How E-Tailers Can Gain From Online Flash Sales

by Vaishali Sangtani    Apr 05, 2018


As retail e-commerce grows at a double digit CAGR of 26%, it makes India one of the fastest growing e-commerce markets worldwide. India has a 481 million strong internet users pool of which about 78.65 percent access the internet via a mobile device. Around 52.3 percent of these users are qualified digital buyers in 2017 representing a huge potential market. Amidst this $45 billion opportunity by 2021, international and local companies are investing heavily into their digital channels.

E-commerce in India and worldwide thrives on seasonality driven by the year-end holiday flash sales and extravagant shopping festivals incentivizing shoppers with discounts and deals. According to leading e-commerce players in the country nearly 40 percent of online sales are generated in the last three months of the year – Oct, Nov and Dec.

Four Steps to Preparedness

Flash sales and holiday seasons drive unprecedented revenues for companies; however, they also need to spend a lot of effort on their preparedness for running these events successfully. Here’s a quick preparedness checklist - 

1. Scale - Anywhere in the World

All the advertising and marketing efforts, if done well, will successfully drive traffic to your online channels – sites, mobile apps and APIs. You need to plan and invest in infrastructure capacity to sustain the peak traffic and avoid shutdowns.

This traffic may be domestic or global and can come from a myriad of devices, browsers and network conditions. It is important to ensure your web properties are fast and responsive regardless of your planned capacity or physical presence of servers and the relative presence of buyers around the globe.

2. Increase User Engagement

All your online channels have to meet the heightened expectation of the millennial shoppers, with descriptive product details and reviews, personalized item recommendations, interactive media formats such as high definition images, video, multi-angle photo viewers, regardless of the device, browser or network connectivity situations of each unique visitor.

High quality videos and images have shown to increase customer engagement leading to higher conversion, but both can be a large performance liability.  According to a recent report by SOASTA,  53 percent of mobile site visitors abandon a page that takes more than three seconds to load.

Retailers need to leverage Digital Performance Managementtools that provide real time actionable insights into their user engagement metrics and how that impacts conversion rates. This also helps to find and fix performance bottlenecks ranked by priority of impact on conversion.

3.    Mobile makes Money

India is a mobile first economy. As of Jan 2018, 78.65 percent of the 481 million internet users in India access the internet most often via a smartphone.Mobile opens new revenue streams and new ways of engaging customers, but comes with development and operational challenges around performance.

Conversion rates can be 2.4 percent lower on desktop when customers have to wait 2.8 seconds for the page to load, and 7.1 percent lower for smartphones. A two-second delay in page load can bring your session’s length to about half. Advanced capabilities like pre-fetch, asynchronous loading, adaptive image compressions and cellular network optimizations can be used to solve these challenges. 

4.  The New Age of Cyberattacks

The e-commerce industry sees widespread web security attacks which try bringing a site down using a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) by overwhelming the origin infrastructure with large amounts of malicious HTTP requests. Other attacks use automated bot scripts to overtake inventory, scrape prices or try to steal credentials from your site. According to Akamai’s Q4 2017  State of Internet Security Report, India saw more than 11.5 million web application attacks in the last quarter of 2017. The retail industry worldwide falls prey to the largest bot traffic and credential abuse attempts. Retail organizations on the Akamai platform saw about 1 billion credential abuse attempts in November 2017 alone!

Mainstream retailers in India such as Pepperfry have been able to implement a strong security strategy by leveraging web application firewall and DDoS protection solutions to protect their business brand and ensure continuity. Here are two recommendations to maximize returns:

1. Efficient web performance – anytime, anywhere

Accelerated online and mobile shopping performance aren’t only nice to have, but they are now business-critical performance issues that have a meaningful impact on revenue.

Efficient web performance can be achieved by leveraging data science and analytics to ‘Find & Fix’ bottlenecks preventing conversions. This allows understanding the business impact of performance with real user monitoring (RUM) based technology which correlates performance and user experience metrics with  business metrics such as conversions, page views, and revenue.

2. Early Risers See Holiday Season Success

To ensure best results, retailers need to make sure their load-testing and performance-testing is taking real-world scenarios into consideration. For instance, some retailers see customers add items to the cart ahead of the big sale date so when the traffic peaks, they go straight from the cart to checkout. Has it been optimized?

It’s also best practice to plan for more traffic than expected so doubling your projections will ensure your site is ready for additional event-based traffic and unexpected peaks.

A content delivery network (CDN) is often used by high-traffic websites such as fashion-focused e- commerce platform ZALORA and Alibaba’s AliExpress to ensure that customers have a fast and seamless online experience, be it on desktop or mobile. In 2017, peak traffic on the Akamai platform from the Singles’ Day sale (11/11/2017) was 72 percent higher than the Singles’ Day sale event in 2016. Mobile device hits increased by 143 percent on iPhones and 132 percent on Android devices compared to 2016.

To summarize, digital businesses today need to be focused on driving their growth by leveraging technologies that optimize the public internet for global delivery and scale. They need to be focused on winning the customer loyalty and differentiation battle by keeping customer data at the core of every endeavor. This data helps generate valuable analytical insights to fuel product innovation and growth. Hence technologies that leverage big data and automation to collect and protect this real user data and provide actionable insights based on it are indispensable part of their digital strategy.


 Key Takeaways

- Prepare for India’s mobile first market – This should be the highest priority on performance optimizations measures.

- Have a Digital Performance Management strategy with real time insights and analytics into the real user experience and web performance.

- Ensure scalability to be able to handle increase in order volumes and website traffic. Load test your site, backend infrastructure and code to ensure readiness for peak performance during peak season.

- Have a proactive security strategy to protect your business and brand and ensure continuity. 

[The author is Product Marketing Manager, Web Global Industry & Product Marketing, APJ, Akamai Technologies]