Be Careful What You Ask For

Stephen Yagielowicz
We all want more traffic and sales for and from our websites, but have you ever thought about the downside to success?

While you might be thinking that there’s no problems that can arise from increased levels of business, the rate at which these increases (and decreases) occur and the duration of their occurrence, dramatically impact your operation.

What has me thinking about this today is news of the boost in online shopping that many “e-tailers” experienced during the Christmas buying season. For example, Amazon.com reported a new maximum of four million orders on a single day.

Four million orders in one day. Think about that for a few minutes: we’re not talking about website memberships or direct-downloads; but individual orders that must be processed, picked from stock, packed and shipped, with a goal of delivery by Christmas. Doubtless many millions of other orders were also received by Amazon over the season.

While the powerhouse e-tailer was likely focusing on ramping up temporary staffing levels and ensuring adequate stocks of in-demand items, a myriad of other issues must have arisen and been addressed as part of this process. They’ve been at it and growing for years now, which allows for predicting needs; but still, the process of preparing for this enormous level of success is costly and time-consuming.

For smaller players, planning for success is just as important, regardless of the season.

For example, I found myself unprepared for the level of traffic that The Hun sent my way after listing one of my wife’s galleries. My server exploded after it hit 30mbits/sec. which cost me both direct expenses as well as lost sales while the site was down (as well as lost sales due to the main site loading so slowly under this load). Had I better prepared for this boost, I would have been able to handle the increase in traffic and would have made more sales than I did.

The upshot of all this is that yes, people are willing to buy online – sometimes more people than you or your infrastructure can handle. By planning for success, including the positive and negative impacts of seasonal fluctuations and other factors such as major traffic influxes, you won’t see this increased level of interest turn into a disappointed pool of unsatisfied prospects.