ScaleArc Study: Majority of Americans Expect a Top Retailer to Have a Website Outage This Holiday Shopping Season
ScaleArc Pairs Research Findings with “Black Friday Prep Checklist” to Help Retailers of All Types Avoid the Black Friday Disaster Headlines
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – May 23, 2017 – ScaleArc, the leading provider of database load balancing software, today released the findings of its “Christmas in May Survey,” revealing that the majority of Americans (52 percent) anticipate that a top retailer will have a website outage during the upcoming 2017 holiday shopping season. Walmart was the retailer that took the number one spot on the list of retailers expected to have a major outage this holiday season, according to nearly 1 in 4 Americans (23 percent).
ScaleArc, whose software helps keep retailers’ applications running smoothly, released its survey findings as it unveiled its new 2017 Black Friday prep checklist, designed specifically for online retailers who don’t want to be left behind this holiday season.
“With ScaleArc, we achieved the best Black Friday in our company’s history,” says Craig Thayer, Chief Technology Officer for Sazze, the parent company to a range of eCommerce websites. “We were able to deliver 100% uptime, serving over 3 billion queries and tripling the amount of transactions from the previous year. We also saw a three-month return on investment (ROI), including a 10-day vs. 2-month deployment.”
To help retailers prepare across their full technology stack, ScaleArc solicited best practices from its many retail and SaaS customers who routinely experience significant traffic spikes. ScaleArc compiled these findings in its “ Black Friday Prep Timeline” infographic.
“The season’s biggest online holiday shopping days – including Green Monday, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Free Shipping Day – make up the Super Bowl of eCommerce,” said Justin Barney, CEO of ScaleArc. “It’s becoming ever more critical that retailers prepare for game day all year long. As we saw with several big-name outages last season, even the smallest misstep in these important preparations can lead to major problems down the road. When web and mobile sites buckle under huge volumes of traffic and experience slowdowns or outages, retailers lose revenue and their brand suffers significant reputation loss.”
Americans Likely to Take Action When a Website Fails
According to ScaleArc’s “Christmas in May Survey,” more than half (52 percent) of Americans anticipate a major website outage from one of the top retailers this holiday shopping season. When asked which retailer will experience an outage, 23 percent of Americans predicted it would be retailer behemoth Walmart.
Americans also called out other top retailers, including:
- Best Buy – 17 percent
- Macy’s – 16 percent
- Target – 16 percent
- Amazon – 14 percent
- Costco – 7 percent
What’s more, more than half of Americans (51 percent) said they are likely to take action when an online retail site they are visiting experiences a slowdown or an outage. More than 1 in 4 Americans (26 percent) said they would immediately leave the website, and more than 1 in 5 Americans (21 percent) said they would visit a competitor website instead.
Retailer Checklist for Black Friday – A Continuous Process
Along with its survey findings, ScaleArc unveiled a checklist of what retailers need to be doing now to prepare for the upcoming holiday shopping season – the retail industry’s busiest time of the year for web traffic.
Retailers understand the criticality of preparing for the year’s busiest season, in which many companies generate more than 30 percent of their yearly sales. Despite this preparation, however, every Black Friday season spawns a list of notable failures, with frustrated shoppers, ugly headlines, and revenue losses.
ScaleArc compiled this chronological checklist to help IT and Ops teams reach targets throughout all 12 months, preparing for extreme scalability and continuous IT operations when Black Friday hits. Earlier research on application downtime highlighted that certain IT resources, including the database, often emerge as the weakest link in the technology chain. You can get more details by downloading the “ Black Friday Prep Checklist.”
- Add new features and new technology. If you have major infrastructure or architecture upgrades to do, now is the time. Even if these features and technologies do not apply specifically to Black Friday efforts, you need to get them into play so you know how they affect the entire system.
- Work towards a goal of zero downtime. Many Black Friday outages result from the database getting overwhelmed. Along with architecting for seamless and immediate database failover, you also need the application to work effectively with that database failover to keep customers logged in and productive during a database outage.
- Review your infrastructure with an eye toward avoiding downtime from maintenance windows. This approach includes maintenance for adding new services. Regardless of how well you’ve prepared, some element of infrastructure will need a last-minute change. Architect applications, the network, and the data tier to support zero-downtime maintenance so you can make last-minute adjustments without impacting your customers.
- Increase site performance. It’s time to rev up the engine that will boost site performance to easily handle Black Friday traffic loads, delivering consistent and excellent customer experience. When it comes to databases, application performance bottlenecks tend to fall into three main categories: 1. poor query performance, 2. lack of concurrent capacity to handle high user loads, and 3. connection pooling / management issues. Look for technologies that can address these challenges.
- Implement the system freeze and test all components. August is the time to stop making changes to your infrastructure. While most organizations have to occasionally accept last-minute updates beyond this point in time, most components should enter a freeze now.
- This time is also good for delving into analytics again to see where you have potential weaknesses in the system. Start applying load tests to see how all your infrastructure changes – particular at the data tier – are holding up. Testing at high load now gives you time to address any issues you uncover.
- See how natural load increases are affecting your system. By early October, you’ll likely start to see traffic increase on a daily basis. Natural traffic growth can provide a better test backdrop than the load testing you engineer because it typically reveals surprises. Your Black Friday preparations should all be in place by now.
- Analyze the traffic. Organizations with high Black Friday loads report Black Friday traffic being a 10X to 15X spike over rest-of-year numbers. Some organizations see as much as a 5X spike on Black Friday compared to Thanksgiving Thursday – it can be a dramatic traffic ramp.
- Make any last-minute adjustments. If you’ve been leveraging analytics throughout the year, any last-minute adjustments should be minor and most likely based on an unexpected traffic increase in October that signals higher traffic rates on Black Friday.
- You made it! Wipe your brow, get a little sleep, and evaluate what just happened – it’s time for the post-mortem. You’ll need to replace band-aids with long-term fixes, identify your major infrastructure projects for Q1, and build a plan for increasing scalability next year.
Retailers rely on ScaleArc’s database load balancing software to improve uptime and performance for applications in a database environment. The software enables database scale out with no code changes and delivers a zero-downtime environment. For more information on how ScaleArc can help online retailers get ready for Black Friday, visit http://www.scalearc.com/ecommerce-black-friday-prep.
ScaleArc enables consumer-grade apps for today’s digital business – apps that are never down, are always fast, and scale anywhere. ScaleArc’s database load balancing software helps organizations of all sizes eliminate application downtime from database outages or maintenance, improve application performance, and scale database capacity – all without writing a single line of code. As a result, ScaleArc customers increase revenue, reduce operational costs, and accelerate time to market. Learn more about ScaleArc and its customers and partners at www.ScaleArc.com.
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