Black Friday: How To Avoid Ecommerce Disaster - InformationWeek

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Black Friday: How To Avoid Ecommerce Disaster

Can your retail site handle the traffic deluge on the busiest shopping day of the year? Avoid these six performance-testing mistakes, says BlazeMeter.

what you're doing, but the database system, or whatever the data store is, is often the bottleneck. Or it's the web servers themselves."

Mistake #4: Not having a backup.
Things always go wrong, of course, so smart companies have a backup system in place.

"Make sure you have backup servers, backup locations," Prusak said. "And also do a dry run. Very often companies do have backups, but the people who need to do it … aren't necessarily experienced at it."

Mistake #5: Overlooking the end user experience.
Most performance testing involves hitting the backend systems as hard as you can, noted Prusak, but don't forget to test the user experience with real web browsers while the site is under stress.

The server response time could become unacceptably slow, for instance. "The user experience might degrade from 5 seconds to 20 seconds," and the shopper will head elsewhere before completing the purchase.

Mistake #6: Not factoring in third-party integration.
"We kind of assume that third-party sites or tags are going to work, but you shouldn't make that assumption," said Prusak.

One solution is to use a technology called asynchronous scripting. "It means the webpage isn't waiting for the third-party script to load in order for the page to load," Prusak said.

Failing to factor in third-party glitches can spell Black Friday disaster.

"There was a client who had a third-party chat system, which allows users to chat with somebody at your store," said Prusak. "That's very common. But if there was a problem with the chat system, the whole page wouldn't load correctly."

Prusak's final piece of advice: Make sure any infrastructure improvements are worth the cost.

"If money were no object, every site could handle a limitless number of users," he said. "At the end of the day, you need to do the math and say, 'If it costs me so-and-so much to handle three times as much [traffic] as I anticipate, is it worth it?'"

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Jeff Bertolucci is a technology journalist in Los Angeles who writes mostly for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, The Saturday Evening Post, and InformationWeek. View Full Bio

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D. Henschen
D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
9/22/2014 | 12:41:45 PM
Never too early to start planning
Companies that properly prepare for the Christmas selling season need to get started in summer, so it's never too soon to heed this advice. In fact, advice on topics like third-party integrations and having backups (if you don't have them already) might be too late for 2014, but don't throw your hands up and put it off.

I used to cover direct marketing, and I can assure you that all the creative work, list buying, customer segmentation and even mailing for Christmas campaigns is already done by this time of year -- at least where catalogs and other forms or direct mail are concerned. I'm sure the digital campaigns are also scheduled and planned, and the merchandize selection and ordering was all taken care of months ago. Retailers and direct marketers, please tell me if I'm wrong. I covered your business back in the late 1990s, so mabye times have changed, but I doubt it. Is all the holiday camapaign work in the bag (planned if not executed) by this time of year?

User Rank: Apprentice
9/24/2014 | 3:26:45 PM
Re: Never too early to start planning
The reality is that many companies are only now doing performance testing on their infrastructure, even if most of the retail or marketing side of holiday season is already done.

This is partly due constant site updates, development and code changes, so it makes sense to wait untill your production code is as close as possible to what it will be when Black Friday hits.

Also, with today's Agile performance testing platforms, you can create and run performance tests in minutes or hours, so you don't need anywhere as much lead time as in the past.
User Rank: Ninja
9/22/2014 | 3:14:30 PM
End user satisfaction
Seeing what the End User satisfaction controls in an e-commerce programme, having fine tuned services is what every e-commerce site should be giving. That includes pictures, audio, video or any other kind of interactive models. It also includes an after sales service and return/exchange without much hassle. Recently I had a shopping experience with Amazon in a town where there was no reverse pick up so I had to send the return by myself. The process was hectic but Amazon officials helped me throughout the way.
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