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How DNS Providers Meet Holiday Traffic Demands

September 29, 2021
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Heather Oliver is a Technical Writer for Constellix and DNS Made Easy, subsidiaries of Tiggee LLC. She’s fascinated by technology and loves adding a little spark to complex topics. Want to connect? Find her on LinkedIn.

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It’s no secret that the holidays bring forth large amounts of new web traffic that are driven by seasonal sales. This extra traffic is notorious for slowing down or completely crashing e-commerce sites each year. But Q4 of 2021 faces over-and-above the normal amount of online traffic due to the development of new COVID-19 variants like Delta and Mu. 

As the last quarter of 2020 was also impacted by the pandemic, we have plenty of insight into what to expect this year. In this blog, we’ll analyze 2020’s holiday patterns and predictions for online consumer behavior, as well as what techniques organizations can implement for ultimate domain resiliency.

Online Holiday Sales Analysis

Online sales for Q4 of 2020 are a key indicator of what e-retailers can anticipate this holiday season.  In previous years, e-commerce has enjoyed consistent seasonal growth. But in 2020, online sales skyrocketed up by 32%—totaling over $188 billion in sales compared to $138 billion in the last quarter of 2019. Consumer spending during just the five days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday hit a record-breaking $34.4 billion—a nearly 21% increase (year-over-year). 

The most popular industries for holiday shoppers in 2020 were electronics, gaming/media, home appliances, furnishings, toys, and comfort-wear apparel. Gifts of experience (travel, in-person classes/activities, etc.) on the other hand, suffered due to worldwide lockdowns. While the pandemic is still ongoing, the experience sector will likely see better results in 2021 due to widespread vaccination. 

Top Consumer Buys During Cyber Week According to Adobe Analytics

Corporate and enterprise-level retailers saw the highest holiday conversion rates and revenue growth in 2020; however, small businesses experienced a $10-50 million overall increase in sales.

Popular Brands During 2020 Holiday Season 

These were 2020’s most popular brands during the holiday shopping season (alphabetical order): 

  • Acer
  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • Barbie
  • Electronic Arts (EA)
  • HP
  • LEGO
  • Lenovo
  • Microsoft
  • NERF
  • Nintendo
  • Samsung
  • Sony
  • Spin Master
  • Star Wars
  • Ubisoft

Most Purchased Products During Cyber Week

Here are some of the most popular items customers were actually purchasing during Cyber week: 

  • Xbox Series X and S
  • PlayStation 5
  • LEGO Sets
  • 4K TVs
  • Apple Watches
  • HP laptops
  • Barbies
  • Games (Just Dance, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, Super Mario 3D All-Stars, Madden 2021)
  • Hot Wheels
  • Airpods
  • HP computers
  • Vtech toys
  • HP and Dell computers
  • Chromecast

Predictions for Online Consumer Buying Habits During Q4 of 2021

More than 2.4 billion consumers are expected to make online purchases in 2021. While brick and mortar stores will likely see a more “normal” shopping season thanks to fewer restrictions and vaccines, it’s anticipated that e-commerce will account for about 19% of all holiday sales. It’s also predicted that as much as 36% of purchases will be made from mobile devices

Overall, e-commerce sales were already up 3.3% in Q2 of 2021 from where they were in Q1. This is a clear sign that 2021’s holiday season could surpass 2020 numbers. More sales equate to increased web traffic. 
Now is the time to prepare.

Why DNS is Critical for Domains During the Holiday Shopping Season

As the saying goes, you’re only as strong as your weakest link. When it comes to your domain’s server or network, you want to do everything in your power to ensure your bases are covered—especially during the year’s highest-grossing buying season.

This starts with DNS.

The reason DNS is so critical for domains is that it is how people find your website on the internet. If consumers can’t find you, then you won’t be selling anything. But it’s more than that. DNS plays a large role in how fast shoppers are connected to your site. Since each website connection starts with a DNS lookup, you want the fastest and most reliable DNS provider possible. 

But that’s not enough. 

You also need a provider that focuses on DNS and redundancy. Additionally, you want a DNS host that offers advanced GeoIP services that can intelligently steer and balance your traffic load based on end-user location. Performance monitoring and analytics are other crucial features that will lead to superior results during periods of intense web traffic. 

Tips for Preparing Your Domain for the Holidays: Analyze Your Network or Server for Possible Points of Failure

If history has shown us anything, it’s that holiday traffic can easily overwhelm your domain’s server or network if you’re not properly prepared. More than 50 large brands experienced outages or technical difficulties last holiday season due to increased traffic loads, including:

  • Adidas
  • Best Buy
  • Costco
  • Curry’s PC World
  • H&M
  • HP
  • Nordstrom Rack
  • PayPal
  • PlayStation
  • Target
  • Toys R Us
  • Verizon

This list also reflects the top brands and products consumers frequented during the Q4 shopping rush. It’s imperative for major e-commerce sites like these to make their domain as “bulletproof” as possible.

