November 18, 2019
4 min read time

Black Friday and holiday must-haves for retail websites


Salesforce Commerce Cloud data predictions reveal that 2019 will see at least 13% year-on-year revenue growth and total sales of USD 136 billion between November 1 and December 31 in the US alone. A lot of this is going to happen during the infamous Black Friday – Cyber Monday long weekend, also known as the Cyber Five. It is, after all, no longer a one-day event but a multi-day sales extravaganza in which consumer sales participation is high (up to 70% of consumers plan to get involved in the fun, according to McKinsey research) and growing globally.

The situation is do-or-die for a lot of retailers, and in 2019, due to how late in the month Thanksgiving falls, there will be one fewer week for retailers to reap the potential of the shopping season.

Holiday shopping mayhem: What could possibly go wrong?

Remaining competitive requires a host of different things - from ensuring real-time product and availability/inventory information, to a wide and attractive selection of merchandise, from a responsive, available site across devices to on-site personalization and relevance. These factors will all contribute to a consumer’s perception of your brand and their willingness to spend their hard-earned income with you. Most companies doing business online know that a lot can go wrong – and a whole host of things must go right – to make a successful shopping season both for consumers and for themselves.

There are several things that can trip you up, from coding errors to problems with third-party extensions and plugins (these can also significantly slow down your site performance if they aren’t completely crashing your site), to distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks to network downtime.

But what we’re going to talk about right now is how your good news – the abundant traffic to your website – can turn bad – think insurmountable traffic jam if you don’t prepare. Still, there is some good news on that front, too: you can prepare for this. The traffic is great: on one hand, many people coming to your site to shop at once is fabulous news for the bottom line. You want these sales! But you won’t come close to having them if, on the other hand, your servers are not set up to handle the rush, protecting your backend. Yes, the traffic overload can and will crash your entire site at the worst possible time.

The single most important holiday must-have for your website and apps

Performance is the single most important thing your website must deliver during the all-important Cyber Five period. This is true all the time, really – why limit it to one five-day period a year? But in a revenue-driven, intensive period like the end-of-year holidays, you cannot afford to leave web performance to chance.

And what do we mean by web performance? Mostly we mean speed and availability of content (no downtime). But this also encompasses (by no means an exhaustive list):

  • Protecting your backend/content availability – no downtime/maximum uptime
  • Speed of page load
  • Personalization
  • Up-to-date and accurate product information
  • Mobile-ready

What can you do to prepare? Turn to Varnish.

  • Origin shield and high availability – Implement Varnish (on-premise or in the cloud or a mix of both) to ramp up capacity, ensure availability under any level of traffic demand and protect your backend by using your cache as a content replicator.
  • Speed up – Page load speeds are one of the things that will make or break you. If a consumer has to wait, they will abandon your site. With caching technology you can get immediate speed gains.
  • Cache the uncacheable – the more personalized sites become, the harder they are to cache. And caching is key to ensuring speedy content delivery. But we’ve got a way around that.
  • Change on the fly and deploy – Get the flexibility to set your own caching policies at a granular level, to invalidate what you don’t need and broadcast cache changes across all your Varnish instances with a single action. Varnish helps you ensure that your freshest content is always available across your global footprint.
  • Make the most of the edge – Ensure that mobile pages benefit from the lowest page loads with dynamic, customized page assembly at the edge. You can also optimize dynamic content on mobile using the power of the edge.

Give your website the gift that gives all year round

While it is clear that there is a lot to think about to optimize and deliver content to meet the demands of the Cyber Five window, it should be clear how serious web performance is all year round. Adopting Varnish to help you anticipate and be ready for these considerations will not only give you a leg up when your site is under maximum pressure – it will continue to be a feature-rich gift that keeps giving throughout the year.


Varnish Black Friday Guide