Black Friday and Cyber Monday: eCommerce Survival Guide
From leading omnichannel retailers to branded manufacturers, we deploy, scale, monitor and support stable, easy, and fast customer experiences. As the busiest time of the year for B2C retail looms ahead, we proactively forecast, load test, and set up systems to support clients and our internal teams. Since Black Friday and Cyber Monday experiences can make or break holiday revenue targets—not to mention a customer’s perception of a brand—we start by putting a series of frameworks in place to ensure success.
Leverage what we know
We use historical information from our experience or data provided by clients to gain a strong understanding of volume expectations for the retail season. Data about unique visitors, pageviews, promotion cycles and transactions helps us facilitate support from both a human and technological perspective. We map activities on an hour-by-hour timeline for the highest volume periods to create a tactical game plan.
Knowing which timeframes usually see peak sales (organically and marketing-driven) helps us determine staffing needs from our team and escalation contacts with critical third-party vendors. For instance, morning email blasts might result in higher afternoon traffic, requiring more database activity than usual. We can also predict likely increases in site usage based on target demographic information; Thursday evenings before Black Friday might be particularly busy with savvy customers planning purchases with a product configurator or wish list tool.
Throughout the year our teams gather and analyze performance data using industry-leading tools like New Relic. We track hardware capacity against day-to-day utilization and use clients’ holiday projections to plan for adding capacity or protection against bottlenecks. Fine tuning our thresholds and criteria for on-call alerts before the holiday period allows us to ensure the best signal-to-noise on incident response, prevent alert fatigue, and reduce risks of unnecessary and risky intervention actions.
Simulations of failures verify the accuracy and reliability of our monitoring and alerting plans. We also validate how well applications perform—or how gracefully they fail-over to secondary systems at critical moments.
Communication is key
In the weeks leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we communicate the game plan to our clients, vendors, and internal teams, including all-hands walkthroughs. The plans include quantitative data, as well as timeframes, to proactively set expectations and ensure coverage.
Although it’s part of our normal process to provide clients with ongoing visibility through many channels and reports on a regular basis, Black Friday and Cyber Monday necessitate more rigorous and proactive communication.
During peak times, our engineers will check in with the client for added visibility, documentation, and accountability. A typical progress report during the holiday weekend might include:
- The name and end-time of previous on-call engineer
- Time for next on-call engineer transition
- Peak times and transaction quantity so far
- Percent of load utilization across layers of the technology stack
- Next anticipated status report
By anticipating changes and communicating information in a digestible way, we keep our clients completely in the loop. Planning operational duties and communications well in advance helps us support stability during a typically nerve-wracking time in the ecommerce world.