November 25, 2015

7 Quick Tips on How to Prepare Your Magento Store for a Flash Sale

by Stephen Chinn

By Stephen Chinn, Director of Application Hosting Services

flash sale

So, you want to have a flash sale on your Magento store? Are you prepared?

Flash sales are a great way to generate money for your online business in a short amount of time. Also called “deal of the day sales”, flash sales are when retailers offer a single deal, sale, or discount for a very limited amount of time, enticing customers to shop right away, or else lose out on a great bargain.

While flash sales create excitement around your brand and boost your sales, they also can cause some headaches for retailers. Flash sales lead to concentrated bursts of activity within your online store traffic. Without careful planning and proper preparation, you risk generating a burst of traffic that exceeds the capacity of your infrastructure, resulting in poor site performance, and degrading your customers’ satisfaction with their shopping experiences. Here are some tips for conducting a successful flash sale in your Magento store.

  1. Time your emails. Even waiting just a few minutes to send emails to smaller groups of customers can make a big difference. You don’t want long queues to form because 10,000 people attempted to enter the site at exactly the same time. While a site capable of handling 100 page requests per second can handle as many as 36,000 page requests in ten minutes and will breeze through 10,000 requests in that same time, it will have a hard time handling 10,000 page requests in one minute. If you have too many incoming requests, your customers are going to have to wait. You also risk creating a synchronized traffic wave that’s difficult to break out of.
  2. Don’t use any cache defeating URLs in your emails. Information appended to URLs can throw off page caching systems. Either use simple URLs that you know will provide a cached page, or use a request query filtering system that ignores known key value pairs attached to URLs.
  3. Make all your site changes well in advance. In addition to this, you should run a cache warming system that puts all of the most commonly requested store pages in the page caching system before customers show up. A cached page can be sent to a customer using a tiny fraction of the power (<1%) it takes to build that same page from scratch. If you want to handle a lot of customers, most pages must be cached.
  4. Avoid making any product or sales rule changes while the sale is going. These changes risk invalidating cached pages and will most definitely slow your site down.
  5. Prepare systems to scale up prior to the flash sale. If you can, try to predict your traffic levels and load test your system to find out if you will need additional resources to cover the anticipated traffic. Once the sale begins, the minutes will go by fast, so it’s always better to have prepared ahead.
  6. Never run indexes or flush caches during the sale. You should enable these before the sale, and if you have background processes (i.e. CRON jobs or API calls) that could cause change that will invalidate or flush indexes or caches, suspend them for the duration of the sale.
  7. Consider targeting customer segments separately. By targeting different customer segments at different times and running multiple flash sales, you’ll avoid having all of your customers shopping during one single sales event and evade having too many people on your site at one time.

Good page cache management is the key to great store performance. Think of the Magento platform as your order taking system and your page building system. If you have Magento build your store pages before your customers show up, you’ll handle lots of traffic, get great performance and, during your sale, you can have the platform concentrate all of its power on taking orders.

Want to learn more? Contact us.

Stephen Chinn is the Director of Application Hosting Services for LYONSCG. Since joining the company in 2010, he has created a data center, built a hosting service (offering both cloud and dedicated physical servers), created a US-based Operations & Support Center with 24/7 emergency response capacity, and has hired and mentored new staff. Stephen graduated from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale with a BS in Speech Communications.