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How your email marketing could crash your site this holiday season (and 5 ways to make sure it doesn?t)

This is a guest blog that features eCommerce insights from Tenzing, an eCommerce hosting provider, and Yottaa partner. Elizabeth Scott, Vice President of Service Delivery at Tenzing Managed IT Services, is the author. 

Email is a massive driver of eCommerce revenue, driving 15% of purchases according to  Custora. During the holidays, that number  grows to over 17%. It’s a great way for merchants to drive traffic and revenue but a big email campaign can sometimes wreak havoc on your eCommerce environment. If response to an email campaigns exceeds your environments capacity it could overload your site, preventing your customers from completing a transaction. The last thing you want is for your site to be down with so many customers ready to convert! At Tenzing, we focus on infrastructure, performance and security for eCommerce and to make sure marketing campaigns don’t overwhelm our client’s sites, we recommend the following best practices.

1. Segment – Instead of pressing send on an email to 1,000,000 users, consider breaking the campaign up into smaller groups to give you better control of traffic spikes.  Instead of creating a stampede, this will spread activity over multiple hours. It also means that you can stop any stop subsequent emails from distribution if problems arise, limiting the number of customers who are affected by any issues. On top of that, it gives you the opportunity to personalize messages based on specific segments or customer behaviors.

2. Manage your media – The use of media in an email campaign can have a positive impact on your click through rates, but using multiple or large images can increase bandwidth use and traffic to your environment. As customers receive the email, they download the email images from your environment, resulting in additional traffic to your environment. On a large scale, this can cause serious problems before the customers even click through to the site. To avoid this consider saving your collection of images as flat files and storing them a separate server.

Email campaigns will often include a discount codes to entice customers and unfortunately we have seen a number of campaigns go horribly wrong when discount codes were incorrectly configured in the application or not tested appropriately.

3. Don’t get fancy – Don’t introduce a new discount structure during your peak shopping season. If you’ve never used a ‘First Time purchase’ discount, now is not the time. Use new discount structures during off-peak seasons as a test before applying them in your peak season.

4. Avoid expansive database searches – Watch out for discount codes that put unnecessary load on your database.  For example, that ‘First Time Purchaser’ code requires a search of your database to check for eligibility. At a time when performance is critical, the ‘First Time Purchaser Code’ puts additional load on the database and enough volume can seriously impact your site performance.

5. Test, Test, Test – Test all discount codes before using them. Treat a discount code like an application launch and come up with standard test cases that can be used for each code release. Make sure your test cases both meet and break the rules of the discount.  This is a good time to use your end user test group as customers are hungry for discounts during the holiday season and in their desperation may behave in ways that the developers never considered.

For more holiday preparedness advice check out Tenzing’s 2015 guide to eCommerce Holiday Preparation. Learn how leading retailers keep their sites performing under peak load, including details on how you can:

  • Prepare your infrastructure
  • Optimize your commerce application
  • Coordinate your marketing

This guide is designed to help mid-sized retailers prepare for peak season by examining their infrastructure capability, application capacity and marketing campaign processes. Each of these elements is key to understanding how well your web store will perform during the holidays.

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