Black Friday is a pretty new concept in the UK. Traditionally an American post-Thanksgiving shopping day, it has recently gained popularity in the UK. It really took off last year and defined the start of what I heard being called the Golden Quarter – from November through to the end of January – when retailers will make 40-50 percent of their annual sales.
With anything new, people take a while to find their feet, and will try out new things. I hope that one of the technologies that was trialled widely on e-commerce sites during this period last year, isn’t used again this year: The queuing system.
The idea was sound: instead of having too many customers hitting a site and causing poor performance for everyone, a number were put into a virtual waiting room and allowed onto the site in order. The meant that, once in, everyone could shop quickly without any risk of a crash from overload.
But in practice, it seemed to customers as if the site wasn’t working. The Press reported that sites had “crashed” anyway and the user experience was awful. You might queue to get into Harrods on the first day of a Sale, or you might queue online to get a ticket to the last One Direction concert, but with plenty of choices available, users simply hopped elsewhere.
To me, the most frustrating thing was that this seemed like a lazy solution. It is not difficult to build your e-commerce site for the peaks you should be expecting.
Why not ensure you can spin up extra capacity with a cloud provider, if needed? And why not take the time to configure the database structure? This would mean that, for those few days when 1000 people a minute are wanting to see the shoes you have in stock, they all can. Easily and without delay.
Building an e-commerce site – or indeed any application – to be scalable to handle peak traffic should be a high priority for your developers, DBAs, and sys admins. With the range of available cloud technologies, database technologies, and automation tools there is no excuse.
Let’s hope that for Black Friday 2015, for once the UK is queue free!
By the way, if you need a hand on any of the areas discussed above, please do get in touch. As a majority of Pythian’s retail clients are in the US, we’ve had many years of practice, and ensure our clients peak demands are handled smoothly.