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Preparing your website for Black Friday

An article from ComputerMinds - Building with Drupal in the UK since 2005
29th Oct 2019

Ross Bale

Developer

Does your site have an online store? Are you looking to have sales on during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday period? Then read on - here are some quick tips to help you make the most of the sales period by ensuring that everything goes as smoothly as possible to make sure both your marketing and site are up to scratch.

Marketing / Promotion

You should have a plan in place for marketing your deals, otherwise how are people going to find out about them? This could include; promotions on your own website, promotion via social media (e.g Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and also via email.

Social media posts and emails should be planned out in advance and posted regularly enough in the run up so that people are fully aware about when your sale will be taking place and what offers they might be able to get (be careful not to post *too much* and annoy people though!).

Having promotional material on your site homepage is a great idea as it’s the first page a lot of customers will enter the site through. Effective promotional content present in the run-up to the sales period should help ensure that you are maximising the potential number of customers that will return to check out your sales. You should ensure that any promotional messages or content remain in place until after you have finished your sales.

Analytics - Sales goals

If your site was launched at least a year ago and you have Google Analytics in place (you’d be crazy not to, right?) then you should hopefully have some reliable data that you can look at from the same sales period last year, in order to better prepare and improve upon for this year.

  • What pages / products were the most popular last year?
  • Was there anything in particular about these pages / products e.g. better design / marketing that you think helped over others?
  • Are there any sales targets that you want to set or update and improve upon? 
  • How many people visited your site more than usual? 
  • Were your SEO keywords effective, if not can they be improved upon?
  • How many users are visiting from mobile devices, is your site as mobile friendly as it can be?

Once the sales period is over for this year and you are armed with all the analytics data from this year and the previous year(s)... then you can compare and see if you have hit or missed any sales targets that you may have set. You’ll hopefully also be able to see what worked well (or not so well) in your SEO and marketing to note areas of improvement for subsequent sales you may have in the future.

Discounts

Arguably one of the most important points of what you should consider are the discounts you will be offering on the site. If you don’t usually offer discounts or use discount codes on the site, then it would be wise to test any new discount logic or discount codes on a test environment before they go live. If there are any unexpected issues with the discounts not working correctly or not behaving in the way that you’d imagine, then you (or your developer!) have a chance to fix these things before you actually put them live. 

If you have a Drupal site with e-commerce and use discounts, then you will most likely be using the commerce_discount module to manage discounts on the site. This module generally works well at a basic level, although sometimes once you try and add in some more complex discounting logic, things can sometimes stop working properly. If you are having any commerce_discount related issues on your site and need them solved, or need some bespoke development done to handle your more complex discounting logic, then get in contact with us.

Orders

A final point that you may not have thought of is in regards to the (hopeful) extra increase in orders going through the site in the sales period. Is your stock management up to date and adequate to handle the extra increase in sales? Overselling any products and having to cancel orders is not good for the customer experience and is likely to lead to negative reviews, potentially damaging your reputation. If your site is using Drupal commerce then the commerce_stock contrib module is your best friend here. Amongst other things it allows you to have "add to cart" validation that can prevent users from adding products that are out of stock, and also disable the "add to cart" button when the stock level reaches zero.

Similarly you should think about how you’ll meet your usual shipping estimates that you have displayed on your website. If you anticipate that you won’t be able to keep to your usual timings then you should display a message in a prominent place on the site that the order processing and shipping may take longer than usual during the sales period.

The (Slightly) Technical Bit - Site load, speed, optimisation.

Well before the sales period even begins you should ensure that your site is running at an optimal speed. Google’s PageSpeed Insights can be used to benchmark your site and give you a detailed analysis of page load times and where you can improve by optimising your assets, code and more. The quicker your pages load, the more likely it is that people stick around on your site and don’t get frustrated trying to access what they want - and this is all the more important when your site might get a big influx of visitors during the sales period.

Following on from the Analytics section above; using any data you have for site visitor numbers from the previous year should give you a good indication of the number of visitors that you would hopefully expect to get this year. If the larger-than-usual amount of people visiting your site caused any server timeout or other connection issues, then you should ensure to better prepare the server and site for the influx this year.

I won’t go into too much detail here as benchmarking and optimising a site is a whole article in itself! but a few key points and quick wins to help your site are:

  • Ensuring you have an appropriate caching setup on your site. On a Drupal site as a bare minimum this would include enabling CSS & Javascript aggregation and ensuring Drupal page caching is enabled. The use of a reverse proxy such as Varnish is highly recommended as well.
  • Optimising images the site is serving up with a third party image optimising service such as Kraken. This will shrink file sizes without any noticeable decline in quality.
  • Using a CDN such as Amazon CloudFront to serve up your assets.
  • Minifying Javascript. On a Drupal site this is easy with the use of a module such as Minify JS.
  • Reducing the number of DOM elements to improve page load time.

The PageSpeed Insights tool mentioned above can act as a useful tool to test the optimisations you have done so that you know when you are actually making a (positive!) difference. Hopefully your developer has already done most of the above but if not, make sure they do in good time before the sales period begins.

And finally, if you haven't already, it's a good idea to let your web team know that you are planning a Black Friday sale. This will ensure they're not surprised when the server traffic spikes and they can make recommendations (if needed) to handle the increased traffic. The last thing you want is your site falling down and costing you sales!

Hi, thanks for reading

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