While Christmas is still over 2 months away, the biggest shopping days before Christmas are not.  As a Canadian Retailer, you need to mark Thursday, November 23 down on your calendar.  That is because this is American Thanksgiving, which means that Friday, the 24th is Black Friday, and the following Monday (Nov. 27th) is Cyber Monday – traditionally the biggest online shopping day of the year.

Over the past few years in Canada we’ve seen more and more retailers take advantage of the Black Friday phenomenon.  Even though our Thanksgiving is more than a month past, Canadian retailers try to lure Canadian shoppers back with deals like those found across the border.

But brick and mortar retailers aren’t the only ones thinking about the American Thanksgiving.  There is huge potential for e-commerce retailers as well, whether you also have a brick and mortar store or not.

That’s because, according to research conducted by Ebates Canada, 46 per cent of Canadians say they shopped online on Black Friday in 2016, while 37 per cent shopped online on Cyber Monday.  In real numbers that’s almost 13 ½ million online shoppers for Cyber Monday and over 16 ½ million shopping online on Black Friday.  That accounted for almost $20 billion spent online in Canada on those 2 days alone!

So, the question then is this:  Is your website ready for the potential influx in traffic?

How to know if your site can handle the traffic

First, check to see if your web hosting can handle the traffic.  If your website has cPanel access or something similar you should be able to see how many resources are assigned to your website, and where you are currently running.

When you log into your cPanel area you should see an area relating to statistics that shows you how many email addresses, subdomains and databases you currently have, and how many you are allotted.  Near this information is the important stuff.  Look at things like bandwidth and file usage as these will be the 2 key indicators if your site gets hit with traffic.  Bandwidth refers to how much stuff you can send online.  Email sending and receiving uses bandwidth, just as serving your site to visitors uses bandwidth.  Depending on when you read this article, you want to be sure you have enough bandwidth to serve clients on the busy holiday season.  If, for example, you read this article around the middle of the month, you should have used less than ½ your bandwidth.  If it’s the 15th of the month and you are already over half way, then you need to talk to your host about increasing your bandwidth.  Because you are likely going to exceed it this month, and the busy shopping season hasn’t even started yet.

Next look at your “File Usage” to see where you are at.  This covers things like emails stored on the server, cached pages and more.  If you use a caching plugin you may see that this is quite high.  If you exceed your file storage capacity your website may quit working.  To fix this, first make sure you aren’t saving anything on your server you shouldn’t be.  IE if you can, download and store old emails on your computer and not your server.  If you are using a program like Outlook or Thunderbird you should be able to turn on “auto-archiving” to archive old emails onto your computer, removing them from the server to free up space.

Next, clear your page caches.  Sometimes caching plugins will store multiple copies of the same page, or older copies.  By clearing your caches, you can free up a lot of space.

If your site runs on a CMS system like WordPress, Magento or Joomla, look at your MySQL usage.  The MySQL database is the primary source of your page content storage, so if your database fills up you won’t be able add or edit pages.  There are routines you can run to optimize your database.  You can search Google to find more information on how to do this.

In my next article I will explain a few more things you can do that aren’t specifically related to your website that you can do to ensure you are ready for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.