Preparing Your Online Store for Black Friday

7 Tips for Online Holiday Sales Success

Black Friday sales aren’t just a brick and mortar thing. This highly anticipated event has spread from the real world to the online world. Now everyone can jumpstart their holiday sales season and tap into one of the biggest shopping days of the year.
While the Saturday before Christmas usually comes out on top, Black Friday follows close behind with over $57 billion in sales brought in during last year’s four-day Black Friday weekend (November 28 – 31, 2013).
So what can you do to maximize online profits during this annual shopping event?
Tip 1: Review, Forecast, and Test Load!
If you were open for last year’s Black Friday then you have an advantage over the newcomers. Take a close look at your performance metrics for the previous year. This will help you anticipate the traffic and sales loads for this year. Factor in any variables that might impact traffic using last year’s numbers as a starting point. Then test load to make sure your servers are up to the challenge before they become your Black Friday frontline!
Tip 2: Organize Your Promotions, Coupons, and Deals
Promotions, coupons, and deals are a great way to entice shoppers to check out your pages on Black Friday. Do not wait until the last minute to prepare and organize these essential components. An enticing discount may be the key to grabbing up traffic from your competitors. Plan your sales and prepare email newsletters, ads, and other resources well in advance. These items should be ready to fly long before Black Friday.
Tip 3: Don’t Forget to Optimize Your Shopping Cart
Many online store owners realize that their web pages have to load fast if they want to see high Black Friday profits. While this is definitely an important aspect of your holiday sales preparations, don’t forget to also check your shopping cart speed. Just because they have items in the cart doesn’t mean shoppers won’t bail if it’s taking too long to process an order. This could be the bottleneck that costs you sales, so address it while you are testing your site load times prior to Black Friday.
Tip 4: Have a Backup in Case of Failing Servers
Even one hour of downtime on Black Friday can cost you big bucks. While you may have state-of-the-art hardware for your main servers, make sure you also have a backup plan. A failover, or equipment that is on standby, is vital during this highly taxing shopping event. Your failover will essentially pick up where your main servers left off should anything go down.
Tip 5: Create a Game Plan for Shipping & Staff

Your staff, shippers, software, and hardware must work harmoniously – even under the intense pressure of a busy Black Friday. In order for this to happen, make sure you have a game plan ready to go. Know who will be on hand to work that day and plan to have extra staff to keep those orders moving out the door. Also, consult with your shipping service to discuss late pickups, guaranteed delivery times, and other arrangements.
Tip 6: Set a Freeze Date for Code Changes

Changes in code have the potential to wreak havoc on your website. The days leading up to Black Friday is not the time to start tinkering with the backend programming. Choose and adhere to a freeze date for code changes. This will be the last day programmers can implement major updates. Your chosen date should allow ample time for repairs in case the last bit of code implemented goes awry. Thirty days prior to Thanksgiving is usually a good rule of thumb.
Tip 7: Get Your Data Archive Squared Away
Make sure that old data that is not in use is properly archived prior to Black Friday. Unnecessary data can bog down servers and require longer maintenance times. You can export archived data to a backup system or separate database so that it doesn’t decrease performance. This type of housecleaning can improve query speeds, indexing, and statistic updating.