Here at Catchpoint we constantly strive to assure a stress-free holiday shopping season for our customers. As part of this commitment, last year we debuted a program for eCommerce and online retailers called Black Friday Assurance. This managed service provided 24/7 monitoring support before, during, and after the busiest digital sales period of the year for today’s most popular brands, including L’Oreal and Overstock.com. Based on the positive responses and the growing need for increased monitoring during the holiday season, we’re bringing back our Black Friday Assurance program.

Why you need reassurance this holiday shopping season

Each year we release an annual Black Friday performance report featuring popular online retailers. In addition to the last annual performance report, we’ve found certain trends and patterns appearing year after year. The root causes for performance degradation, outages, and downtime suffered by online sales all year tend to fit within the following three categories:

1. Traffic Volume Surges

Online retailers experience a huge spike in visitors during the holiday sale season. Although this influx is usually anticipated, many websites are nevertheless ill-prepared when it comes to handling the traffic. High user volume, overloaded servers, and inaccessible webpages impact not just business revenue but also brand reputation. Over the years, online retailers have taken extra measures to ensure they are prepared to handle the surge in traffic. For example:

  • Starting the sale early and extending sales for more days to avoid congestion on the website.
  • Some websites were diverting users to a “wait” page that refreshes every 20-30 seconds, the user is placed in a queue awaiting their turn to access the site

But these measures are not implemented by ALL sites, so there are always a few that end up scrambling to manage the heavy traffic.

2. Third-Party Tags

Social plug-ins, analytics, and marketing tags are third-party components that are part of every website. Sites impacted due to performance issues related to these third-party tags are very common, and holiday season always sees a huge spike in such incidents. Major online retailers fail to monitor third-party tags and do not have any contingency plans in place to handle third-party performance issues that disrupt the end-user experience.

3. Managing third-party vendors

Online retailers use multiple vendors to manage the different components in the delivery chain such as DNS providers, cloud infrastructure and delivery, and CDNs. These vendors are potential blind spots in your monitoring strategy. A performance degradation at the vendor’s end will eventually impact your end users.

For example, consider your DNS provider. Your vendor is also managing hundreds of other clients, so if you expect your traffic to increase by 3x during the sale season, your vendor is looking at an increase in their traffic by 300x or more. In such scenarios, visibility within the delivery chain is essential. You must monitor third-party vendors as well when prepping your website for the influx of users.

What are micro-outages and why are they so important?

We have noticed an increase in micro-outages that usually don’t have a global impact and are mostly under-reported. During the holiday shopping season last year, almost every major online retailer experienced such an outage. The increased frequency of micro-outages has made it a matter of concern for most online retailers, especially considering the negative impact on end-user experience.

The impact of micro-outages is usually limited to users from a specific ISP or geographic location. It is easily overlooked as nearly all online retailers are monitoring their websites from limited vantage points which greatly compromises visibility. Applications are increasingly moving to the cloud, including monitoring services. But cloud-only monitoring ignores the performance impact of different elements in the application delivery chain, such as the ISP, CDN, network type, browser, etc.

Micro-outages can only be detected when you have maximum visibility from maximum vantage points. Proactively monitoring from different locations using “Synthetic monitoring” combined with the insight provided by RUM (real user monitoring), will enable comprehensive performance analysis that takes into account every component in the delivery chain, including the user location and network type.

Why Retailers need Black Friday Assurance

Businesses look forward to the holiday season to bring in record sales while simultaneously building brand reputation and reliability. Maintaining optimum performance is not an easy task. At Catchpoint, we stress the importance of MTTD (mean time to detect), which is directly proportional to MTTR (mean time to resolve).

The only way you are going to detect issues faster is with proactive synthetic monitoring from the locations where your end users are located. Organizations use RUM to understand the actual end-user experience, but it is not enough when trying to catch issues before the end user is affected. One reason we introduced our Black Friday Assurance program was so we could help our customers implement effective monitoring strategy using both Synthetic and RUM.

The program offers a managed monitoring service in which we will proactively set up, manage, and monitor your site or application alongside your Ops teams. Catchpoint’s Black Friday Assurance program was able to:

  • Help customers configure the best testing strategy before Black Friday
  • Quickly detect, troubleshoot, and fix outages during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday week
  • Analyze application performance after the event and benchmark against competitors in the industry

The assurance program was a huge success benefiting many of our customers. Nate Auwerda, CTO at Overstock.com, another participant last year, had this to say about our Black Friday Assurance Program:

“Partnering with Catchpoint’s Managed Monitoring team was a great addition to our website and app performance monitoring during the critical holiday season. The insights we uncovered while working with their experts helped us to continue to provide the best possible digital experience for our customers on any device.”

Following up on the success from last year, we are relaunching it this year! Sign up today and add an additional layer of performance protection for your end-users on the most important shopping days of the year.