Michal Faber

Prepare your Ecommerce for Q4: Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas

According to WSJ in 2016 Ecommerce accounted for 25% of all consumer spending over three days through Black Friday. That’s a huge deal, considering that Ecommerce share in all holiday retail sales in 2016 was around 10% of a market worth $885B.

If the fourth quarter is the best time of the year in Ecommerce, then Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the greatest opportunity for online retailers for a piece of that huge brick-and-mortar pie.

And you as an Ecommerce manager should be preparing for it weeks ago. Here’s how.

1. Know your Ecommerce calendar

“In the US, the Christmas season usually tips off after Thanksgiving, but as retailers grow more aggressive in taking on e-commerce, they are introducing holiday promotions and advertising for the holiday season as early as September—a phenomenon the industry pegs the Christmas creep.” – Bisnow reports.

Q4 Ecommerce sales holidays calendar:

  • Halloween – Oct 31 (4th largest online sales holiday)
  • Thanks Giving – Nov 23 (average online spending of $400 per user)
  • Black Friday – Nov 24
  • Cyber Monday – Nov 27
  • Green Monday – Dec 11
  • Free Shipping Day – Dec 16 (largest online sales day in Dec)

You probably should be preparing for those dates weeks ago! It’s not only about discounts and promotions. It’s also about making the most of the season and avoiding any spectacular crashes or customer care failures.

2. Buying userflows audit

Review last years analytics and metrics for various devices. Draw conclusions. Pay attention to tablet and mobile sales. Rethink how you present promotions throughout the customer decision journey – highlight those CTAs. Improve all buying userflows. Contact us to get it done on time.

Last year Techcrunch was quick to report that “mobile traffic and sales are breaking records compared with years prior, according to third-party reports and those from major retailers”. According to Amazon, Thanksgiving has now become one of the busiest mobile shopping days on the retailer’s site in the U.S.

Be where your customers are while traveling, spending time off and thinking about getting some gifts for the family – in their mobile devices. Improve your Responsive Web Design (RWD).

3. Load testing

Traffic peak is coming. More importantly orders peak is coming and this one is far more difficult to handle.

Caching static content pages is easy. Just utilize any CDN. Handling ten fold order volume requires preparation and advanced engineering. It will take a few weeks to get right. Prepare early. Better safe then sorry.

“I would be interested to hear how retailers’ earnings were affected by site crashes late Cyber Monday — Eddie Bauer and Nordstrom for instance didn’t seem to have enough front-end capacity to serve all their visitors. I was able to hit the homepage of both sites but no product pages, and I’m sure they weren’t the only two retailers affected by lack of capacity planning.” a WSJ user Thea Domber comments.

“EB seemed to make right by extending their promo through the day, while Nordstrom had lots of apologies through its social media channels but no extra time for their Cyber Monday promotion” – Thea writes.

Time is the most precious resource. If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Contact us to get it done on time.

4. UX & Performance fixes

When you factor in userflows audit conclusions and load testing results you’re likely to get a list of UX and performance fixes.

Your primary motivation and incentive should be maximizing ROI during Q4 but sometimes UX fixes fall to the end of the to-do list. But the users will come and they will test your UX in great numbers. Maybe avoiding UX mishaps and minimizing Customer Care workload is a motivation booster.

Keep it usable, keep it simple. Empower mobile users.

5. Ecommerce SEO

Get some of that Google search results real estate. In Ecommerce it is still location, location, location. Meaning screen space. Getting users attention. But getting it takes time.

In Ecommerce Google Structured Data is probably the most effective tool for getting the most Google real estate and differentiating your search results from the competitions. Use it.

Research the topic yourself or get some expert help. Implement the improvements early.

6. Promotions

RetailMeNot found that 70% of retailers started promoting Black Friday offers before Thanksgiving, and that the average duration of the offers was 10 days.

What sells? Electronics and appliances were the best-performing category on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, with sales up nearly 27% from a year earlier, First Data found. Clothing and accessories grew 10%, as did sporting goods, while health and personal care was up nearly 8% – WSJ reports.

