SOGETI UK BLOG

In an earlier article, my colleague, Joo Serk Lee, touched upon the challenges that retailers are facing in making sure that customers stay engaged in the physical world. This challenge is even more amplified when it comes to customers shopping for the latest fashion trends and lifestyle goods. Fashion retailers are realizing hard and fast the challenges of bringing internet savvy customers into their stores.

Cash Register. Checkout counter at the grocery store.

You would wonder why there is such a renewed push to get customers into the brick and mortar stores, when it would be far easier to engage with them online.  One word – conversion rate. Consider some of the best fashion e-commerce sites on the internet, and their typical conversion rate is anywhere between 1.5% (industry average) and 8% (holiday shopping). Now, compare that to a typical in-store conversion rate that starts at 15% and peaks somewhere at 25%. Most in-store customers also tend to have a higher average order amount. Both of these factors have resulted in lifestyle retailers investing heavily in store upgrades to ensure that customers are drawn in, and stay in the store for an extended period of time.

In-Store Wi-Fi

Remember your last visit to a large mall, and how your phone would lose all connectivity due to weak data signals. This may soon become a thing of the past, as merchants are realizing that providing strong in-store Wi-Fi leads to digital customers interacting with their friends, sharing products on social media, and increasing overall brand value.

Enhanced Trial Rooms

Studies have shown that conversion rates tend to double when a customer actually enters a trial room with items. This provides merchants with a strong incentive to enhance the trial room experience. Stores such as The Limited and JCrew are focusing on providing concierge services for customers entering the trial room, and some merchants are planning to introduce digital kiosks for online ordering options within the store.

Customer Tracking

While beacons have been talked about for a while, widespread adoption of NFC and beacon technology is only now becoming a reality and merchants are starting to gather heat maps on customer engagement and movement within the store. This will help merchants create better product strategies and improve store layouts for easier shopping.

So where do we go from here? Technologies such as Apple Pay and Android Pay provide us a glimpse of how merchants could use these technologies in stores to provide faster checkout processes for digital customers. Merchants will also focus on more social media campaigns and loyalty programs that drive customers into the stores as new social sharing platforms emerge.

Nihar Shah AUTHOR:
Nihar Shah has been a consultant with Sogeti USA since 2008, working with various multi-national retail clients in the Columbus region. A technology enthusiast by nature, Nihar has worked on various platforms from the IBM and Oracle stack, and has taught himself languages and frameworks such as Ruby, Objective C, and NodeJS. He has worked extensively in designing high volume, reliable and scalable systems using the J2EE stack. In addition to client commitments, Nihar is the practice manager for Digital Transformation practice for the Columbus region and is actively involved in crafting digital solutions for various clients in the region.

Posted in: Business Intelligence, communication, Data structure, Developers, Digital, Digital strategy, e-Commerce, Events, High Tech, Innovation, IT strategy, Marketing, Research, Software testing, Technology Outlook, Test environment, Testing and innovation, User Experience      
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In my previous post, I outlined why holiday readiness is important and how to get started. In this post, I will discuss some of the approaches to optimize the infrastructure that will handle the holiday traffic.

Why?

Tuning an App in isolation is like buying a million-dollar super car, and having no race track to drive it on. Sure you could drive it on the street, but you wouldn’t be taking full advantage of the car’s potential. This is why, it is important to optimize all layers of your site’s stack.

 

Making Changes Under the Hood

There are several aspects of an e-commerce operation that need to be optimized. As with any site, the constant changes (new projects, new content, etc.) typically tend to undo the optimizations from the previous year. There may also be other factors such as new infrastructure or new versions of software in your application stack. Organizations tend to discount the impact of tuning infrastructure (especially if it’s virtualized), and this should be your starting step.

Infrastructure and Application Tuning

A site could have the leanest software across the stack, and it would not be able to handle traffic if the underlying hardware does not have adequate capacity. Allocating appropriate hardware, with room for contingency, is the first step towards achieving a stable environment and application stack during the peak holiday season.

The next step is to take a deeper look at the configuration of the application server stack. Most application stacks (application servers, databases, etc.) tend to have very conservative default settings and those are great for normal traffic. Handling heavy holiday traffic, however requires probing, and determining the optimal settings across each layer to ensure smooth performance.

Code Optimization

Having the right hardware and application server stack allows an application to perform to its full potential. However, not all codes are equally written. Most developers do not write code with the crazy holiday performance metrics in mind, and it is up to the performance engineers to do thorough analysis, and identify bottlenecks in the code. Use of tools such as AppDynamics to identify issues within code, and fixing those issues, can boost site performance significantly.

