In recent years, following a pandemic that changed dramatically the way that people buy, the eCommerce industry has come out as one of the most lucrative sectors in modern economy. Encouraged by the increasing digitization of consumer habits and the convenience of shopping from customers’ preferred environments, the sector continues to grow constantly, offering immense revenue potential for businesses. However, this allure of profitability brings in intense competition. One of the first and probably most critical steps in beating this competition is keeping your eCommerce platform reliable, compatible, and at peak performance.
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Reliability refers to the trustworthiness and consistency of online shopping platforms. Although the chances to never see it happen are slim, having their website down is every merchant’s nightmare. Not only because revenue is lost, but also because every time a customer tries to access your shop and is greeted with a closed door, it puts a small dent in their trust.
Compatibility, on the other hand, is about ensuring that the eCommerce platform integrates seamlessly with various systems and devices. Out-of-the-box, eCommerce platforms come with standard functions. To take them to a whole new level adapted for modern online retail, complex extensions and plugins need to be integrated. More than that, mobile compatibility needs to be taken into account, which is vital in today’s mobile-first consumer environment to ensure a broader reach and a more inclusive user experience.
Last but not least, performance is a key driver of user satisfaction in an era where consumers expect immediate results; a fast, responsive platform enhances customer experience, working miracles with customer retention and conversion rates.
Thus, even with a quick overview, we can understand why the reliability, compatibility, and performance of the eCommerce platform play a critical role in determining the success and efficiency of the business.
The backbone of any successful eCommerce platform is having a robust infrastructure. A reliable hosting, high-performance servers, and efficient data management systems ensure uninterrupted service and can manage high traffic volumes during sales events like Black Friday, also protecting against data breaches or server failures.
In recent years, cloud-based solutions have emerged as a popular choice because they offer scalable resources and enhanced security at affordable prices. Their advantage is that, usually, data centers are spread across different locations, giving them improved disaster recovery capabilities and data redundancy. However, when disaster strikes, merchants will have to wait in the queue to get their problems sorted.
That’s why some merchants opt for dedicated servers, prioritizing exclusive control over their server resources and hardware. This choice often leads to enhanced performance stability and security customization, as the server is solely dedicated to one client without the shared environment typical of cloud solutions. Exclusivity comes with a hefty price and the costs for a dedicated server solution can easily soar above a few thousands euros.
Given the fact that your hosting provider will be in charge of regular backups and failover mechanisms, it makes a lot of sense to go for the option that you trust the most for providing these services.
Regular data backups are essential for safeguarding against data loss due to hardware failures, cyber-attacks, or accidental deletions. And let’s face it, in online retail, these threats happen quite often.
In addition to backups, implementing failover mechanisms is critical for continuous operation. Failover mechanisms involve creating redundant systems or components that automatically take over in case the primary system fails, keeping the eCommerce platform operational no matter what.
Having an extremely well oiled mechanism in place requires a seamless collaboration between the development team and the hosting provider, so if you are considering taking the dedicated infrastructure route, this is one of the key things to think about.
Merchants also need to know that maintenance and updates of their eCommerce platforms need to be performed regularly, particularly for systems like Magento. Regular updates ensure that the platform is strengthened with the latest security patches, reducing vulnerabilities to cyber threats such as malware or hacking attempts. These updates often include bug fixes and enhancements in performance. For Magento, known for its robust and feature-rich environment, staying updated is crucial for both security and functionality.
As we explained earlier, the most complex ecommerce platforms like Magento or Shopware are designed with scalability in mind. That means a solid backbone surrounded by an ecosystem of extensions, plugins and third party services that all work seamlessly together creating an efficient online shopping experience. Full compatibility of the ecommerce platform with these 3rd party services is not just a desired feature but a necessity for modern eCommerce.
Ensuring compatibility with various payment gateways is paramount, as it directly affects the ease with which customers can complete transactions. A diverse range of payment options not only caters to different customer preferences but also enhances the trust and credibility of the platform. Similarly, seamless integration with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems is vital for effectively managing customer interactions, data, and insights, which are essential for personalized marketing and improved customer service.
To ensure a seamless connection between the ecommerce platform and these complementary integrations, regular updates and compatibility checks with these third-party services are needed. Put simply, a major platform upgrade is most likely required to be followed by a third-party extension upgrade to ensure uninterrupted functionality.
Having a compatible platform also means ensuring cross-platform and cross-browser functionality. Mobile commerce has become so predominant, that even Google announced a shift in its website ranking algorithms which prioritises mobile-first indexing.
Therefore, ensuring that an eCommerce website adapts seamlessly to various screen sizes and resolutions, from desktops to smartphones and at the same time functions consistently across different web browsers, is crucial.
Optimizing for Peak Performance
For complex eCommerce platforms like Magento, the constant need for a performant website means that the work never stops. In the digital environment, bugs are inevitable. They can arise due to various reasons such as updates in the Magento platform, conflicts between different plugins or extensions, or changes in underlying web technologies. Bugs will make a website load slowly – a major concern as it causes visitors to become impatient and depart, leading to an elevated bounce rate.
Regular maintenance ensures that these bugs are identified and rectified promptly, preventing them from affecting the website’s performance and user experience.
Once bugs are out of the way, optimizing site speed is vital for any eCommerce platform, and several techniques can be employed to achieve this.
Caching is a primary method, where frequently accessed data is stored temporarily to reduce load times on subsequent visits. One technique that our team at Clever++ employed successfully was streamlining Magento’s native Full Page Cache module by using the Varnish cache service for the frontend, and Redis cache for the sessions and admin parts.
Image optimization is another crucial technique and involves resizing and compressing images without compromising quality. Large, unoptimized images can significantly slow down page load times, so optimizing images can lead to substantial improvements in speed. Additionally, minimizing the use of heavy scripts and reducing the number of HTTP requests by combining files where possible can also enhance site speed.
Then, there is the platform’s ability to handle a high number of orders. There is nothing more frustrating than spending a few months getting your online store ready for a specific sales event, and realize, when the sale begins, that your platform has difficulties handling traffic spikes and sudden growth.
Making sure your allocated resources are enough to handle a great surge in visitors numbers is one of the solutions. Pretty important I might add, but not the only one as even the most powerful servers could encounter problems facing millions of page views during these events. So, in addition to server improvements, there are various optimizations that can be made to your eCommerce platform to manage increased traffic better.
A solution that our team implemented successfully was a custom Magento module which generates a static HTML page with no requirements for any PHP and MySQL processing.
In conclusion, the success of an eCommerce platform relies on continuous maintenance in areas of reliability, compatibility, and performance. By constantly investing in regular updates and optimizations, merchants can ensure their platform not only stands out in a competitive digital marketplace but also delivers a seamless, engaging, and secure shopping experience to customers.
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