Holiday Prep Part 2 – Get Your Site Peak Performance Ready
To say that the holidays are peak season for retailers is an understatement. For some, the bulk of their yearly sales take place during the weeks leading up to Christmas and New Years, this means there is no room for error in the customer experience during this time. Last week, we shared some thoughts on The Gist to help optimize the holiday shipping and returns experience, and to cover the full e-commerce lifecycle, this time around we’re going to focus on site performance. Even just minutes of downtime on a given site could cost a retailer millions, so to prepare for the holiday rush we recommend conducting an in-depth site performance analysis. Here’s what you need to consider: Traditional Site Performance Tests Won’t Cut It Most methods for site performance analysis are insufficient and rely on a page-based approach in which the load times of a set of web pages like product detail, product category and the shopping cart are recorded. In this flawed testing scenario, all of these times are then averaged to benchmark the site’s overall performance. If that average meets a certain benchmark the site is considered ready. That’s akin to standing in a parking lot with a stopwatch while cars leave to run errands and hitting “stop” upon each as they return. These traditional performance tests always follow the “happy path” with a fully functional, idyllic system. As a result, when a problem does occur in the real world, there is no insight as to what caused it. A Deeper Analysis To really test your site performance you must go deeper. This deeper look can reveal the cause of the congestion as it could be related to any number of real-world occurrences such as a poorly timed traffic light or detour. Each potential bottleneck is referred to as a “wait point.” Much like the traffic light at an intersection inside of a city, a wait point in software is a point at which work queues due to limited access to a resource – often a third-party system. As with a traffic light outage, if order processing is slow or offline customers will be left waiting. This effect ripples through other streets, creating traffic jams throughout the city or in the e-commerce world cause customers to drop off before making a purchase. How Newgistics and Tacit Knowledge Can Help Peak Ready Performance is a proprietary in-depth approach Tacit Knowledge has developed for site performance analysis and remediation that ensures your e-commerce applications are resilient, durable and ready for the holiday season. The Peak Ready Performance Approach begins by identifying all of the aforementioned wait points, as many are unique to a particular online store. Tacit tests each wait point in healthy, slow and failure modes using two open-source technologies. The first is the Simulator, which mimics the behavior of any third party system complete with real-world failure scenarios. The second is Slow Light, which acts like molasses, slowing down the speed of each response from the Simulator. Two load tests: slow and stop, are run for each wait point (usually about eighty in total). Tacit carefully monitors the site’s behavior, and modifies the supporting software so that it becomes resilient under these conditions. For example, should a payment gateway for credit cards experience an outage, the online store would either accept alternate payment methods only or gracefully queue orders for later processing. Traffic would be re-routed around the obstacle until connectivity was restored. For sites already developed or under active development, Peak Ready Performance can be used to identify a list of all wait points, catalog their behavior under exceptional conditions and describe recommendations for remediation. Tacit Knowledge also provides professional services to implement the recommendations and rectify the online store. Here is one real-world example: Beaverbrooks Beaverbrooks is a luxury brand eCommerce site that relies heavily on rich, photographic imagery. We wanted to assure a level of quality commensurate with this iconic, luxury brand. Working with Tacit, Beaverbrooks has maintained an uptime of 99.996%, and an average of one-second page response times despite traffic spikes in excess of four times normal. Is your site in tip top shape? If not, the clock is ticking. You should be putting your sites to the test now so that you are ready for whatever comes this holiday season. For more information on holiday readiness and Tacit Knowledge’s Peak Ready Performance, please visit: http://www.newgistics.com/holiday-preparedness.