UPDATED for 2021: How to Prep Magento for Peak Performance during the Holidays

UPDATED for 2021: How to Prep Magento for Peak Performance during the Holidays

Summer is flying by and it’s time to plan for the holiday shopping rush. As experienced Magento developers, we are very familiar with merchants turning to us for direction and help with how to get their sites ready for the holiday season. We’ve seen merchants experience 2/3 more traffic or process double (or triple) the number of transactions during November and December compared to the rest of the year.

Notably, the Magento Business Intelligence group found that merchants acquire up to 59% more customers during the holidays compared to the rest of the year. That’s a lot of new site traffic. Can your Magento site handle that big of an uptick in new visitors? With nearly 60% more new customers preparing to visit your website in a couple months, it would be smart to run performance tests now. 

Tip 1 – Page Load Speed Optimization


of shoppers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less.


of shoppers abandon websites that take more than 3 seconds to load.


of shoppers who are dissatisfied with website performance are less likely to buy from the same site again.

Magento can be a very involved platform to work with. Most Magento instances are so customized that there is no other site exactly like another. That dynamic creates several potential points of failure if your code and server configuration are not optimized to work together. Module conflicts, unoptimized CSS/JS, and any potential server-side issues need to be identified and resolved. Unresolved code issues can cause major page speed performance issues and become detrimental during an otherwise very profitable time of the year.

If your site shows signs of performance issues and slow load times now, how will it perform during peak traffic times come November? It’s critical to perform site load tests before the real traffic influx begins. Contact your hosting company before performing any tests and work with them and your development team to identify any possible issues with server resources. 

It’s also important to note that page load times and user engagement metrics contribute to your PPC quality score. Those holiday PPC campaigns could take a hit if load times are poor. Key engagement metrics to monitor are bounce rate, time on page, time on site, and pages/session. A fast site will also help your PPC cost-per-click and impressions. In addition, we’ve also seen load times have a positive or a negative effect on SEO. Page load speed is critical across the board for the success of your site.

Tip 2 – UX/UI Optimization

Not only is site traffic at its peak during the holiday season, but customers’ tolerance and attention levels are low, as they tend to be in a hurry to complete their holiday shopping activities. Make your site easy to navigate and streamline the browsing experience for customers by removing conversion blockers. Bounce rates are naturally higher during the holidays as people quickly window shop and bargain hunt. Optimize poorly performing pages, ensure page load times are at their best, and keep your product offering up to date to avoid high bounce rates.

A quick way to optimize under-performing landing pages is to identify your lowest bounce rate landing page(s) in Google Analytics. Analyze those lowest bounce rate pages and try to find ways to improve engagement across your site. Of course a more thorough review of your shopping experience (complete with A/B tests) would be the most beneficial for optimization. However, there are valuable opportunities available for improvement that can be discovered through a Google analytics review.

The maintenance of products and pricing is also vital.

    • Keep catalog images, product descriptions, prices, inventory, and shipping rates clear and updated. 
    • Ensure your pricing is competitive. Have import/export templates set up so you can easily update pricing on the fly. That way, you’re not scrambling when a competitor suddenly has a flash sale. 
    • Make sure your strongest products (best selling, best price, or highest inventory) are easy to find for customers on your category and landing pages. 
    • In addition, make sure your upsell, cross sell and related products are all set up and relevant to each other.

Don’t Ignore Mobile Traffic

Magento can be a very involved platform to work with. Most Magento instances At least a third of your traffic during the holidays is going to be from mobile devices. Mobile sales will account for more than half in most retail industries. Perform a thorough, unbiased review of your mobile shopping experience from the homepage down through the checkout process. Remove any conversion blockers, consolidate any redundant pages or steps in the checkout. Do not mark any checkout fields as required unless they really are required. Finally, make sure chatbot and email sign-up pop-ups are disabled on mobile!

Tip 3 – Security Optimization

Site security is also critical for overall site performance during the holidays and always. If your Magento site isn’t upgraded to the latest version or is missing Security Patches, you are at risk for security issues. We’ve encountered several merchants over the last year or so who have ignored security or bug patches. Or, merchants have severely delayed the upgrading of their Magento sites. By ignoring Magento Security Patches or avoiding updates, merchants are opening themselves up to a much larger problem. Problems like legal indemnification since many maintain publicly that they are PCI compliant while leaving gaping security holes in their site’s infrastructure. 

Beyond the cost and headache of what a data breach could do, merchants could lose a solid portion of customers. In fact, 31% of customers terminated their relationship with a targeted business after a breach was discovered. No merchant wants to be the next Target fail. Make sure your Magento site is upgraded or patched as soon as possible.

