A successful web store during busy periods: make sure you are ready for them

As a merchant, you obviously want as many busy periods as possible so that you can promote your business and your products. Your web store can help you achieve this, as long as it is adequately prepared to handle large numbers of visitors. In this article, we will give you some valuable tips on how to run a successful web store during peak periods (sales, special offers, etc.).Discover our e-commerce solutions

It has been clear for some time now that a web store is a vital addition to your bricks-and-mortar shop. In 2020, Belgians spent 8.8 billion (!) euros on web stores, which already accounts for one quarter of the total number of retail outlets. And if things progress as they do in Great Britain, they will account for half of that number in just 5 years' time!

How can you turn your web store into a success?

Optimizing your webshop for extra turnover

A good shop is one where customers feel at home. And the same is true for a good web store: if the people who visit your web store can find the right product quickly and easily, your sales will undoubtedly be boosted.

Therefore, we would like to give you a few tips on how to get the most out of your web store and how to ensure that your web store is prepared for periods when many customers visit it (sales, holidays, Black Friday, etc.).

Before you start running special offers on certain products, and successfully get through peak periods, there are several things you should bear in mind. So here is a detailed roadmap!

1. Determine the products you want to highlight

It is not rocket science, but as a merchant, you should not get too carried away when the sales are on, for example. We recommend that you draw up a plan of action in advance... Which products are you going to promote? And how much discount can you give? In this respect, it is also useful to occasionally check what the competition is offering. Do not hesitate to subscribe to newsletters from other online retailers – this will help you to keep abreast of the prices that others are currently offering!

Arranging your web store like your physical shop

Obviously, you do not have to install shelves in your web store, but it may be a good idea for your web store to follow the same logical order as your physical shop. This approach, which is called 'omnichannel retail', allows your customers to enjoy the same experience in your web store as they do offline. Add a separate 'sales' or 'special offers' section to your web store, so that your visitors can immediately see where they can find the best bargains. In other words, make sure that everything is always very clear when it comes to what you have to offer.

If you have an online store that was built using ShopBuilder or WooCommerce for WordPress, you can highlight your special offers with great ease.

2. Make sure your website is prepared for high traffic days

Go for cloud hosting and more scalability

Just like you cannot organise Tomorrowland in a small parish hall, you cannot run large-scale campaigns on a website that is unable to cope with high traffic peaks. Because many visitors at once can slow down your website or even cause it to crash. And slow websites are detrimental to your business.

Research has shown that half of Internet users expect a website to load within 2 seconds. If your website takes longer than 3 seconds to load, 40% of your visitors will abandon it.

That is why Combell offers you a number of options to make sure that your website and your web store always run as smoothly as possible, even during major traffic peaks.

Make sure your software is up to date

Every so often, you might give your physical shop a new lick of paint or repair a broken shelf. But make sure you also think about the shelves of your web store! Make sure your web store does not use the same software version for years. New software versions are usually faster and include the latest security updates. Installing updates may take some time, but it will ensure that your website works properly.

If you have a good hosting provider, it will regularly update its infrastructure (operating systems, web servers, etc.). The only thing left for you to do is to update your website.

If you would rather not lose any sleep over updates to your WordPress web store, you can opt for Managed WordPress.

Speed up your web store using smart caching techniques

Varnish

Caching ensures that the pages on your website load faster. Here is a simple explanation: caching processes data 'behind the scenes' more quickly, which means your visitors get to see pages faster. This is not a trivial matter, because without caching, the large number of people who visit your e-shop could cause your server to crash. Fortunately, your hosting partner offers advanced caching technologies such as Varnish and Redis.

But not every page on your website can be cached just like that. For example, the payment process on your web store is a lot more complex. Moreover, the fact that a page loads slowly can be caused by several things. That is why it is always advisable to simulate the performance of your website in advance, so that you know where the possible problem lies.

Go for cloud hosting and more scalability

Attracting more visitors to your web store is a great achievement, but it does feel a lot less satisfying if your equipment suddenly reaches the limits of its capacity. That is why a scalable infrastructure is crucial: it allows you to increase capacity when necessary. Feel free to ask your hosting partner about the possibilities of cloud servers, or a temporary upgrade of your current infrastructure. As a result, your website will be fully available and scalable.

