The Essentials of Website Monitoring on Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Last week we gave you a checklist of last-minute preparations to get your website ready for the traffic its going to experience on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This week, we continue in that theme with “game-day” tips for monitoring the performance of your website or web application, to keep it running smoothly and make sure you are delivering a great end-user experience.

Application performance monitoring is somewhat of a hot topic here at Neotys, as this week we are proud to announce a new product in our family: NeoSense. NeoSense is a proactive application performance monitoring solution for all web and mobile applications. It generates synthetic users in production and actively monitors the performance and availability of critical business transactions within your recorded user paths.

Over the past few years, the dynamics of shopping during the Thanksgiving weekend have been shifting. More and more, retailers are offering deals on Thanksgiving day – both online and offline – which has been eating into sales for Black Friday. As a result, Cyber Monday is now squarely competing for top shopping day.

What does that all mean? Simply – it’s going to be a frenzy. All. Weekend.

So if you want to avoid throwing away your turkey stuffing sandwiches because your website bombed out, check out these tips.

Track Basic Response

Start with the basics. You’ll want to know that online visitors can access your site, pages are loading, and everything looks good. So set up some basic monitors that show:

  • Page initial response
  • Full page load
  • Broken links & 404s

Remember that a slow or inaccessible site translates directly into lost business. According to Strangeloop, 57% of online consumers will abandon a site after waiting 3 seconds. 80% of these people will not return.

Track Response Times for Key Transactions

Page response times are important, but your users aren’t simply visiting pages – they are conducting transactions. Use synthetic user monitoring like what you’ll find in NeoSense to simulate the transactions your visitors are actually executing:

  • Login
  • Search
  • Compare
  • Checkout

One important feature in NeoSense is that you can easily simulate transactions that traverse multiple URLs or involve complex technologies like audio or video streaming. Especially on high-traffic days, you want to know exactly what your users are experiencing, without having to slow them down.

Track Across Geographies

Don’t assume that everyone visiting the website is having the same experience. Differences in internet access, available bandwidth, and network infrastructure can have a big impact on what users actually see, especially across geographic regions. You can use synthetic monitoring in conjunction with geographically distributed clouds to see exactly what users in different parts of the world are experiencing when they come to your website.

Track Mobile

This year, 31% of digital sales made via a smart phone or a tablet, compared to 21% last year, according to research by Adobe. That’s an enormous percentage – so you’ll want to pay special attention to mobile shoppers. Have tests set up to keep tabs on different carriers and different devices. Also be sure to track the visual experience as there are so many different screen sizes available on the market.

Track End-User Behavior and the Business

Although the sales & marketing folks will be all over these metrics, it’s a really smart idea to keep on top of them yourself, as a load tester. It helps you put the web operation into the context of the business, making you a more effective partner in your organization.

  • User behavior metrics
    • Time on site
    • Pages visited
    • Page duration
    • Page bounces
    • Business metrics
    • Order values
    • Products per order
    • Conversion rate
    • Abandonment rate

Anomalies in these key performance metrics could actually indicate a technology problem, so they are worth keeping an eye on. You’ll want to be aware issues like these as soon as possible.

What To Do With These Metrics

As you prepare to monitor your website throughout Thanksgiving weekend, set up these metrics and any others you have in dashboards that you can access from any web browser or mobile device. Configure alerts that go off if certain thresholds are passed. If you are able to, have someone monitoring these at all times. And at the very least, make it easy for you to know a problem exists without having to excuse yourself from dinner to check.

With your dashboards set up, get the right people together from all your relevant teams: performance engineering, development, operations, marketing, and the business. Talk through the metrics you are monitoring and most importantly, what you’ll do as a team if a problem arises. Hopefully you won’t hit any big issues, but luck favors the prepared.

Finally, when things settle down after the big weekend, pull your team back together and learn from your experience. Whether specific failures happened or not, there is always something to take away and improve upon next time.

Super Saturday Is Just Around The Corner

Just in case things don’t go perfectly smooth, have no fear. This year Super Saturday (the last Saturday before Christmas) may actually be a BIGGER shopping day than Black Friday. So you’ll get the opportunity to fix whatever problems you had and try it all again in just a few weeks! Although if you’ve done your homework and set things up well, Super Saturday will simply be another chance to demonstrate how well your website operations are running.

We at Neotys sincerely hope your business will be on fire this coming holiday weekend, and your online infrastructure will be able to easily take those orders and delight your customers. Happy Thanksgiving!

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