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At Pivotree, we start working with our customers in August to prepare them for the holiday season. We work with our clients to implement solutions like Site Optimization, Load Testing, and Application Performance Monitoring to ensure their site performs under load. However, in the absence of some of these advanced services many merchants struggle with peak traffic, especially during the holiday season.

One thing we’ve noticed is that when customers attempt to access a site that is slow or having performance problems, they artificially increase the traffic to the site.  Why?  Because they are human.  If a site is not working properly they naturally try again on a different browser or a different device.  Rather than one session per person, there are multiple sessions generated and some visitors will keep coming back until they can finish their transaction. Add to that a deep discount, a hot product and a sense of urgency to get that particular product and you have people frantically trying to reach your web store.

On the flip side, some customers will be so turned off if your site doesn’t work on the first try that they might never come back (KISSmetrics has a great infographic on that very topic).

So what do you do when you’re marketing department has dropped a stellar campaign, and your site is buckling under the pressure?

I mentioned before that our recommendation would definitely be to plan ahead with solutions like Site Optimization, Load Testing and Application Performance Monitoring but failing that here are some things that you can do to minimize the impact of unexpectedly high traffic.


7 Tips to Manage Unexpected Traffic


  1. Confirm the traffic is legitimate. Remember this could be a well-placed DOS attack designed to hit your site at a time when it will have the greatest impact.
  2. Do an emergency hardware upgrade. Memory and CPU are important components to evaluate and possibly upgrade.
  3. Pause any scans or jobs that aren’t absolutely vital and make sure your catalog is stable. Don’t publish any changes during these periods.
  4. Adjust Google bot traffic thresholds. If your site has a lot of inventory and text, limit the number of times Google can scrape your site (FYI – this will affect your ranking in search engines like Google).
  5. Identify where traffic is coming from. Recently we saw spikes in traffic into an environment from Pinterest (400 sessions at once). In this case, we would recommend configuring the application to treat Pinterest and other social media sites like bot traffic, limiting the length of time they can keep a session open.
  6. Work with your team to identify any features that can be removed from the site. Focus on items that contribute to high loads, like View All options, Blank Searches, Hover Pop-ups, etc. Another example is to adjust type ahead thresholds Changing the number of characters and time before look-ups can save valuable capacity.
  7. Implement traffic throttling and split traffic to sorry pages. Be inventive with the wording for your sorry page. For example, tell visitors that they are in a virtual queue or give them the option to enter their email address to receive a future discount. This limits the negative effects on your brand and reduces traffic hitting resource-intensive sections of your web store.


These tips will get you through an emergency, but if you find yourself under this pressure regularly it is likely time to re-evaluate your infrastructure and managed services portfolio. We cannot stress enough how advanced managed services like Site Optimization, Load Testing and Application Performance Monitoring can help you proactively address site performance issues when it matters most: before they impact shoppers.

Still, have questions? Contact us today to learn more about preparing your retail website for peak traffic.