email to 100,000 customers on the East Coast just got sent out.
- Content Updates to Optimize Conversions
If you are a B2C ecommerce business, for the love of all that is holy do not push any new code during the holiday code freeze time. Any minute or hour that your site is down or compromised, you're losing customers – and lots of them at this time of year. This includes a ban on adjusting any new shipping rules or new currency functions in checkout. If you were looking forward to experimenting with any of 2017's hottest ecommerce trends, address those in January.
This is not the time of year to launch a new product either – unless you're combining items into a holiday gift bundle or repackaging existing products. The main takeaway is you don't want to introduce any variables or unknowns this time of year because the risks are bigger.
Make sure these things are updated and deployed far in advance. If you discover something needs updating now, make sure you investigate how long it needs to be deployed and tested so that you're not tinkering with things after Halloween – which is very soon! If you don't have the time and it's not going to break your site if it's out of date, consider waiting till January to execute the update. If the holiday rush highlights your business' need for some system integration work, we can help.
If there's a security vulnerability that comes up over the course of the holidays, you should think long and hard about whether or not you want to address it and deploy. If it's critical, then it’s probably a necessary risk to take as there might be a considerable potential loss associated with not doing anything. But if it's a low grade vulnerability you might consider waiting till the new year.
Halloween is in a few days, so you do have a little time to make some simple content optimizations if you want to improve your site before the holidays in low-risk ways. We’re talking about editing text content that's already there, or swapping out photos. Triple check that your photos are properly optimized for web, sized correctly, and have the necessary clearspace to support any text or element overlays. If you feel comfortable making text and image updates, you might revisit your product descriptions, banner imagery, shipping details, and product images.
After the holidays are over, book a time with your ecommerce, marketing, and sales teams to review an in-depth report of site analytics and use this to brainstorm what innovations you might want to tackle in 2018. For some additional ideas, check out our blog post on How to Translate the Brick and Mortar Shopping Experience to Mobile, and Top 20 Ecommerce Trends from IRCE 2017.
Portland's Ecommerce Meetup Group is also a great resource for ideas, support, and advice on all things ecommerce – maybe we'll see you at the next one? If, after the holidays you're more interested in dialing in existing systems , January is a great time to poke around under the hood of your website. Consider reaching out to us to adopt your site and provide support and maintenance so that by next holiday season it's all dialed in.
Everyone here at GRAYBOX is excited to see what this holiday season and 2017 Black Friday and Cyber Monday have to bring. May you and all our ecommerce client partners have a stellar season!