Leverage partners for peak season traffic

When it comes to peak season readiness, there are two types of companies - those who think they are ready and those that know they are ready. When upwards of 30% of your annual revenue can be made in a single weekend, it is critically important to know that you are ready for everything that can come with your peak season - traffic surges, outages, attacks, human error and more.


The most important factor in peak season success is having a plan, but getting prepared shouldn’t be solely on your shoulders. The nature of digital businesses and their digital supply chains is that you (should) have trustworthy vendors that can help you craft, test, and implement your readiness plan before your peak season starts. Typically, Digital Experience Management Platforms, CDN vendors, Security vendors, hosting companies and commerce platforms are best positioned to help you get ready for your peak season(s). Here are our tips for preparing to make the most of your peak season.


Make a plan, test it, and publish it:


The single most important thing you can do to prepare for a peak season event is to go through the exercise of making a detailed plan with contingencies. This will help align all the key stakeholders, ensure that you talk through different scenarios, surface potential issues or conflicts, and give everyone on your team clear guidance regarding what to do in case of an incident our outage. The hope is that you won't need to put anything in your plan into action, but going through the exercise will be well worth the effort.


Our advice:

Build a comprehensive, durable peak season plan that covers key items from Marketing, DevOps, IT, Product and Security. This plan should be comprehensive, containing: key points of contact in each department, dates of the peak season and surrounding readiness periods, dates of important marketing campaigns, blackout dates for code changes, as well as action plans in case of outages, breaches or other technical issues.


Load Testing:


It is not uncommon to see two, five, or even ten times the amount of normal traffic during a peak season period. Typically this is real traffic, influenced by great sales and marketing campaigns and seasonality. However, another cause of traffic surges during peak seasons can be fraudulent in nature, for example, attackers attempting to DDoS your site. Testing your systems, and your service providers’ systems - with realistic traffic loads - is a very important step in making sure your customers have a great experience with your brand.


Our advice:

Work closely with your service providers to plan and execute realistic load tests before peak season. These should be closely coordinated with your service providers, and most likely each provider has a recommended process and can help build a test that will actually resemble your specific scale, device diversity, and geo-location needs.  One important note: please don’t just point a bunch of traffic at the service without communicating with them - they will most likely see this as a DDoS attempt and (correctly) block that traffic.


Security Planning:


Unfortunately, peak season periods are prime targets for fraud and abuse by attackers. Whether it is taking down your site with a DDoS attack, fraudulently holding or buying all of your inventory, or stealing personal information from your shoppers, your teams should be very cognizant of potential threats.


Our advice:

In addition to building out a robust internal security plan, you should work with your critical service providers and security vendors to test and audit all security controls prior to your peak season. Ensure all systems are updated, patched and maintained correctly. Most importantly, conduct an audit of your website, service providers, and supply chains for potential risk. Something like a 3rd-party tag or JavaScript resource might not seem like an obvious risk, but in light of the recent MageCart breaches, it is worth your time to conduct an audit of all of the code and systems that your users could interact with during a peak season.


Finally, remember that even if you have a solid peak season plan in place, things may not go smoothly. Amazon, Target, PayPal, and others have shown that even with huge scale, thousands of experts, and plenty of time to prepare, things will go wrong. The hope is that by going through the exercise of building a plan, auditing systems, conducting drills and testing out your response plans, you and your team will be ready to deal with the unexpected and come through with a successful peak season despite any obstacles.


Peak season checklist