Ensuring Black Friday Performance with Retail Website Monitoring
November 10, 2014
Matt Stevens
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With Black Friday and Cyber Monday coming up, online retailers need to start preparing for an increased volume of website visitors and transactions. And, with more and more people turning to the Internet each year to purchase their goods and services, e-tailers must brace themselves for the biggest avalanche yet of online holiday shoppers.

Remember the Target, Kohl’s and Walmart website crashes of holiday seasons past? Based on those incidents, e-tailers know they must ensure that downtime, performance issues or denial-of-service attacks don’t impact their service on those initial major holiday shopping days, and well into the holiday season, as that could hurt their bottom line or their business reputation.

The retail site user’s experience is most critical to consider. According to Akamai, 64% of online shoppers who are dissatisfied with their site experience will go somewhere else next time, and 52% of online shoppers claim that quick page loads are important for their loyalty to a site. If an e-tailer’s network or ecommerce sites underperform this holiday season, shoppers will turn to competitors and potential revenue will be lost. And once shoppers have turned to other sites, it will be much harder and significantly more expensive to bring them back.

In preparation for the holiday shopping season blitz and to ensure the networks supporting their website do not get clogged with traffic at times of peak demand, e-tailers need to efficiently monitor, troubleshoot and manage the real-time performance of the applications their business relies on, including payment providers, shipping services and even the public Internet. They need to determine:

■ Whether they have a performance problem before their customers inform them.

■ Whether the problem resides in the code or on the network.

■ What is causing the problem – inefficient queries, degraded internal or external services, poorly performing CDNs, etc.

■ How to address the problem.

E-retailers also need to validate the performance of their website, making sure that it is responding quickly enough, especially when people are searching for specific goods.

To ensure both website performance and network performance and maintain customer satisfaction, reduce operational costs and increase their bottom line this holiday season, e-retailers need an integrated Application Performance Management approach centered on how their end users are experiencing their website. They need to ensure system readiness prior to the holiday season, assessing baseline site performance, load testing and assessing their site, and analyzing their website performance during high-traffic conditions such as those experienced on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. During the season, they need to conduct ongoing, unified application and network performance monitoring, which includes:

■ Overseeing the end user experience in real-time with real user monitoring (RUM) capabilities, which allow you to see exactly what happens from the moment customers click until the page has loaded.

■ Tracing backend performance through the hosts and processes of the distributed system to identify the root cause of an ecommerce performance bottleneck, application crash or error much faster.

■ Tracking distributions to isolate specific usage patterns or sets of products that have different performance characteristics from the rest of the system.

In addition to monitoring the systems they control directly, e-tailers should look for a tool providing performance management across wider networks, including the Internet, to identify whether the network is the cause of a performance problem. They need to gain insight into their website’s performance from the site visitor’s point of view, so they’ll always know exactly how well the end-to-end network path is delivering their e-commerce experience to visitors. For retailers who also have brick-and-mortar locations, this has particular impact on the Point-of-Sale systems and credit card transactions taking place at their stores. Whether transactions are going out over a LAN, WAN, MPLS, VPN and/or the Internet, they’ll want to know if KPIs related to bandwidth, packet loss, jitter or latency fall outside predefined acceptable limits so they can take quick action.

Every year as we approach the holiday season, the stakes get higher for e-tailers as online shopping continues to increase, as does the potential for revenue growth. Ensuring network and website application readiness and continuous quality customer experiences requires a strategy that promises to deliver optimal network and application performance, even beyond Black Friday and the holiday season.

ABOUT Matt Stevens

Matt Stevens is CEO and president at AppNeta, a leader in performance and availability insight for business-critical web applications. Stevens previously served as CTO at AppNeta and at the IEM Group at RSA Security. Prior to those positions, Stevens was the CTO, president and co-founder at Network Intelligence.

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