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Sven Hammar
Chief Strategy Officer, Apica

The benefits of e-commerce in manufacturing are many. They include convenience, product discoverability, greater order frequency, and the ability to conduct mobile commerce. As more and more manufacturers discover the benefits of e-commerce and adopt an online sales model, it will become imperative to ensure your website is available and can deliver an excellent customer experience. When customers wait for your site to load, they lose patience quickly — which means lost revenue and brand loyalty. This article will guide you through tips for ensuring that your online sites and applications are ready to reap the rewards of B2B e-commerce. 

Today, 63 percent of manufacturers and distributors say that B2B e-commerce is a priority for their business, according to a 2016 Manufacturing & Distribution Sales and Technology Report survey conducted by Handshake.  Of those who had implemented e-commerce solutions, 79 percent said that it was a response to customer demand.

But, even those manufacturers who have not yet adopted B2B e-commerce believe it is a priority. Fifty percent of these want to start implementing online ordering within the next 12 months. They are finding that their B2B partners demand self-service. They also see that online ordering can increase both order frequency and order value.

What Happens When Your Website and Apps Aren’t Available?

But, an e-commerce plan needs to be well thought out and implemented.  Slow website rendering time and digital disappointment will often drive consumers to a competitor’s offerings. Apica recently conducted a survey with research agency 3Gem to better understand consumers and how they are interacting with websites and apps. Although the survey was focused on consumers, many of its lessons apply to the B2B world as well.

On average, 83 percent of consumers are affected negatively by poor website or app performance. While around half of respondents say they lose patience and are somewhat negatively affected by page loading delays, over 35 percent of respondents say they abandon poor performing sites and apps quickly — often abandoning a site in 10 seconds or less.

In today’s e-commerce environment, you must continuously monitor and optimize their online performance to ensure you deliver a digital experience that meets your users’ expectations. This means taking a proactive approach in the development lifecycle by conducting comprehensive performance testing aimed at ensuring the user experience in production and optimal monitoring capabilities to respond to issues in production before they impact the user experience. Don’t leave your revenue, brand and customer experience to chance.

An E-commerce Preparedness Checklist

Preparation is key, and 99 percent of the work is done beforehand to make sure your site will be ready when it is needed. As you prepare your site for e-commerce, here are five steps to take you through the process:

  1. Begin at the end - Most businesses know their busy periods well in advance. Check previous peak numbers, and gauge estimated traffic growth. Organizations should check previous peak numbers, and gauge estimated traffic growth.
     
  2. Define your schedule - Identify bottlenecks and pace the site to handle bigger and bigger loads. Like any building project, having a clear plan of what is happening when, how and by whom is key — and it needs to have a direct line of sight both to the next step in the chain and the end of the project. Website load testing isn’t about overloading pressure to make the site crash. It’s about defining a test project to identify bottlenecks and pace the site to handle bigger and bigger load.
     
  3. Plan for support - Much like a marathon, website building goes far beyond the area that is doing the work on the big day. Modern transactional websites have multiple components which need to interact to function correctly. Under heavy loads, these components may not function as planned, and often lead to site failure. Through load testing, organizations can identify the weak links and the load levels that cause the site to slow, and eventually crash.
     
  4. The final check - The most important aspect of website and app load testing is to set and test for the maximum amount of anticipated traffic, plus and additional margin based on past data. A professional load test project can simulate peak environments quickly and easily, and, if the site fails, pinpoint exactly what went wrong. The finale result validate performance according to your updated load expectation, so you can launch the site with confidence.
     
  5. Your backup-plan - If an outage does occur, marketing teams should have a communication plan in place for their visitors and customers. They need to promptly communicate when and why a service degradation occurs, and what steps are being taken to resolve it. If the load goes over the limit, a waiting page with information can be prepared in advanced, and ideally, the site should be able to queue overload traffic, so the site doesn't crash completely.

As you develop your e-commerce strategy, make sure you don’t drive your customers or partners away with poor website or app performance. To that end, it is important to load test early to ensure you have time to fix problems. It’s even better to consistently run load test to ensure you already know your limits, and aren’t forced to rush development for peak events. Load tests can take the form of stress tests, concurrency tests, and disaster recovery testing — all are key. Focusing on performance monitoring for both the client-side and server-side of your business is also key to your e-commerce success.

If you’re ready to reap the benefits of e-commerce in manufacturing, avoid the pitfalls with proper monitoring and performance testing strategies.

Sven Hammar is Chief Strategy Officer and founder of Apica.

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