Stress-test Your Network

If you haven’t already, now is the time to stress-test your network. Even if a consumer ends up making an in-person purchase, chances are high that they will search for gift ideas and deals online first. Performing a stress or load test for your server or network will help you identify vulnerabilities in advance. Doing this will prevent unexpected problems during periods of heavy traffic.

There are several free and paid online tools that test your server/network’s performance and/or load capacity:

PerfOps

OctoPerf

Loader

Loadium

Loadview

Load Storm

Review Previous DNS Traffic Patterns

You should always proactively review your domain’s traffic history. Doing so provides you with invaluable insight into your website’s unique query activity. For example, analyzing your traffic can help you distinguish between spikes in legitimate traffic versus those from malicious activity. It’s also an effective way of predicting query levels during busier than usual times of the year.

Flash Crowds

During the holiday season, your server(s) or network should be equipped to handle flash crowds. A flash crowd is a large, sudden burst of web traffic that takes place in a short period of time. These types of events typically happen during limited-time sales or strategic marketing campaigns. They can also be the result of social and online influencer reviews or celebrity purchases. 

DDoS Attacks

Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks are cyber threats that prevent legitimate web traffic from accessing a domain or network. These types of attacks are typically carried out via botnets that are instructed to swarm a specific resource. DDoS attacks are designed to completely overload systems with massive amounts of fake traffic. They are usually carried out through DNS servers, though attacks can also be directed at internal systems and applications. 

Flash Crowds vs. DDoS attacks

Flash crowds and DDoS attacks have near-identical properties. The obvious difference is that flash crowds are the result of legitimate traffic and DDoS attacks are from fake or malicious activity. If you are proactive about monitoring your DNS queries, it can make it easier to distinguish between them. If the spike occurs during a major sale, it’s most likely a flash crowd, but not always. The location from which traffic is coming can often be a telltale sign. For instance, if you are running a special for products that only ship within the U.S. and notice large volumes of traffic coming from another country, that can be an indicator of a threat.

The key is to be vigilant about monitoring your DNS traffic. Being aware of sales and marketing campaigns at your organization and knowing your audience is detrimental in keeping your server or network online and running smoothly. 

How Constellix Can Prepare Your Website For the 2021 Holiday Shopping Season

Why put your DNS traffic in the hands of Constellix? Because we are one of the only providers in the industry that specializes solely in smart DNS. Our Anycast+ network runs on our own infrastructure and is designed from the ground up to sustain large volumes of traffic, including spikes due to flash crowds and DDoS attacks. Not only that, but we offer the most comprehensive and advanced configuration options in the industry. 

Our top 7 DNS recommendations for the coming 2021 holiday web traffic are:

  1. DNS Failover
    Protect your domain from outages due to unhealthy resources. Traffic will automatically be redirected to a healthy backup IP. 
  2. Primary/Primary DNS
    Ensure 100% uptime even in the event of a provider outage by having two authoritative servers for your domain.
  3. Sonar Performance Monitoring
    Receive performance alerts for every resource in your DNS configuration.
  4. Real-time Traffic Anomaly Detection (RTTAD)
    Get instant notifications anytime unusual or suspicious DNS activity is detected based on your domain’s unique traffic patterns.
  5. Query Reports and Statistics
    Analyze DNS query activity in real time and over a set period of time to learn where your traffic is coming from, spot misconfigurations, malicious traffic, and more. 
  6. Internet Traffic Optimization (ITO)
    Intelligently balance your DNS traffic load based on the fastest and most geographically accurate resource.
  7. Multi-CDN Management with RUM and ITO
    Use latency monitoring and load balancing to manage all your CDNs in one place. This will improve load times and performance, double your coverage map, and protect your domain from CDN provider outages.

The bottom line: It's Always DNS 

In order to reap the full benefits of the upcoming holiday season, your domain needs to be prepared. Check for vulnerabilities in your network now, fill in the gaps, and your website will remain online when others fail. And, with faster and more accurate DNS, you’ll also have an edge over your online competition. Remember, every millisecond counts in this digital age. 

Want to make sure your domain is prepared for the holidays? Our DNS specialists will provide you with a comprehensive demo tailored just for your organization.

If you found this useful, why not share it? If there’s a topic you’d like to know more about, reach out and let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Liked this? You might find these helpful:

Video game sales surge for 2020 holiday season amid console war, pandemic

Adobe 2020 Holiday Shopping Trends

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Constellix DNS News

dns providers, domains, dns guide, consumer buying trends, ddos attacks, flash crowds, internet outage, dns outage, dns failover, primary dns, sonar performance monitoring, internet traffic optimization, multi-cdn

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