Pay attention to weather patterns – Suzanne Kapner of WSJ advises. Last year sales in the Eastern U.S. were helped by a cold snap, while sales in states west of the Mississippi were hurt by warmer than usual temperatures, according to Planalytics, which analyzes historical weather patterns and industry sales data. For instance, sales of women’s boots were up 12% in Hartford, Conn., but down 19% in Denver, Planalytics found.

7. Ecommerce marketing automation

Traffic peak is coming. Surely not every user will complete their shopping experience.

Automate abandoned cart recovery. Sign those users up for a newsletter or an automated product recommendation. Dig that traffic gold to maximize your returns on Ecommerce investments. Or loose out on over 90% of traffic which does not convert into sales.

Capture those lost orders or say bye bye to lost profits.

8. Bulletproofing fulfillment integration

Automation is key to handling sales peaks. The only problem is that no fulfillment integration is 100% bulletproof.

Identify any re-occurring issues. Fix them. Anything you can handle in low season will backfire during high season and swamp your merchandising and customer service with customer inquiries and extra work. Not mentioning customer frustration and bad press.

Contact us to not let any orders slip through the cracks.

9. Shipping transparency

Are you informing your clients about expected delivery dates? Any extra shipping costs? Transparency is key!

As pointed out by WSJ “surging levels of web orders will test retailers’ fulfillment and logistics operations and put added pressure on shipping companies like United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp.” Some of the delivery companies are introducing extra charges for their services.

Let’s get crystal clear on what customers should expect.

10. Systems Monitoring

Know your platform. If you don’t have any metrics in place, you cannot manage your business continuity or prepare for traffic and order peaks. You’re flying blind.

Google Analytics is not enough. Monitor your backend. Monitor your 3rd party integrations performance.

Monitor early, catch all anomalies, fix them. Q4 is hardly the time for debugging, maintenance or downtime.

Contact us to get it done on time.

11. Dev & Devops on standby

Have someone on standby during the busiest sales days and hours. Q4 is not over after Black Friday. Fail elegantly and learn from the past mistakes.

Improve during night time to be ready during daytime. Minimize maintenance periods during your customers waking hours.

Make sure to set it up ahead of time.

12. Customer Service channels available

Allow for Multi Channel Customer Service. It’s quite easy with cloud services such as Zendesk.

Think ticketing system. Think email, online chat, searchable FAQ lists. Think catching social media comments or praises.

If you’re only thinking about it now, you’ll probably be late to the party.

Contact us to set it up on time.

So much to do, so little time till Black Friday. 

Spark Solutions is a software house, based in Warsaw, Poland, which specializes in Ecommerce web application development – online stores and marketplaces for US clients.

All web applications being developed are based on Spree Commerce open-source framework because Spark Solutions team is the core team behind this open source project. Spark Solutions also coordinates efforts of hundreds of developers all over the globe to make Spree the best Ecommerce platform in the world.

In cooperation with PayPal Spark Solutions has developed the official Braintree v.zero & PayPal extension for Spree which allows Spree-based Ecommerce platforms to fully utilize Credit Card payments and PayPal Express payments.

Contact us to have a serious discussion about your Ecommerce venture.

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Michal FaberPrepare your Ecommerce for Q4: Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas
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Spark Project Handbook, seriously!

This is work in progress. By no means over. First iteration. Enjoy! If you can…

1. Our goal is to deliver WORKING software in STAGES or iterations for which we have an agreed scope, timeline and budget (Project Management Triple Constraint). It’s an iterative process of improvement, constant work in progress – Rome was not built in one day.

2. Each project stage or iteration should be delivered:

  • in SCOPE – nothing less, nothing more than agreed with the client (functional specification, wireframes or a set of user stories – they exist for a reason!)
  • on TIME – as in the agreed timeline (save time early on, you’ll need it later)
  • on BUDGET – predictability and accountability builds clients’ trust and confidence in our ability to deliver (people will love you).

3. Confidence builds VALUE and long lasting relationships among everyone involved – our team, our clients, their stakeholders. Everybody benefits.

