In last week’s post we highlighted five less obvious business risks associated with peak web traffic.
This week we will explore how the continuing pandemic has made many of these consequences worse, more frequent or added new risks for businesses – even those that adapted to the new challenges.
The pandemic forced businesses to take tactical action
The pandemic has changed the way we interact online, both personally and with businesses. We’re now used to seeing our friends and family mostly via FaceTime or Zoom, but the sheer scale of this move to online interaction over in-person contact has had unexpected consequences for businesses.
Almost every business was forced online as all but essential services, such as supermarkets, were closed to the public in many parts of the world due to the pandemic. Many were forced to work from home, if at all.
As offices have downsized and footfall in public spaces decreased, online activity has grown massively. The global number of internet users grew by 7.3% to 316 million last year (We Are Social), as more people relied on digital services.
The rapid shift to online-first
As we mentioned in last week’s post, taking tactical action can lead to unexpected results. It is always better to plan strategic interventions “just in case”, but nobody could have predicted the level of disruption the pandemic would bring.
Governments have had to quickly respond to the need for online services to support people in the wake of the pandemic. The need for assistance, from advice and guidance to grants and loans, has exploded since the first lockdown, with almost all of this provided online. This has put a tremendous strain on the technology supporting these vital services.
At TrafficDefender we also saw unprecedented demand for our virtual waiting room service from businesses more reliant than ever on their websites and online platforms, wanting to prevent a website crash and protect customer experience.
Peak web traffic is unpredictable
2020 saw a massive 41.7% boost in online revenue over 2019 (eMarketer), so even retailers that already had systems to facilitate online trading had never experienced such huge and unpredictable peaks and troughs in traffic before the pandemic. Although many knew how much traffic their servers could handle, this still created new technical and logistical challenges, and the pandemic became a test of quickly adapting to sudden changes.
The inability for shops to open in physical locations increased the strain on websites even more when sought-after and limited-edition items went on sale (PlayStation 5, X Box Series X, and even gym equipment).
A lot of uncertainty was created when the government tweaked restrictions at short notice. For example, visitor attractions spent long periods unable to open, before becoming inundated with demand online from customers wanting to book places once able to do so.
August’s “Eat Out To Help Out” scheme, encouraging people across the UK to go into restaurants for half price meals, also presented unique challenges. Online booking systems for restaurants were put under strain by the popularity of the offer.
The new normal for businesses and consumers
Now that consumers are used to interacting with businesses online, especially those in demographics not typically associated with online activity, it’s hard to imagine online traffic significantly dipping to pre-pandemic levels in the coming years.
Businesses of all sizes are expected to be online and available 24/7, no matter what level of demand is put on their technology platforms.
How much traffic can a server handle?
In TrafficDefender’s virtual waiting room service, businesses have a ready-made solution to protect their website against overwhelming traffic and prevent a website crash.
By placing visitors in an online queue before they enter the site, only allowing a certain number through at a time, the website stays fast, stable and functional at all times. Customers get a fair first-in, first-out experience and are kept engaged with the business or organisation with branded content and offers.
TrafficDefender’s virtual waiting room is used by some of the top retailers in the world during events like Black Friday, so it is built to be robust and reliable. It is also regularly used by large institutions to protect online booking platforms at peak times.