Santa’s sleigh and reindeer aren’t the only things up in the clouds this holiday shopping season.
The average individual budget in Australia for Christmas presents and related items this year is $375, according to a new study from Rackspace Hosting. With almost three-quarters (74 per cent) of the 1,000 Australian adults surveyed planning to do at least part, if not all, of their Christmas shopping online, Australian retailers are sure to see some great sales numbers from the web this year.
Not all is merry and bright…
The Rackspace study shows, however, that almost 70 per cent of shoppers experienced online frustrations last Christmas, with over 40 per cent of this group either abandoning their purchase completely or trying a different website. The top frustrations were cited as complicated check-out procedures (27 per cent), followed by slow-loading websites (12 per cent). This indicates that the share of the colossal Christmas purchase pie each retailer will get is dependent on user experience (UX).
Albert Woo, Managing Director Intershop APAC said, “It is extremely important to provide the best user experience to your end customers. To deliver on the core essentials and to back that with a top shelf customer care unit could be the difference between success and failure.
“There’s no excuse for not having a website fully optimised for the Christmas rush. Many of the frustrations cited by respondents are easily foreseen and can be planned and tested for in advance of any traffic spikes. Not planning for the festive crowds is a missed opportunity when you consider how much business can be lost simply because you didn’t take the time to test your site and provide a great online customer experience.”
Cloud-powered Christmas traditions
The Rackspace study also reveals that 75 per cent of respondents intend to buy at least some element of their Christmas online – from gifts (59 per cent) to Christmas drinks (11 per cent) and travel tickets (17 per cent). All that shopping is often an evening pursuit for most users, with 52 per cent planning to shop later in the day, from home.
On top of that, Rackspace’s research says that going online this festive season is not just about shopping: it’s now a firm part of people’s Christmas traditions. Even on Christmas Day, 53 per cent of respondents intend to send season’s greetings to friends and family and post pictures of their celebrations using cloud-powered social media channels.
Of course not all online usage will be in the spirit of fellowship. Others will be playing online games (16 per cent), surfing the web (14 per cent) and watching on demand TV (7 per cent). It’s a similar picture on Boxing Day, with 58 per cent going online.
A merry mobile Christmas
This year 13 per cent of those surveyed will be shopping online using a tablet. This is a substantial increase from the 7 per cent who shopped in this way last year. Similarly, smartphone usage for online purchases is up from 7 per cent last year to almost 11 per cent this year.
Over a third of Australian adults (34 per cent) are planning to give someone a connected device – such as a tablet or smartphone – for Christmas, and the same again (34 per cent) are expecting to receive a connected device. Just over half (51 per cent) will be giving a digital gift, with shopping vouchers most popular (30 per cent).
Angus Dorney, Director and General Manager at Rackspace Australia, said: “The results from this study suggest strongly that all businesses with an online presence – not just retailers – must be more prepared than ever before for the Christmas rush. With an increasing trend towards increased connectivity, it is vital that online companies have the hosting infrastructure and support in place to deal with spikes in traffic over the entire festive season.
“Load testing your site and ensuring it is capable of handling increased traffic can mean the difference between keeping and losing customers. This is customer service for the internet. In the same way you wouldn’t leave your bricks and mortar store under-staffed at Christmas. It is essential that your website is optimised for peak season performance.”
Rackspace also issued the following recommendations for online retailers to make the most out of the season:
- Check and test capacity: To avoid website slowdown, e-tailers in particular should do a full audit of their web hosting environment to check if there is enough network connections and server space available to handle a high influx of web traffic. They should also ‘load’ test websites by flooding them with a large volume and variety of requests, from simpler tasks like landing on the home page to key word searches, filling up baskets and checking-out. With over 40 per cent of shoppers abandoning a purchase if they cannot quickly and easily use the website, e-tailers can’t afford for any system lag or unavailability.
- Get support: Peak traffic demands over the Christmas shopping period and beyond will probably not happen during a 9 to 5 working day. The study found that 52 per cent of respondents will be shopping in the evenings, and 65 per cent will be online on Christmas day. Retailers need to have appropriate support to keep their website up and running whenever it’s needed.
- Use a hybrid cloud: Testing may show that additional web capacity is required during high-traffic times. The public cloud is the ideal hosting environment for this as it offers unmatched scalability on a pay-as-you-go basis. Use it in combination with dedicated servers or private cloud in a ‘hybrid cloud’ to deliver optimal security, reliability and overall infrastructure performance.
- Keep improving: After peak season dies down, review the performance of your website, analyse any downtime or other performance issues, and use this to fix any issues. Over a quarter (26 per cent) of Australian adults say that their main reason for shopping online is the convenience, so keeping it that way is crucial.
Rackspace’s survey was conducted between the 25/10/2013 – 31/10/2013 by Pure Profile. 1000 Australian respondents were recruited online using screening questions to ensure that they celebrate Christmas, before starting the survey.
How so you so Christmas?
Are you doing your Christmas shopping exclusively online this year? Many Aussies are. Are you also sending out holiday greeting cards and communicating with distant loved ones that way? How about planning to sit around the living room with family, sending each other texts rather than talking?
No matter how you do Christmas, chances are you’re doing some aspect of it online. And you’re not alone. Sooner or later, Santa might be delivering by drone, like Amazon is (questionably) promising to do.