Stress testing

What impact does caching have? How does the code behave on the current infrastructure, and how much additional capacity is required to handle busy periods? The answers to these questions depend on various factors.

Stress testing allows you to check whether your successful web store is ready for optimal performance. We at Combell simulate all kinds of user scenarios in order to test the responsiveness, stability and speed of your website under different circumstances. This process also allows us to detect problematic elements in your code or your settings.

If the results of the stress test are not satisfactory, you can consult with your hosting partner to see where there is room for improvement. That way, you can optimise where necessary.

Notify your hosting provider

A good hosting partner will always provide monitoring, so that it can take action if a problem arises. But if you expect traffic peaks, it is still recommended to inform your hosting provider beforehand. This way, it can take proactive measures, if necessary, and increase the capacity of your web store.

"When we start selling tickets, we always expect peaks. In such cases, we let Simon, our contact at Combell, know about it. This way, he can keep an eye on things and, if necessary, increase capacity." - Frederik Declercq, marketing manager at Gent Jazz and Jazz Middelheim

You can read the full customer case study here:

In short, focus on user experience

Here is a great tip: visit your website once in a while as if you were a visitor yourself, or ask someone close to you to place a test order. This will help you identify the weaknesses of your web store, and make the necessary adjustments.

Is the web design clear enough? Is the website easy to use? And does your website generally work well enough? As mentioned above, loading speed and overall performance are key to boosting your sales. If your website is slower than that of one of your competitors, chances are that your customers will leave you for this other company!

For users, a perfect shopping experience is sometimes achieved through small things. Here is a list of minor adjustments that usually work wonders:

  • If you work with a webmaster, you can ask him or her to combine your JavaScript and CSS files
  • Make sure the pictures of your products are not too big (but definitely not too small either)
  • Combine small images into larger files using image sprites
  • Activate GZIP compression for your pages. This is done at the server level, so be sure to ask your hosting provider about it.

3. Fine-tune your online marketing

Once your web store is ready to go live, the only thing left to do is to attract visitors. And this is where online marketing comes in. The easiest methods are SEO and e-mail campaigns.

Rank higher thanks to SEO

Rank higher in Google thanks to SEO

When you build a web store or a website, you want to make sure that Internet users can find it easily via search engines. And that is precisely what SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is all about.

You can optimise your web store using the right terms and keywords, so that Google automatically lists your website and ranks it higher in its search results. Of course, you can also achieve such a high position by 'buying' it – a process known as SEA (Search Engine Advertising). The only thing is that those ads are really expensive. And although the difference with 'natural' search results is camouflaged as much as possible, experienced Internet users know that they are advertisements and may therefore distrust those results.

If you use ShopBuilder, the software comes with built-in SEO tools, and WordPress also has plug-ins that will help you improve your SEO.

E-mail campaigns

E-mail campaigns (such as sending out a newsletter) are a great way to contact your consumers and highlight your special offers. Such campaigns have a proven track record: if you go about them the right way, you will see your sales increase in no time. That is why it is also worthwhile to include a contact form on your website, allowing customers to subscribe to a newsletter.

"E-mail campaigns have an incredible return on investment: for every euro you spend, you get 42 back. That is a 4,200% ROI."

DMA, Europe's largest marketing association

In order to engage in e-mail marketing, you need to use tools that allow you to easily send large numbers of e-mails, such as Flexmail or Mailchimp. Each Combell customer can use a free Flexmail account, which allows him or her to send 5 campaigns to 200 recipients every month.Discover the benefits of Flexmail

Boosting your sales through social media

The role of social media in reaching people should not be underestimated. If you have an Instagram or Facebook page, or if you are not afraid to use TikTok (if your target group uses it), you can come across as trustworthy by using beautiful pictures, original content and good writing skills. This will also help spread the word about your company!

Most importantly: keep an eye on your successful web store

For many web stores, end-of-season sales are the most exciting, but also the most challenging time of the year. That is why it is important to be more alert at those moments. If there are problems with the speed or the performance of your website, a good hosting provider will help you solve them in no time at all.

Would you like to learn more about how you can run a web store with total confidence? Feel free to contact our experts!