Faced with shortages of goods in retail stores (toilet paper or bleach, anyone?) and the impossibility of going to the store, COVID-19 has e-commerce booming as massive numbers of consumers are turning to online shopping as an alternative combining availability, convenience, and greater safety.
We see a few e-commerce trends emerging in this storm, with rather unpleasant technical impacts. Some of the challenges include:
- Fluctuating online traffic
- Spikes in traffic at unusual times of the day or week
- A higher number of open and abandoned carts
- Greater number of orders flowing into the back-end systems, putting a strain on logistics capabilities
Who would have expected a few months earlier that bread machines would be one of the fastest growing e-commerce categories year-over-year, while bridal clothing and formal wear would be a distant memory in 2020?
Unpredictable spikes in e-commerce traffic cause headaches to e-commerce administrators whose initial enthusiasm over greater sales is quickly replaced with worries over a slow or unresponsive platform, their commerce front-end becoming suddenly unavailable, or failing integration points causing data unavailability.
While humanity doesn’t have yet a vaccine for Covid-19, there are solutions for performance issues in e-commerce.
Addressing the e-commerce challenges of COVID-19
Each e-commerce application was calibrated to optimize its performance based on anticipated parameters – this step is done during your initial deployment.
Generally, these parameters include estimates of the number of cores needed, a performance threshold per request (in milliseconds), and a maximum number of concurrent users your application can handle without saturation.
Even with accurate and correctly tested estimates, unexpected spikes in traffic will still slow down your platform well beyond the standard recommendation of handling 95% of your requests in less than 200 milliseconds – and, in worst situations – take down the site entirely.
So, what can you do?
The answer is surprisingly simple: recalibrate and retest your platform so it can withstand the increased traffic as its new normal, temporary or permanent. Many high-tech players provide specialized services. Sure, one more lengthy IT project? I hear you, but the results will be worth it.
Rest assured, services designed for e-commerce performance testing are very efficient and targeted – no complicated project plans or lengthy commercial negotiations required.
Often times, in 2 to 3 weeks, a specifically formulated custom testing plan allows us to simulate peak loads and identify root causes of the issues, so you can address them in a matter of days. Such services can be performed remotely. My teammates and I recently worked with customers in Latin America who experienced these exact issues: grocery stores, spare parts dealers, consumer goods retailers, and dealers specializing in pharmacy.
Additional technical resources are available of course on this topic, including at no charge via webinars, or best practices articles.