4. There will be a NEXT stage if we inspire confidence by completing a previous one successfully – deliver everything in scope, on time, on budget. Build TRUST in our ability to deliver results! No results, no love…

5. Keep it short and SIMPLE (KISS) in everything you do – every single task, every iteration. Our goal is not to deliver the best product we are able to and too late, but a WORKING product we agreed to deliver (MVP = Minimum Viable Product) within the agreed timeline and budget. Let’s improve in the next stage or iteration. A simple and working product is better then no product at all. People will love you (in time).

6. COMPLEXITY KILLS… time and fun. Engineering is about taking two steps forward and one step back. We’ll all make mistakes and waste some time anyway due to life’s uncertainty and unpredictability. Don’t spoil the party by complicating everybody’s lives on purpose. Party pooper!

7. Avoid SCOPE CREEP – adding new features without adjusting the timeline and budget. Be honest with yourself and CRYSTAL CLEAR with the client (use this phrase, it wakes people up!) that adding new, even small, features to the current iteration backlog will increase delivery time and cost. Expect client to explicitly agree on changing project constraints. DO NOT change them yourself – it’s the client’s project, time and money. Are you the client?

8. Be OPEN to requirements change and POLITELY add scope modifications as NEW features – mark them as EXTRAs. Move them to Icebox if possible. Resist temptation to please the client by going straight to delivery. Do not pretend that modifications were a part of original scope. Save TIME now, leave nice-to-haves for later. People will love you (eventually).

9. If all else fails… SIMPLIFY. Some clients want to increase scope, but not the timeline or budget. Don’t quit just yet. Relax and carry on. Be the champion of SIMPLICITY, workarounds, smart solutions, reusable elements. Improve in the next iteration or post launch. You’ll thank yourself later.

10. DELIVER EARLY to make it on time. Aim at getting the job done in 80% (60%? 40%?) of the time and budget. Do NOT expand scope on your own. Eat vegetables. Discuss BLOCKERS. Be real, be honest, ask questions early, talk to other people a lot, resist temptation to complicate everybody’s lives. Murphy will get you anyway, let him do his job…

11. We are the EXPERTS in Ecommerce software development. Clients are NOT, they’re experts at their business – that’s they come to us for technology advice and services. So politely push back on wishful thinking (“this surely won’t take long” – yes it will), scope changes without time and budget adjustments (“but this is a must have” – do you have the time and money?), simplistic thinking (“this is easy” – no, it’s not, let me explain why…).

12. We are experts but not wizards. Anticipate and mitigate RISKS early. Don’t wipe the database or deploy before the client call or on Friday afternoon. Ask yourself what can go wrong – because it will. Talk to people about it. Learn from your own and other’s mistakes. Write them down so you don’t forget. You’ll sleep better.

13. Have FUN today. Don’t wait till tomorrow, it might be too late. What we do is the future (of mankind) and we’re pretty good at it (in iterations, after code review, QA, refactoring, QA, client feedback, refactoring, QA, push to production, QA, rollback, fixes, QA, push again…yes, it has to take so long).

14. What you will accomplish today is the BEST THING since the invention of ice cream and beer. Be proud of yourself. It’s all you. And 30 other people working for months – they all contributed to your overnight success today!

15. Smile and say THANKS a lot. Tell people they’re awesome. Murphy will get them anyway…

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Michal FaberSpark Project Handbook, seriously!
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Join us in New York City on June 28-29th for OpenCommerce Conf 2016

Join us in New York City on June 28-29th for OpenCommerce Conf 2016: http://opencommerceconf.org/

It’s a 2 day event on E-Commerce with great speakers, Spree success stories, discussion panels for both developers and business people and of course drinks in the afternoon.

There are thousands of Spree store owners and developers all over the world invested in Spree over the years. Thousands of stores and developers rely on a lean, flexible, extendible Spree open-source software being developed. That is a large community and a foundation of all our open-source efforts.

Over the past 4 months we’ve observed increasing interest in Spree 3.1 for new E-Commerce projects big and small. The official Spree Slack channel reached over 555+ members from 20 timezones in only 4 month which is by far the best result during that period among all the Spree-related open-source projects.

