5 Ways E-Commerce Sites Can Prepare for the High-Traffic Holiday Season

published Nov 06, 2023
2 min read

E-commerce sites face a rising challenge as the holiday season shopping ramps up. Online sales are booming and peak seasons are sure to bring even more business, but this spike can be a double-edged sword. The sudden influx of traffic could also mean delays, disruption and crashes.

Managing this high traffic while trying to minimize your carbon footprint can be even more challenging. However, while it may be difficult, it’s far from impossible. Here are five ways e-commerce sites can prepare for the high-traffic holiday season.

1. Automate

Automation is one of the most important ways to stay productive during the busy holiday season. Repetitive, manual tasks like inventory management, invoicing, order fulfillment and data entry often take workers three hours a day but are easily automated. Applying robotic process automation (RPA) to these tasks will create far more time to focus on other things so more can be accomplished within the workday.

Customer service is another time-consuming task that you can automate easily during peak seasons. Chatbots can field questions and offer basic solutions before passing the more complex cases to human employees. This is a relatively simple addition to the process that reduces the overall workload, making it easier to manage higher volumes.

2. Review Site Speed and Capacity

It’s also important to ensure the website can handle a spike in visitor traffic without slowing down. This can seem at odds with sustainability at first, given data centers’ massive carbon footprint. While companies like Google target carbon-free data centers, you can still improve site speed and reliability without increasing your data center usage and capacity.

One easy, less carbon-intensive way to improve responsiveness is to review your media file sizes. Compress image sizes below 70 kilobytes and remove unnecessary graphics, videos and plugins. It’s also a good idea to audit your site to check for any bugs that need patching.

You can also use a content delivery network (CDN) to distribute your traffic across servers. This will balance incoming commands across data centers to ensure the most efficient responses. This process responds according to need, not just raising consumption to a higher level, so it’s a more efficient way to improve capacity.

3. Manage Expectations

It’s also important to realize that some delays are likely inevitable as traffic spikes. Even if all the operations on your end are efficient enough, shipping partners and other parties may not be, so expect some slowness. That means managing customer expectations to avoid disappointing anyone.

Customers form expectations of a company early, so it’s best to warn them of potentially slow shipping times as soon as possible. Post updates about peak seasons and their impact on order fulfillment on the site and include warnings about delays in the checkout process. People who expect this slowness won’t be as disappointed when it happens, and they’ll appreciate the transparency.

4. Plan Promotions Early

Another way to manage the high holiday traffic is to take care of as much as possible beforehand. One of the most important things to plan early is promotions. A set marketing and sales plan will streamline the busy part of the year and boost performance.

Think creatively about how to stand out and use promotions to your advantage. You could simultaneously address slow fulfillment times and entice customers by promoting how your company prizes sustainability over efficiency. Fast shipping can increase CO2 emissions by 15%, so you could show customers how choosing a less rushed delivery timeline helps them protect the environment.

Offering special discounts for customers who choose slower delivery windows could help, too. This reduces your stress and workload in the shipping process while promoting a more sustainable business model.

5. Rethink Warehouses Operations

E-commerce sites can also prepare for incoming demand by optimizing their warehouses. Many storage areas lack transparency and use inefficient workflows, making it harder to manage a spike in orders. Warehouse management systems (WMS) will help.

A WMS solution will automate some tasks to give you more time to focus on fulfillment. It can also reveal where inefficiencies lie, such as high-demand products being in an inaccessible part of the warehouse. You can also reduce energy expenditure within the warehouse as you become more efficient and sustainable.

Preparation Is Key to Managing High Traffic

The holiday season poses a challenge, but it’s a manageable one. Thorough early preparation will help e-commerce sites manage their technical and logistical resources to ensure maximum efficiency during busy times.

Becoming more responsive and productive doesn’t have to mean sacrificing sustainability, either. These five strategies will help companies meet surging demand while maintaining an eco-friendly business model.