Tip 4 – Review and Test

It’s important to be proactive about performance testing to be prepared well in advance of holiday traffic. Merchants need to test the shopping experience on their site.  Be sure that the browsing process, shopping cart and checkout is a seamless experience for your customers.  

Review your site analytics. Verify that key engagement metrics such as bounce rate, time on page, time on site, and pages/session are performing well. Look for dips in data and bottlenecks. Pull data from the prior holiday season. Review what issues you had and where your site could improve. In addition, note what worked well for your site and look for ways to improve based on positive metrics. Analyzing your own data can save a lot of time and solve a lot of puzzles when it comes to customer experience and site performance issues.

Run perform load tests and user-based browsing tests to make sure your site is ready for any expected (and unexpected) traffic spikes. Performance tests and implementation can be a test and tune process. We’ve worked with merchants with complicated, and not so complicated, infrastructures. It can take time to locate the cause of issues and bottlenecks. Sometimes “simple” tasks can cause hiccups that take time to diagnose and find the ideal configuration. Performance tests need to be conducted long before the holidays to be successful and in place before the traffic picks up.

Get started now – or very soon.

If you are missing patches or haven’t reviewed your analytics in a while, don’t fret. Merchants still have time to get started on performance testing to get an idea of what they will need to have in place come October and November. Contact us to learn more about performance testing options or to get help with your UX/UI optimization. Or, give us a call to talk to a Magento expert: 513-469-3345.

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Padawan Series: eCommerce and Pharmaceuticals: Popularity, Benefits and How to Get Started

Padawan Series: eCommerce and Pharmaceuticals: Popularity, Benefits and How to Get Started

As a pharmaceutical manufacturer or distributor growing your brand online is vital. In fact, eCommerce has never been more popular or more important for a business. But why is e-commerce so necessary, how do you make sure that it’s effective and how do you get started? In this article, we’ll explore all of this and more.

Why do you need eCommerce for your pharma brand?

eCommerce is growing in popularity every day for all industries—and for the pharmaceutical industry, this couldn’t be more true. The current size of the online pharmacy market is valued around $50 million, and it’s projected to reach upwards of $170 million in the next few years. Currently, online prescription orders account for about 25% of pharmaceuticals sold in the United States—and that number grows every day.

What’s the benefit of eCommerce for consumers?

The age group that’s most likely to purchase medication online is 35 to 44-year-olds. This demographic is busy with spouses, kids, pets, jobs, friends, family and recreational activities. As a result, they choose to purchase many products, including medication online. In addition, older demographics are increasingly more comfortable with technology and thus more interested in buying medication online too. This popularity is increasing for the following reasons.

Convenience: For many people, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to get to a local pharmacy. That’s why they rely on the quick push of a button on their phone or computer to order their medication. It’s quick and simple.

Less exposure: Older demographics are more likely to seek out ways to reduce their exposure to sickness, especially now during the COVID-19 outbreak. Ordering their medication online—instead of going to the store—is a much safer option for them.

Auto-ship: Having medications on auto-ship takes having to remember out of the equation. It’s automatic, it’s one less thing to worry about and people are way less likely to miss their important meds.

Privacy: Buying medication online eliminates the embarrassment that can come from purchasing certain meds in person.

What’s the benefit of eCommerce for you?

When selling pharmaceuticals, there are countless benefits of having everything available online for your business. Here are just a few.

Data, analytics and metrics: When customers purchase medication online, you now have access to some of their personal information. Over time, this data can be compiled so that you can learn more about each customer and your overall customer base. For example, analytics can show each customer’s purchasing behaviors, demographics and more. Companies can then use this digital data to improve their marketing, stock their shelves more effectively and better engage with customers.

Less competition: When people visit a pharmacy, there are lots of options on the shelf—and many of them may have the same active ingredient as your product but can  also be less expensive. This can cause your brand to lose market share. However, by selling online, there’s less blatant competition at the time of purchase.

Lower shipping costs: When companies can produce medication in one single location and then send it directly to consumers—instead of paying for multiple regional warehouses to stock the products—the shipping costs become exponentially lower.

Build Relationship with the Customer: For manufacturers and distributors, having an eCommerce presence allows you to eliminate steps in the distribution process, each of which carries a cost.

How can you ensure that your company is ready for e-commerce?