Final Thoughts

Achieving the right performance gains is a matter of an iterative exercise to optimize various parameters and get the correct balance. This is not a process that gets done once and forgotten, it needs to be revisited frequently to ensure that your application is performing to its true potential, and meeting customer expectations.

image courtesy: qode.pro

 

Nihar Shah AUTHOR:
Nihar Shah has been a consultant with Sogeti USA since 2008, working with various multi-national retail clients in the Columbus region. A technology enthusiast by nature, Nihar has worked on various platforms from the IBM and Oracle stack, and has taught himself languages and frameworks such as Ruby, Objective C, and NodeJS. He has worked extensively in designing high volume, reliable and scalable systems using the J2EE stack. In addition to client commitments, Nihar is the practice manager for Digital Transformation practice for the Columbus region and is actively involved in crafting digital solutions for various clients in the region.

Posted in: Data structure, Digital, Infrastructure, Innovation, Internet of Things, IT strategy, Research, Software Development, User Experience      
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Why do e-commerce players need to prepare ahead?

One of the fundamental aspects of e-commerce, and retail in general, is that every project and initiative, revolves around the holiday shopping season. According to online site Statista.com, the holiday revenue from e-commerce sales has been increasing steadily over the last few years, and is expected to top $80B in the US. (Statista, 2015). Further, according to a recent survey by the US Census Bureau, the percentage of e-commerce sales as compared to overall sales has been steadily increasing in the retail sector and this ratio is expected to favor e-commerce even more, given the trends from the last 10 years (DeNale, Liu, & Weidenhamer, 2015).

In this series of my blog posts, I will outline various aspects of an e-commerce site that need to be analysed and tuned, to get ready for the upcoming holiday rush.

What’s a good starting point?

From a personal experience standpoint, I have found that the best point to start is to look at historical data and trends. Data from the last few years is a key to determining target metrics for the upcoming season (with a reasonable interpolation). For example, if your peak day in 2014 was $20M, and business forecasts a 10% growth for the upcoming season, it is very likely that you will have to handle a $22M day during this season. Given the somewhat unpredictable behavior of online shoppers, and the reactive nature of e-commerce systems in general, it would be a safe bet that your systems be able to handle at least a $25M day (if not more).

Performance testing

The next key component is designing repeatable, and highly configurable performance tests that can stress key components and typical workflows in your application. The amount of user traffic, the distribution of orders, etc. will be based on the forecasts, and site metrics gathered over the last two to three years. Several other aspects need to be considered and decided upon:

  • Is the environment for performance testing equivalent to production? If not, what is the weakest link as a percentage of production?
  • Is content caching available in the environment?
  • Are external integrations available? If yes, at what capacity do they operate?

There are additional factors that need to be accounted for tool / test platform selection. If you are testing through a content delivery network (CDN) such as Akamai, you will have to go through approved testing partners, e.g. Soasta or Keynote. Testing against your internal servers directly can be done using various tools such as JMeter or Neoload.

Last, but not the least, any firewall rules, or security restrictions against load testing need to be evaluated so that they can be bypassed during the load test (wouldn’t be fun to have every request end with a HTTP/403, right?)

In the next post, I will outline how to get started with looking at the hardware and software stack that powers your site.

Bibliography

DeNale, R., Liu, X., & Weidenhamer, D. (2015, 08 17). Quarterly Retail E-Commerce Sales – 2nd Quarter 2015. Retrieved 08 22, 2015, from US Census Bureau: http://www.census.gov/retail/mrts/www/data/pdf/ec_current.pdf

Statista. (2015, 03 01). U.S. retail e-commerce holiday season sales from 2007 to 2015. Retrieved 08 22, 2015, from Statista.com: http://www.statista.com/statistics/241945/us-retail-e-commerce-holiday-season-revenue/

To read the original post and add comments, please visit the SogetiLabs blog: Holiday Shopping – How do e-Commerce Players Get Ready for the Mad Rush?

Related Posts:

  1. Connected Shelves with Sensors and The Future of Shopping
  2. IoT Implementation: Get ready to take the plunge
  3. Key themes for QA & Testing organizations to focus on during Digital Transformation
  4. Shakedown Testing! … What’s that?!

 

 

Nihar Shah AUTHOR:
Nihar Shah has been a consultant with Sogeti USA since 2008, working with various multi-national retail clients in the Columbus region. A technology enthusiast by nature, Nihar has worked on various platforms from the IBM and Oracle stack, and has taught himself languages and frameworks such as Ruby, Objective C, and NodeJS. He has worked extensively in designing high volume, reliable and scalable systems using the J2EE stack. In addition to client commitments, Nihar is the practice manager for Digital Transformation practice for the Columbus region and is actively involved in crafting digital solutions for various clients in the region.

Posted in: Behaviour Driven Development, Digital, e-Commerce, Innovation, Internet of Things, IT strategy, Smart, Technology Outlook      
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