Navigating the Traffic Surge: Shopify's Peak Performance Playbook

by: Zain Alami11/17/2023

Quick Summary In the realm of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we recognize the indispensable need for a resilient infrastructure capable of handling a multitude of customers, intricate operations, seamless integrations, and unwavering support. It's in this context that Shopify Plus emerges as the solution tailor-made for high-growth businesses primed for explosive expansion during high-traffic sales events. Read on.

Black Friday Cyber Monday presents a monumental opportunity for retailers to capitalize on a shopping frenzy. E-commerce merchants globally eagerly look forward to this retail event, prepared to witness a surge in orders and a substantial boost in revenue.

Yet, if your e-commerce platform can't adeptly handle the surge in traffic, you're in for a rough ride. Site downtime during the Black Friday event and other flash sales can lead to customer frustration, harm your brand's image, and ultimately result in significant revenue loss.

Has it happened before? The short answer is yes.

Many well-known brands have fallen victim to e-commerce platforms that are incompetent to support high-traffic surges. One classic example is Gymshark. The fitness apparel and accessories brand, on Magento at the time, went offline for 8 hours and lost around $143,000 in sales due to one bug in one app that the brand wasn’t t even using – crashing the entire site on the long-waited BFCM shopping event and severely denting the brand’s reputation.

Following this disaster, GymShark migrated to Shopify Plus, a reliable enterprise-level platform that scales on demand, perfectly suited for dynamic brands like Gymshark. 

In the realm of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we recognize the indispensable need for a resilient infrastructure capable of handling a multitude of customers, intricate operations, seamless integrations, and unwavering support. It's in this context that Shopify Plus emerges as the solution tailor-made for high-growth businesses primed for explosive expansion during high-traffic sales events. 

Nonetheless, we acknowledge that the path to business expansion is not without its share of hurdles. In this blog, we unveil the 5 most prevalent challenges that high-growth merchants encounter as they embark on the journey of scaling their enterprises during the BFCM surge—and how Shopify Plus stands ready to vanquish these growth-related tribulations.

Handling Traffic Surges

During the Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM) weekend of 2022, Shopify merchants raked in an impressive $7.5 billion in sales. With over 52 million shoppers flocking to Shopify merchants during BFCM, these numbers underscore the immense opportunities presented by the year's most hectic shopping event.

However, there are few things as disheartening as attracting hundreds, or even thousands, of eager visitors to your website, only to experience a crippling site crash.

What enables Shopify to manage such elevated levels of activity? The answer lies in the platform's cloud-based infrastructure and its expansive global network of servers.

Shopify stands as a comprehensive, cloud-based e-commerce solution. Every Shopify merchant benefits from the inclusion of a Content Delivery Network (CDN). This CDN comprises an array of web servers strategically distributed across numerous global locations. It ensures that content is swiftly served to website visitors from the server closest to their location. 

The cloud-based infrastructure of Shopify Plus is exceptionally robust, capable of handling 80,000 requests per second for over 600,000 merchants during peak operations. Through ongoing load testing, Shopify ensures your customers experience a remarkable 99.99% uptime, even when the server is handling thousands of transactions every minute.

With this sophisticated technical framework in place, Shopify is not just adequately prepared but exceptionally adept at effortlessly managing substantial levels of web traffic – guaranteeing that online stores load consistently and rapidly worldwide, ensuring seamless data flow even during peak trading periods.

Leveraging Workflow Automation

There’s a lot to get done every day when running an ecommerce business. Even more during high-traffic events like BFCM when internal resources are stretched and automation becomes even more handy. 

Shopify Flow, an advanced e-commerce automation tool exclusive to Shopify Plus users, enables the automation of various routine business management processes. This includes tasks like auto-tagging newly created products based on their titles to streamline collection allocation, optimizing order dispatch by selecting the closest warehouse for cost savings on shipping, and the effortless sending of automated emails and notifications to both customers and staff. These are just a sample of the numerous business processes that can be efficiently managed with a few simple clicks.

With Flow, you can easily create tailored workflows without requiring any coding skills. Flow is purposefully designed to grant agile merchants the freedom to concentrate on their broader strategic goals. 

While Shopify Flow offers a wide array of fully customizable templates to assist you during BFCM, here are three of the most commonly utilized ones that relate directly to higher performance:

Create an automated email campaign that’s timed to coincide with the launch of your sales event

With Flows, Shopify Plus merchants can establish a connection between Launchpad sales events and Klaviyo email campaigns. For instance, if your sale is scheduled to start at midnight, once you've configured your Launchpad event, open this Flow Template and make the necessary adjustments to the Klaviyo settings to link the Flow with the relevant email campaign. As soon as your Launchpad event officially begins at midnight, Flow will automatically trigger Klaviyo to send out emails to your subscribers, promptly informing them that the sale has commenced.

Set up a Shopify Flow that automatically alerts you when a product is low or out of stock

Monitoring inventory levels during BFCM can be time-consuming and prone to human error. However, with Shopify Flow, you can implement an automated system that alerts your marketing and fulfillment teams when a product is nearing low stock or has sold out completely using the Inventory Management Templates. This automation eliminates the risk of human error and minimizes the need to process refunds or cancellations for limited-edition products.

