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Stay away from these digital ‘weak links’ this holiday shopping season

With the holiday season’s official retail kick-off just weeks away, retailers need to be alert to the most common issues that can cause Web or mobile site outages or slowdowns.

The Black Friday-Cyber Monday weekend is the worst time to experience slow load times or outage. But no company, big or small, is immune to interruptions or slowdowns in their sites’ digital experiences, according to data from Catchpoint, a digital experience intelligence company that monitors retail desktop and mobile sites in the United States and worldwide.

Here are the top five “weakest links” that retailers need to avoid this holiday season, according to Catchpoint:

Third parties: These are site elements hosted by outside companies and beyond the direct control of the main site. One sluggish third-party component can slow down an entire webpage. In 2016, for example, a high-end home goods retailer experienced very slow page load times intermittently on Black Friday due to problems with a third-party photo display service.

Regional view: If an online retailer monitors page load times only using national averages, it could be missing local or statewide performance problems. For example, in 2016, a major retailer experienced problems on its desktop site due to an ad tech provider, ultimately leading to ongoing site blackouts in Phoenix, starting early in the long holiday weekend.

Critical application program interfaces (APIs): APIs are fundamental components of e-commerce sites, often supporting customer-facing, revenue-generating applications. Like third-party services, popular APIs can come under major strain during peak traffic periods. If an API supporting payment options on a site breaks, an abandoned shopping cart will be the likely result.

Page weight: One of the easiest ways to ensure faster load times is to make certain a site’s page weight (amount of data loaded into a shopper’s browser) isn’t too large. This is a technique large and small retailers often employ during peak traffic days, usually by eliminating excess images or graphics.

Server scalability: The Amazon Prime Day outage was reported to be the simple result of overloaded servers. Load testing internal servers is one of the most straightforward, simple things one can do, as well as having additional servers on standby.

“When an online retail site is unavailable on a big shopping day, it is essentially the same as shutting the doors of a physical store,” said Catchpoint CEO Mehdi Daoudi.

“And when your page load time slows, that’s the same as forcing a customer to stand in a long checkout line,” Daoudi added. “Online retailers can learn from the mistakes of the past to optimally prepare and best position themselves for a smooth kick-off to the holidays.”
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