Now The Holidays Are Upon Us, Are You Sleeping At Night?

With the holidays rapidly approaching, eBusiness executives face many a sleepless night as their eCommerce infrastructure comes under attack from hordes of festive online shoppers. These customers are buying online to avoid the crowds, queues and stress of the mall and they demand nothing short of an exemplary online experience. Slow pages, site outages, and checkout problems will at best cause frustration as loyal customers switch channel to the call center or brick and mortar stores, however most customers will simply take their business elsewhere. These customers will end up buying online from your competitors, but before they do, you can bet they will express their dismay on Twitter, Facebook, blogs and even through your own online reviews. The damage will extend beyond the online channel and the impact on brand reputation will be widespread and long lasting. 

No more aware of this than anyone are eBusiness executives. Q4 sales will either make or break entire annual revenue goals and the c-suite have zero tolerance whatsoever for site outages or transactional problems online during the holidays. Jobs are on the line.
 
Only last week Targets head of online retailing, Steve Eastman left the company after a high profile site outage back in September left shoppers staring at this screen all day long as they frantically tried to get their hands on an exclusive and limited range of luggage, clothes and house wares from Italian designer Missoni.  

Target has not been the only online retailer to suffer from embarrassing online outages recently. Domino's Pizza suffered a multi-hour site outage in  September after a successful campaign to give away 100,000 free pizza's created an online frenzy that ultimately overwhelmed the site infrastructure. Then last week Disney's online store ground to a halt after unprecidented demand for a new range of designer dolls. Disney were quick to react with a series of statements on Facebook, but the damge was done with over 1,300 upset customers venting their frustration. 

 
In my new report Is your site ready for the holidays? I take a detailed look a the meticulous planning process and testing that leading online retailers undertake to ensure that embarrassing site outages like those that affected Target, Dominos and Disney don't ever see the light of day. Planning for the holidays cannot be left to chance and the complexity of today’s eCommerce environment means that if it can go wrong it probably will. Most leading online retailers have instigated a program often referred to as "Make The Holidays" that runs year long and never ends. Make the holidays is a cycle of preparation, learning and improvement that is led jointly by the eBusiness team and the IT resources involved in supporting the business, but also involves many other roles from across the organization. In the report I look at the seven key phases in the annual holiday preparation calendar:
  • Last year's port mortem
  • This year’s forecast
  • 'Make the holidays' kickoff
  • Pre-production testing
  • Production testing
  • Lockdown
  • All hands on deck
Within each phase, I review the checklist of tasks that eBusiness leaders must ensure have been undertaken, thus allowing them to report with a high degree of confidence to the c-suite that the eCommerce site is ready for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Boxing Day and any other peaks of online visitors that might occur during the holidays.
 
I encourage you to download the report and use the holiday checklist included. Can you say with confidence that you are ready for every eventuality or have you skipped steps that might result in vulnerability during the holidays? There are still a few weeks left to plug the gaps and do a final round of testing. I look forward to your thoughts on the report and please share with me your holiday stories, good or bad.
 
Happy Holidays 
 
Peter