As a pharmaceutical manufacturer, distributor or retailer, it’s important to jump on the eCommerce bandwagon sooner rather than later. If you’re only selling vitamins and supplements, this is a relatively simple process. Just list your products online and allow people to buy them directly from your website.

However, if you sell prescription products, things are more involved. You’ll need to be sure that you’ve built a verification functionality into your site and have a process for authenticating all purchases.

No matter what type of pharmaceuticals you’re selling, it’s crucial that you have all product information readily available on your website. Nutrition facts, labels and any other pertinent information need to be obvious and easy to follow. This will help keep you out of hot water in terms of the many legalities of pharma.

How should you get started in the e-commerce world?

You might be reading this and now know about the importance of eCommercebut what if you have no online webstore? Don’t panic.

The first step to take is to develop a website that’s eCommerce friendly. There are many platforms from which to choose (and we can help you with this). Once you have your e-commerce website up and running, you have to figure out how to get people there! This is done by focusing on solid SEO practices and creating social media pages (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, etc.), as well as ongoing  email campaigns. These tactics will make people more aware of your brand and get them more engaged with what you offer.


With more and more people needing the convenience, safety and privacy that online pharma can provide, it’s no wonder that e-commerce sales increase every day. And when pharma companies know how to effectively sell online, they’ll reap the benefits for years to come.

To learn more about how InteractOne can help implement and grow your pharmaceutical eCommerce initiatives, contact us today.

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How to Grow In An Amazon-Fueled Market

How to Grow In An Amazon-Fueled Market

The announcement Amazon will invest $800MM in one-day Prime delivery has some merchants wondering if it’s another sign their brand is going to fade into the distance as Amazon consumes more of the eCommerce market. We’re not so pessimistic.

Is this really a surprise? Is it really a game-changer? This move by Amazon comes after 2 years of stagnant Prime membership growth in the US, hinting that one-day delivery is an effort to ignite more rapid growth, rather than bowing to ardent customer demand. It’s been Amazon’s mission to deliver products as quickly as possible since 2005, and this investment is just continuous motion to continue that quest, not a sweeping change.

It’s important to consider what merchants can do better than Amazon, rather than focusing on merely trying to blindly mimic their play book. One of our favorite eCommerce sales stories is from a sales rep that spent 20 minutes on the phone with a potential customer answering questions and making recommendations. After picking his brain, the customer said he was going to price shop and check Amazon. The sales rep raised his voice saying “you’ve got to be kidding me! I just answered every one of your questions and gave you a solid recommendation to solve your problems. Did you know you can’t even call Amazon?” He made the sale.

What you can do better than Amazon is be the absolute expert in your category and build and nurture relationships with your customers. Building your brand as the dominant resource for customer care is something Amazon can’t fulfill – they just let customers return items on a whim, not help them solve specific problems.

That being said, there are two fundamentals we suggest perfecting to help spur other creative, more agile marketing ideas to grow in an Amazon-driven market.

Grow With Amazon

First, you should be selling on Amazon if you’re not already. No joke. This isn’t a how-to beat Amazon article – you can’t beat them. It’s more about focusing on growth so you don’t live in fear of the evil empire. After all, 53% of sales on Amazon are actually sold by third-party merchants using their Amazon Marketplace. Getting into marketplace sales does involve updating your software integrations and logistics, but it’s a significant potential revenue stream well worth pursuing.

Don’t ignore other marketplaces either. eBay only has 19.7% share of the online marketplace, but they are significantly more seller-friendly than Amazon, allowing you full access to your customer and their contact info. That allows you to remarket and openly communicate to your customers to build your brand and relationships, as opposed to Amazon, who hoards all of their consumer data from merchants.

Tweet: What you can do better than Amazon is be the absolute expert in your category and build and nurture relationships with your customers.

SEO and Conversion Rate Optimization

Second, get your site in order with SEO and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). It is difficult to be agile and adjust your logistics or add new marketing tactics if you don’t have the fundamentals down solid. Merchants often want to add new features but discover they have to satisfy some prerequisites before going above and beyond. We specify marketing fundamentals as being SEO and CRO (or as we now refer to it: Site Engagement Optimization, recognizing that there are actions we want customers to take on merchant’s sites in addition to making a purchase), because the success of any other marketing effort is influenced by the results of those tactics. It’s useless to invest in social media marketing or pay for any kind of traffic if your site doesn’t convert well. Tactics like digital advertising and email marketing benefit from good CRO and site engagement. Good SEO, especially engaging, meaningful content, and improved conversion rates amplify any other inbound marketing effort you’ll try, and serve you forever as assets to your business.

