The winter holiday season is upon us, with Black Friday just days away. Is your ecommerce site ready?


With a spike in traffic comes the risk of third-party outages that could take your site down, an uptick in fraud and cyber attacks, and the potential for site and app performance issues.


You can’t afford those. The good news is, it’s not too late to get ready.


In a recent webinar, A Retailer’s Guide to Peak Selling Seasons, researchers from Internet Retailer and a web performance and security expert from Instart discussed key trends and what retailers need to do now to be ready for the holiday peak seasons that impact them most.


It’s not all about Christmas

In their research, Internet Retailer found that there are five key holiday peak seasons that account for nearly $137 billion in ecommerce sales per year.


While November/December obviously take the lead, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Back-to-School, and Halloween are also major peak seasons for ecommerce sales.


Each of these has their own unique shopping timeframe and most face stiff competition from Amazon during last-minute shopping. Depending on the category a retailer fits into, these holidays may hold peak revenue opportunities.


The risks are real

No matter which holiday is the “big” one, every retailer has to be prepared to handle the pressures of peak seasons. Your website and mobile applications are all at risk for:

  • High traffic volumes
  • Increasingly sophisticated attacks
  • Digital fraud spikes
  • Lack of planning
  • Third-party outages

These risks pose significant threats, but with careful planning and preparation you can avert them.


5 Steps to prepare for peak seasons


1. Create a plan

Start with a peak season plan that includes sales, marketing, digital ops, product, devOps, IT, and security, and customer service.


2. Test your plan

Work closely with your vendors to test your plan. Testing should involve simulating actual attacks, outages, and issues. Be sure to test your communications plan internally and externally, as well. Don’t assume your vendors know what your peak season is. Communicate with them so they can be prepared for the impact.


3. Layer your defenses

With digital fraud getting ever more sophisticated and bots that are really good now at replicating human behavior, a multi-layered security plan is absolutely essential. You want to deter cyber criminals by making it harder for them to penetrate your site and thus, encourage them to go elsewhere. No security plan is 100 percent attack proof; there are tools and teams though that can prevent attacks so that your customer experience isn’t impacted. At InStart, we offer a security suite as well as security consulting to help retailers protect their ecommerce platforms.


Be sure your security plan includes a “plan B” -- how you will respond if there is an attack. Will customers be sent to a splash page letting them know there’s an issue? Will you give them an incentive to return once the issue is resolved?


4. Don't trust 3rd party services, verify them

For most retailers, at least 50 percent of the code that comes together in a browser for a customer belongs to third-party services. While these third parties are necessary to deliver the customer experience expected today, they pose risks. Third-party services create larger attack surfaces, and potential outage and performance concerns. If they go down, they can take your site and apps down, too -- giving your customers no choice but to click elsewhere.


How can you address this? First, do an audit of all third-party services and tags. Know what is on your site. Next, use analytics and reporting to track site performance compared to conversion rates. This will show you if you have performance issues during peak seasons. If a tag is causing performance issues, see if it can be temporarily removed or paused during peak season.


5. Get Instart on your team

Instart offers holiday readiness planning, security posture reviews and products that can make this stuff automatic for you. Our Digital Experience Cloud delivers a faster, safer, more profitable digital experience. We also offer Security Suite with web app firewall, origin cloaking, self-service security rules engine, and DDoS protection. With Bot Defense, you can be sure you are protected from sophisticated bots and our Security Services team is here to offer one-time or ongoing security consulting services to support your team.


No matter which holiday is your peak season, being prepared can help ensure your business benefits from the 14.8 percent increase in online holiday spend that’s predicted for the US -- that’s $124 billion dollars -- a growth trend that is far outpacing the 2.7 percent uptick predicted for brick and mortar. Give your customers a great experience and know you’re ready for your best sales ever with peak season preparedness.