It's summer, which means it's time for hitting the beach, enjoying outdoor barbeques with friends and family, going for hiking, biking, kayaking and savoring cold craft beers. But for savvy retailers like you, summer is the ideal time to start getting your apps, websites and infrastructures ready for the holidays.
Holiday season sales are getting bigger every year.
In 2016, over 108 million Americans shopped on the Thanksgiving weekend, that's a third of the U.S. population. The online sales in the U.S. alone surpassed $122 billion mark and this represented a 12 percent increase as compared to previous year. What's even more interesting is that sales at physical stores sank by 10 percent which indicates that consumers are migrating to shopping online at a rapid pace. The holiday season accounts for 20 percent of the retail industry's annual sales and it is often responsible for up to 30 percent of some individual retailer's total annual sales. From a revenue perspective, it literally is the most wonderful time of the year!
Alibaba had major success on Singles' Day in China, with over $17.8 billion in sales in one day (and $1 billion in just the first five minutes), surpassing last year's record of $14.3 billion by 24 percent.
Amazon's Prime Day reached its biggest day ever with sales this year surpassing its 2016 Black Friday and Cyber Monday results. Millions of Prime members shopped on Amazon across 13 countries.
As the stakes are extremely high during such a short period of time, you can't afford to let customers down with bad experiences. However, every year there are stories about how websites and apps falter under peak traffic. This not only impacts your revenue but also results in the loss of brand value.
Akamai wants to take the stress out of your holiday planning and have solutions that are designed specifically for simplifying the management of peak traffic - CLOUDLETS!
Cloudlets are smart, scalable apps that simplify your web operations and improve the user experience by offloading logic to the edge of Akamai Cloud Delivery Platform. Cloudlets are quick to configure and require no additional hardware infrastructure.
Retailers will need to have these Cloudlets to be successful in managing holiday peak traffic and maximize their revenues.
Maximize revenues and ensure business continuity during peak traffic
Companies typically analyze past data to forecast the amount of traffic they will receive during the next holiday season and provision additional infrastructure accordingly. They conduct robust load testing to determine how websites will perform under peak traffic and also leverage Real User Monitoring (RUM) data to fix any performance issues.
But there's a very good chance that the actual traffic is far greater than what you forecasted. For example, your marketing teams may run a super successful campaign that drives up millions of consumers to your website and apps. If you are not prepared for this surge, you run into the risk of overwhelming your data centers and make the website and app unavailable to users and thereby reducing revenues.
You can easily mitigate this problem with Visitor Prioritization Cloudlet, by diverting the overflow traffic to a branded online waiting room. It is quick and easy to setup, does not require any additional hardware and ensure business continuity during peak traffic.
If your native mobile app or single page app runs the risk of slowdown or failure, you can serve alternate non-html asset to some portion of the users until the traffic surge subsides. This can be set up within seconds using the API Prioritization Cloudlet.
Personalize offers to improve effectiveness and conversion rates
People will be bombarded with deals and promotions during holidays. To cut through the noise, retailers focus on personalization to deliver offers that effectively target their customers, and as a result, increasing engagement rates, brand loyalty and revenues. Here are some use cases:
Retailers have region specific offers during holidays. For example, during Christmas, an offer for winter coat will be very effective for a customer in Boston, but will fall flat for anyone in Miami. Retailers need to show offers that are relevant to their customers.
Not everyone celebrates the same holidays. In the U.S., the Thanksgiving weekend is one of the biggest shopping times of the year. But that is not the case in other countries. For example, in India, Diwali is the biggest festival. Retailers typically have deals for holidays celebrated in certain geographies and do not make them available to people outside of those geographies.
With Request Control Cloudlet, you can allow or deny access to your web applications and offers using criteria such as IP address, geographic location, query string and URL path. This ensures that your deals are only available to the most appropriate target audience and thus reduces the strain on your infrastructure.
Ensure customers submit valid information and restrict repeat purchases
When users buy products from your website, they typically create accounts and submit their personal information. But many times, forms are filled out using fake information. This could be from users who are not genuinely interested in your products and could pollute your database and reduce the effectiveness of targeted campaigns.
For products that are very popular and limited in stock, you may want to ensure that customers buying them are genuine and are not gaming the system by buying the product multiple times.
With Input Validation Cloudlet, you can confirm that the information submitted by customers while purchasing products is well formed and complies with your policies. You can also restrict the number of repeat purchases, temporarily lock out violating users and thus reducing the strain on your infrastructure.
Balance traffic intelligently across all your data centers, both cloud based and on-premises
Many companies are adopting public cloud platforms for their growing infrastructure needs and for cost efficiency, agility, scalability and global distribution. It's very common to have some data centers on-premises and others hosted on public cloud platforms.
Your peak holiday traffic can easily overload your data centers, causing your applications to either crash or slow to a crawl, both of which are nightmares for any retailer. You will need a robust load balancing solution that maximizes availability, scalability and performance and meets the needs of your complex applications.
With Application Load Balancer Cloudlet you can balance traffic across any combination of data sources - both cloud based and on-premise. Since it leverages the Akamai Cloud Delivery Platform, you get the availability, scalability and performance needed to ensure best possible user experiences.
Application Load Balancer is cloud based and leverages both application layer (Layer 7) and DNS layer (Layer 3) logic, that gives you granular control to balance traffic based on HTTP attributes (cookie value, url path, query string) using weighted and performance based methods. Here are some common use cases for holidays:
In retail, many customers will place items into their shopping carts and then continue shopping. To ensure that customers do not lose access to these items, it is important to have sticky sessions that maintain the user's session on the same back-end servers for the duration of their session.
Application Load Balancer provides you several options for session stickiness, for example, you can set an expiration date for sticky sessions or keep them on permanently. All this can be done with just a few clicks, making Application Load Balancer a must have for managing holiday traffic.
Routing based on URL:
Your back-end infrastructure may have data centers or servers that are tuned for specific content types or use cases.
For example, traffic to web pages that contain images could be directed to a data center that is highly optimized for image delivery and traffic to your web store could be directed to another data center that is optimized for fast checkout process.
Application Load Balancer is also valuable to maintaining business continuity, providing near instant failover by directing requests to an alternate origin location when there is a failure at the primary origin location.
Retailers get the scalability they needed to meet any traffic demands. Thus even if you have an unexpected DDoS attack during holidays, you can be assured that your customers will have superior user experiences.
In addition to this, you receive high performance as traffic is directed to the best available data center by analyzing Internet traffic conditions in real time to avoid congestion points and outages.
How can I access Cloudlets?
There is one thing that you can be assured of during this holiday season, it's that your website, apps and infrastructure will experience peak traffic conditions. Based on the web traffic trends, some of you may receive traffic that is way higher than you may have experienced ever before. Having bad user experiences during this most critical time of the year will have significant impact on revenues, engagements and brand value.
With Cloudlets, you can ensure that customers are getting the best experiences. All the Cloudlets are available in the Akamai Marketplace. Take the stress out of your holiday planning and get started with a free 60 day trial.
In the upcoming weeks, we will share best practices and tips for ensuring secure online shopping experiences during the holidays. Stay tuned!