That all said, if your business is positioned to compete on the logistics level and move to 1-day delivery, ShipperHQ has recently announced a partnership with Deliv, a Same Day Shipping service currently focused on larger cities across the country.

If you’d like to discuss or learn more about our perspectives discussed in this article, give us a shout.

To RFP or Not to RFP?

To RFP or Not to RFP?

Pros and cons for an RFP Process

Finding a new website development agency is never an easy task. Merchants are often running on limited resources, limited employees experienced in web development, and limited time. For those with a lack of knowledge in the field, the procurement process can be particularly daunting. Sometimes It can be a struggle to articulate what technically is required for the project or know what a realistic budget is. Therefore, merchants that put out Requests For Proposals (RFP) often do not fully understand what it is they need. Thus, the request for information in the first place.

The other option is to hire a partner or agency without engaging in a formal RFP process. Merchants who tend to go this route may feel comfortable explaining or requesting technical requirements needed for a new project without engaging in a formal RFP process. Perhaps they’ve worked with a partner before or are heavily involved in the day-to-day management of the website.  Regardless of the method used to hire a new partner and why, the process is essential. A new partner is likely going to play a significant role in the planning, building, and strategy required for a new project. Hiring the best partner for the job is vital.

There are pros and cons for an RFP process vs directly hiring an agency or partner. Understanding each will make it easier to decide what’s best for your business.

The RFP Process

Typically, the RFP process is time-consuming and regimented. When creating an RFP, merchants must request information in a specific, formal format. Meaning that businesses who respond to the RFP are limited in the information they can offer. Responses generally only provide the information requested. In other words, merchants will likely not receive alternative solutions. A lack of guidance can be challenging as frequently, the companies seeking RFPs in the first place are the very businesses who need the extra insight that would come from a scoping, or a get-to-know-your-needs call typical in a non-formal RFP situation.

Further, with an RFP process, it’s difficult for responders to sufficiently explain alternative solutions or offer creative, experienced input for optimizations. As the merchant, hiring an experienced partner that can not only fulfill needs but also provide alternative solutions that could simplify or enhance the project should be the end goal.

Pros of an RFP Process:

  • Receive multiple bids from a variety of partners
  • Learn more about what’s available in the industry
  • Easily review pricing

Cons of an RFP Process:

  • Often a time-consuming process (more responses is not necessarily a good thing)
  • Requires a significant amount of work and planning for the merchant
  • A formal process that often lacks creativity
  • Room for misunderstandings and communication breakdowns
  • Responders may not be technically capable
  • The process can put an exaggerated focus on price (Winner chosen may be based on price alone)

The RFP process often wastes a lot of valuable time for the merchant and rarely generates reliable information. Inexperienced developers win RFPs due to low price quotes alone. For complex eCommerce website development, particularly for large websites, bottom dollar isn’t always the best answer. No matter how tempting it may seem. Merchants end up paying for those decisions in the long run when things break, cost more than expected, or go unfinished due to inexperience.

A Non-Formal Approach

Merchants who already have technical experience or familiarity with eCommerce development often choose to write down their project requirements and skip the formalities of the RFP process. This approach still requires diligent research of the various development partner options. Merchants will need to review the types of services offered as well as particular strengths for each partner and case studies; ensuring they are confident in the agencies ability to perform the work needed.

It’s important not only to review technical capabilities, certifications, and price but also to decide if they’re people who feel like a good personality match. Personality and getting a good feel for how the partner will work is one of the advantages that the non-formal approach has over the RFP process. A large part of hiring a partner is creating a good working business relationship. A great development partner will have your back and be honest when it’s required.   

Pros of Directly Hiring an Agency or Partner:

  • Get the experience required
  • Generates reliable and valuable information
  • A more efficient focus on project requirements
  • Get started on a project faster

Cons of Directly Hiring an Agency or Partner:

  • Seeking new agencies requires a proactive approach
  • Potentially more costly due to experience

The non-formal approach requires a more hands-on approach from merchants vs. an RFP process. Researching and contacting various agencies will require some upfront effort and time. However, the process of getting to know different agencies will offer plenty of value. A new project will often require a certain amount of thoughtful brainstorming and planning. With a direct hire approach, partners will be able to advise and guide merchants through the process while offering solutions that may not have been previously considered.

