Keep The Lights On: Why Uptime is Critical for eCommerce Success

With the holiday shopping season being a critical part of many retailers’ annual revenue, it’s also a good time to take a look at the user experience (UX) of shopping on the web and how that can impact sales. Every eCommerce manager loses sleep starting on Thanksgiving, praying their site’s infrastructure can handle the spike in traffic and transactions that come with Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Dyn Inc, a leading Infrastructure-as-a-Service provider, posted some interesting statistics about the load placed on Internet retailers during this busy weekend. According to the National Retail Foundation, 2010 saw over $212 million spent on Internet purchases Thanksgiving weekend. This is a trend that won’t reverse, as Reuters claimed a 14% increase in 2011.

This drastic increase in traffic can cause problems for unprepared websites. While hackers will use a distributed Denial of Service (DoS) attack to bring a website down, a heavy load of retail traffic effectively accomplishes  the same thing: flushing the server with traffic, overloading its ability to keep-up with the demand.

Once a website collapses, dollars can’t be spent, and your bottom line is instantly hurt. For small retailers, this could mean hundreds of dollars lost; for others, going dark could mean the difference between Black Friday and a Bloody Friday. In fact, analysts estimate that a single hour of downtime can cost upwards of $150,000.



In some cases, it’s not the web server that goes down — it can be the DNS provider. Often overlooked as Internet “plumbing,” DNS is the technology that translates a website’s URL to an IP address, essentially acting as the phonebook for the web.

DNS recently became a news item when GoDaddy’s DNS services infamously went down in September of 2012. As a result, millions of websites using GoDaddy as a DNS provider were unreachable for over two hours. This amount of downtime would be a disaster for any Internet retailer, especially during the holiday season.

As a marketing manager, it’s vital to understand that your projected ROI off web properties, social media strategy — everything — becomes obsolete if your website goes dark. Customers can’t buy from you if they can’t access your website. Guaranteed uptime should be the first part of the user experience, and then you can worry about the cart!

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