If you prioritize application development, testing, and monitoring only for peak usage periods, you’re probably not doing it right.

That’s one of the key lessons for developers and application owners—especially those working on e-commerce and related apps—from recent research conducted by data analytics firm RJ Metrics, which finds a few wrinkles in the conventional wisdom about the holiday shopping season.

That wisdom, in short, holds that consumers shop like crazy in November and December, typically peaking on “event” days like Black Friday and its younger counterpart, Cyber Monday. Even in supposedly slow years, reports Marketing Land, retailers ring up billions in sales during this time of year, and e-commerce is eating a growing slice of that lucrative pie.

The survey found, unsurprisingly, that holiday shopping remains big business. But it also showed the importance of the holiday season is waning for many companies, especially online retailers. The report focuses on the marketing consequences of the data, noting: “These are strategies that revolve around 365-day execution.”

mobile shopping illustrationThat got us thinking about the development, testing, and monitoring implications of this trend. For instance, every fall the tech headlines and vendor pitches trumpet the need to get your website and related applications ready for the holiday crush. That’s certainly true, but the focus on the holidays implies that those systems can simply run on autopilot the rest of the year—no need to check them again until next year’s seasonal spike, right?

Of course, seasoned IT ops folks know that’s not the case. But the report highlights some data that shows why development, testing, and monitoring of e-commerce—and its growing sub-segment of mobile commerce—has to be a year-round proposition:

1. E-commerce is a 365-day business. The traditional holiday shopping season has declined for five straight years, and in 2014 dipped below 20% of annual revenue for ecommerce firms for the first time. That doesn’t mean you no longer need to prep for events like Cyber Monday, but it underscores the 365-day nature of modern e-commerce. “Because of [sales and marketing strategies], they’re less reliant on holiday shopping than traditional retailers,” the report reads.

2. Industry matters. The holiday season’s impact varies widely from industry to industry. Non-holiday-sensitive segments such as food/drug, health/beauty, and housewares/home furnishings have earned 16% of their annual revenue during the holiday season since 2012. If you do the math, that “means these segments are actually generating less revenue during holiday months than they are during the rest of the year.” This underscores the need for a flexible, “always-on” approach to development, testing, and monitoring.

3. Even “holiday-sensitive” businesses are experiencing an online shift. Although certain kinds of traditional brick-and-mortar retailers continue to go all out to generate sales during the holidays, the season’s online impact is waning across the board, including among the growing segment of people shopping via mobile devices. That’s especially true for holiday-sensitive segments like apparel/accessories and computers/electronics. The holiday season as a percentage of annual revenue in those segments has dropped nine points more than the e-commerce category overall during the past five years, according to the report.

None of this is to say that the holidays don’t matter. Events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday can generate 50% to 100% more e-commerce revenue than any other day of the year. The traffic and transactional spikes are real and can keep developers and operations pros extra busy. Just remember that every day is critical in e-commerce, and that’s growing truer by the day.


Shopping cart and smartphone images courtesy of Shutterstock.

Kevin Casey writes about technology and business for a wide variety of publications and companies. He won an Azbee Award, given by the American Society of Business Publication Editors, for his InformationWeek story, “Are You Too Old for IT?” He’s also a former community choice honoree in the Small Business Influencer Awards. View posts by .

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