Editor’s Note: The following is a guest blog post by David DeFranza, senior content strategist at Brooks Bell, an enterprise-level web site optimization and A/B split-testing firm.
For most people, August is dominated by the final days of summer and the back-to-school scramble. Consumers may be searching for deals on notebooks and pencils, but few if any have given thought to the holiday shopping season. The opposite is true, however, for retailers. Indeed, preparations for the busiest shopping season of the year are in full swing and ecommerce sites are working to redesign, rebuild, test, and optimize their pages ahead of the rush. With so much at stake, online retailers can’t risk performance dips or broken experiences during the holidays and, as such, must invest considerable resources in advance.
In fact, stability is so important that many sites enforce a strict “code freeze” leading into and through Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This prevents the introduction of new features or code that haven’t gone through a thorough QA review—but it also limits the opportunity to serve relevant offers, launch flash sales, or maximize productivity by responding to customer behavior. Of course tag management is a powerful tool for working through these code freezes. By serving as a central hub of a unified marketing system, tag management allows marketers and merchandisers to adjust testing and analytics tools without changing the site code—creating an opportunity to test through the busy holiday season.
And as valuable as this benefit is, tag management systems can support testing in a number of other ways during high-traffic periods. Here are three ideas for retailers this Black Friday:
1. Leverage the Data Layer
Sandwiched between the backend databases and applications that power a site, and the front-end interface that users engage with, is the data layer—a buffer of session information that can be incredibly useful for optimization and personalization. The easiest way to access this data is through the use of a tag management system, which helps balance the three layers and allows data to pass between them.
In practical terms, this data layer can be used to tailor the site experience to the unique behaviors of each user, serving hyper-relevant offers or features in response to specific actions. This is particularly useful during holiday shopping seasons, when many consumers spend hours—if not days—in the research phase of the purchase cycle. Increasing relevancy can build motivation and ultimately drive purchases.
2. Manage Timely Offers Flexibly
Holiday shopping season is full of timely offers—everything from flash sales to shipping discounts and coupon codes to social sharing incentives. It’s possible to manage these offers through a testing tool, but a tag management system—drawing on that underlying data layer—can apply section, page, time, and user-specific rules to display precisely the right content at the perfect moment.
This is particularly helpful when a discount must run for five hours, or when a free shipping code is offered to visitors coming from a paid search ad. Managing such offers through a tag management system instead of creating individual tests makes it easy to mix and match or turn combinations on or off quickly.
3. Optimize Tags for Better Testing
One of the common concerns about testing during high-traffic periods is that testing will slow page performance. This is possible, but often slow page loads are caused by conflicts between several services—including analytics, ad servers, and so on—which all fight for bandwidth. Knowing that testing is of critical importance during peak shopping season, it’s possible to quickly optimize tags to make room for the testing tool.
Using a tag management system to quickly turn off non-vital services—like a click tracking tool or extra analytics packages—can not only speed page performance, but help testing tools run more efficiently as well.
When it comes to testing during high traffic periods—like Black Friday for ecommerce retailers—tag management can help maintain velocity while ensuring site stability. And testing during these periods is essential to ensure ecommerce sites realize their full potential. Using a tag management system can not only support testing during high traffic periods, but increase its impact as well.