New Spree extensions pop up, including the official Braintree v.zero & PayPal extension for Spree 2.4, 3.0, 3.1 developed in cooperation with PayPal: https://github.com/spree-contrib/spree_braintree_vzero

Spree open source project is becoming truly community-driven, transparent and open.

That is why we organize OpenCommerce Conf – the first Spree-community event since SpreeConf 2014.

We’re excited to meet and talk to the OpenCommerce Conf speakers:

  • BRIAN QUINN – Sticker Mule, Spree Co-Founder
  • FABIO AKITA – Codeminer 42
  • DAMIAN LEGAWIEC – Spark Solutions, Spree Core Team
  • MANIK JUNEJA – Vinsol

Such conferences are wildly valuable, Spree development shops showcase their work, connect with clients, sometimes secure  work for the whole year. Don’t take our word for it – it’s what the owner of the NY-based dev shop told us.

Join us in New York City on the 28-29th of June: http://opencommerceconf.org/

If you would like to become a speaker, a panelist, present your Spree case study or contribute to the event in any other way let us know by slack or email: [email protected]

Yours truly,
Spree Commerce Core Team

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Michal FaberJoin us in New York City on June 28-29th for OpenCommerce Conf 2016
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Monthly Hangout with the Spree Commerce Core Team

You are very welcome to join a Monthly Hangout with the Spree Commerce Core Team every first Monday of the month. Spree Commerce is an open-source project and as such it relies on community contributors. Contributors are very human and we strongly believe that face to face contact is vital to our open-source efforts.

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Michal FaberMonthly Hangout with the Spree Commerce Core Team
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How much should your MVP cost?

You want to build the Next Big Thing. And you have a pretty good idea how it should work, look & feel. Great, now it’s time to find a dev team to build your MVP. But how much should your MVP cost? A freelancer will tell you it should cost $5,000 to $15,000. An experienced CTO will tell you it should cost between $50,000 and $150,000. Which one is right? Are they even talking about the same thing? No, they’re not!

SPOILER: it will cost you $50k to develop a Twitter MVP, $100k for an Instagram, $500k for a Facebook and $1M for an Uber. US dollars when hiring a US dev team.

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Michal FaberHow much should your MVP cost?
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Greetabl.com business streamlined by a custom Spree Commerce 3.0 implementation & fulfillment integration

St.Louis based startup Greetabl.com was transformed into a scalable and automated one-stop-shop for creatively-curated gifts and greetings that are personalized with Instagram photos, packaged and sent in just a few clicks. This enabled the startup to scale, fundraise and compete for larger market share as well as bigger ROI.

“We threw a lot at the Spark team and wanted everything ‘yesterday’. They did an outstanding job executing our vision. We have big plans, and a lot of new things to build, and we look forward to working with Spark for years to come.” – said Joseph Fischer, Greetabl founder & CEO.

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Michal FaberGreetabl.com business streamlined by a custom Spree Commerce 3.0 implementation & fulfillment integration
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MVP dilemma: fat vs. lean, lovable vs. laughable?

How much should a Minimum Viable Product cost? How much time should an MVP take to build and launch? These are the questions our clients ask us and every time answering these questions comes down to one simple conclusion – we understand and define MVP differently. 🙂

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Michal FaberMVP dilemma: fat vs. lean, lovable vs. laughable?
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How MilanStyle.com got 45% conversion boost for 300k luxury & fashion products after migration to Spree Commerce 3.0

British-based luxury & fashion marketplace MilanStyle.com experienced a spectacular 45% increase in conversion rate after launching its new mobile-ready and improved platform running on open-source Spree Commerce framework. MilanStyle.com now features over 300 thousand luxury items from top boutiques all over the world and brands like Gucci, Tom Ford, Givenchy, Saint Laurent. That’s ten times more than its old website.

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Michal FaberHow MilanStyle.com got 45% conversion boost for 300k luxury & fashion products after migration to Spree Commerce 3.0
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