Here's how it works: When a product's inventory reaches a specified threshold, an initial notification is sent to a shared Slack channel, keeping both marketing and fulfillment teams informed. This acts as an early reminder to consider reordering from suppliers and allows the marketing team to adjust online ad campaigns to promote products with healthier inventory levels. As soon as a product is completely sold out, it is automatically hidden from the online store, preventing customers from adding it to their cart.

Set up automation that prevents known fraudsters from purchasing products

Merchants have a primary concern regarding fraudulent transactions during BFCM. The good news is that Shopify Plus already includes built-in bot protection. However, to further enhance security during the hectic sales period when identifying suspicious activity may be challenging, blocking known fraudulent customers can provide an additional layer of protection.

One of the simplest and quickest-to-implement workflows in this regard involves having the email or IP addresses of known resellers. You can then modify the "cancel, refund, and restock high-risk orders" template. With this adjustment, if an order is placed by a shopper on your blacklist, it will automatically be canceled and the items restocked, ensuring that legitimate shoppers can proceed without any hindrance.

Enhancing Functionality with Third-party Applications

Front-end performance is unquestionably vital, particularly during the high-stakes period of BFCM. The success of a multimillion-dollar business heavily depends on the seamless efficiency of behind-the-scenes operations. From overseeing numerous online stores and fulfillment centers to managing various sales channels, customer relationships, and an extensive product catalog and discounted offering, the list of responsibilities is seemingly endless. 

As a high-growth merchant embarks on Shopify Plus, they leverage the platform's robust CMS and OMS capabilities as a solid starting point. This foundation simplifies the management of various online stores, fulfillment centers, channels, and relationships. As the merchant's requirements evolve beyond this initial stage, Shopify Plus actively seeks out top-tier developers and partners globally. By fostering a vibrant community around these experts, Shopify Plus encourages them to scale their operations and expand their businesses on the Shopify platform.

Shopify boasts a vast ecosystem of third-party applications, +8000 apps to put in context, that cater to every facet of your e-commerce store – deemed helpful in BFCM and beyond. These applications offer a broad spectrum of capabilities, including but not limited to managing subscription services, creating and managing product bundles, delivering personalized shopping experiences, improving search functionality, optimizing enterprise resource planning (ERP) processes, and enhancing customer support solutions.

What sets Shopify apart is the convenience with which you can access these tools. They are all readily available through the Shopify app store, making it incredibly straightforward for online businesses to find, integrate, and utilize these solutions. Preferred partners include: 

  • Content Management System: Sanity 

  • Email Marketing: Klaviyo 

  • Personalization: Dynamic Yield 

  • Reviews: Yotpo

  • Subscriptions: Ordergroove

  • Customer Service: Gorgias

Guarding Against Financial Losses Due to Cyber Threats

Cybersecurity isn't just a minor concern; it's a substantial issue, given the average cost of a malware attack at $2.6 million. The impact goes beyond the financial realm, affecting the trust your customers have in your business. To put that into perspective, more than 67% of customers stopped mid-shopping because something aroused their suspicion, according to Tidio. 

With Shopify Plus, you can place your trust in the robust security infrastructure that supports over 600,000 merchants. The platform comes with hosting and protection out of the box, ensuring full compliance with Level 1 PCI DSS—the gold security standard for businesses that store, transmit, or process credit card data. 

Unlike many ecommerce sites that focus on SSL encryption and HTTPS protocols during checkout, Shopify Plus secures the entire shopping experience, covering the storefront to the admin. This ensures that sensitive information, including credit card details and user passwords (salted and hashed using the bcrypt algorithm), remains encrypted during transmission and storage.

To boost trust and security, Shopify Plus goes beyond the common domain-validated SSL (DV SSL). It provides all customers with a free extended validation SSL (EV SSL), identifiable by its display in the URL window of major browsers—an extra layer of assurance for a secure online experience.

Selling Globally

As per Shopify data, 35% of the total traffic on the platform originates from international visitors, and this figure is anticipated to increase further. However, selling internationally also means increased competition specifically when your storefront isn’t customized to cater to international customers in their preferred language and currency. 

What’s more, site speed is another crucial factor that stands between cart abandonment and completed transactions, particularly during peak traffic periods like BFCM. 

Shopify Plus is tailored for operation in a global marketplace, supporting 20 languages and 133 local currencies. You can establish international pricing, employ international domains, provide local payment methods in native currencies, and completely customize the experience for local shoppers. Shopify Plus is also backed by impressive speed. Merchants benefit from Shopify's top-tier content delivery network (CDN) powered by Fastly, provided at no additional cost. This ensures rapid website rendering globally, with a focus on key regions such as the US, UK, APAC (Asia, Australia, and New Zealand), as well as South America and southern Africa – offering enhanced customer experience for customers worldwide.

The ecommerce landscape is highly dynamic, and events like BFCM represent just one among many high-traffic sales occasions throughout the year. While it's an excellent opportunity to assess the capabilities of your chosen ecommerce platform, it's equally important to recognize that prioritizing a superior customer experience, supported by a reliable, robust, and innovative technological backend, should be a year-round focus.

As a Shopify Plus Partner Agency, Avex collaborates with mid-market and enterprise brands, offering expertise in various disciplines to deliver exceptional commerce experiences. Our focus involves designing, building, and optimizing high-performing ecommerce websites on Shopify Plus, ensuring they seamlessly handle periods of high traffic.

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