Making a decision

Regardless of the approach to hiring a partner, it’s critical to do some due diligence when it comes to researching agencies and developers. Merchants often send out RFPs thinking they will gain free knowledge and a very objective view from bidders but don’t realize that the RFP process often hinders agencies in doing good discovery and to quickly focuses management on making a price based decision. For many industries such as non-profit organizations, competitive pricing is an economic necessity. Such is not the case however for Magento eCommerce development. Your agency partner needs to be able to provide a solution that requires a thorough understanding of business requirements. In addition to price, both knowledge and experience need factoring into a final decision.

Experience has shown us that there is often a lack of understanding and communication within the RFP process. Both parties experience wasted time, energy, and resources. Further, agencies regularly win due to pre-existing relationships with the merchant or because of emphasis placed on the final cost instead of the quality and integrity of the project.

While RFPs may seem like a good idea to receive similarly scoped information and quotes, the better solution is to take a highly communicative approach focused on the long-term quality and reliability of the potential partner.

If you are interested in learning more about our Magento eCommerce experience, or how we can help with your project, contact us today!

What The European Union General Data Protection Regulation Means For eCommerce Merchants

What The European Union General Data Protection Regulation Means For eCommerce Merchants

General Data Protection Regulation

The European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) seems to be the latest buzzword in data protection. The new law went into effect on May 25, 2018, and affects anyone in the European Union. Meaning that even if you’re business is not physically located in Europe, your customers may be. While this new law was put in place to protect citizens of the European Union, the law is having a very global impact. With GDPR, it is required for any eCommerce business doing business overseas to be compliant.

It’s imperative that eCommerce merchants understand what the new GDPR law is and how to be compliant.

What the GDPR is All About

GDPR is all about empowering individuals to maintain control of their data. Explicitly, the law enforces better protection of citizen data in the European Union. GDPR offers transparency for any saved data. With GDPR, customers have ownership of their data and control how and when merchants can use their data. Further, there are three major components to GDPR to understand: consent, transparency, and data security.

Consent involves a more explicit opt-in than what many eCommerce websites offer currently. Pre-checked boxes are not a form of consent when it comes to the GDPR. Further, merchants need an explicit opt-in for all electronic marketing channels including email. Notably, customers can withdraw their consent at any time.

Transparency involves sharing with customers the type of data stored in their name. Customers can submit a subject access request (SAR) at any time to receive this information.

In regards to data security, the goal is to mitigate any data breach. To help mitigate data breach issues, merchants need to take appropriate technical and organizational measures to encrypt data.How GDPR Will Affect Your Magento Store

As a Magento merchant, mainly if you’re located in a country that is apart of the European Union or have customers overseas, GDPR compliance is critical. Notably, non-compliance can lead to fines ranging from 4% of your worldwide annual revenue from the prior year up to 20 Million Euros.

IP Tracking

IP tracking is a component that needs to be a part of GDPR compliance. IP tracking takes the IP address of a visitor to motivate specific actions. IP tracking allows merchants to identify a customer’s location as well as their geographic preferences. Merchants can also tailor specific rules, including the way to provide calls to action and price modifications.

Under GDPR guidelines, before merchants can utilize IP addresses, they need to ask for customer’s permission to do so explicitly. Including permission to collect and store their IP address. Notably, It doesn’t matter what type of web address is used including .co, .de, or .com. Any EU site visitor should be able to accept or reject your IP tracking and checking module.

Personalized Content

Personalized content is another aspect that is going to change. Studies show that customers are more likely to make a purchase when influenced by personalization marketing techniques. For example, if a merchant uses a customer’s name in emails, or the customer receives recommendations based on previous purchases. To provide personalized content, merchants store specific data about customers with tracking cookies. However, GDPR compliance requires merchants to give EU customers a choice of accepting cookies or not. If they choose not to accept the cookies, it prevents the merchant from providing personalizing content to them.

It’s important to examine all of the data collected on your website. If any data is considered irrelevant, don’t ask for it. Fortunately, there are Magento 2 GDPR extensions available that allow merchants to make additional changes to enhance the overall privacy of customer’s data.

Support from Magento on GDPR

Magento currently offers features to assist merchants with GDPR compliance. Magento has made data mappings available for the Magento software so that merchants can identify the location of stored information in Magento. These mappings are available for Magento 1.x and Magento 2.x and cover Magento Commerce cloud, on-premise as well as Magento Open Source.

Also, Magento created a list of third-party subprocessors detailing those service providers that Magento utilizes in the provision of Services to Magento merchants.

For a detailed list of commonly asked questions and answers concerning Magento and GDPR read through this FAQ reference sheet from Magento.

Contact us to learn more about GDPR compliance and changes. Although Magento is complicated, we can assist you every step of the way.