After a month of looking at what e-commerce data says about consumers, retailers and the economy in general, it’s time to turn our gaze inward.
And honestly, the numbers are good. BloomReach at times during the recent holiday season handled record levels of traffic, while delivering superior service to our retail customers during their most crucial time of the year.
Retailers, of course, expect superior service. And every company promising to increase e-commerce revenue by providing a memorable and relevant experience for retailers’ customers, strives to deliver flawlessly.
One in an occasional series of stories that look at the people and projects that make BloomReach tick.
But since we put the performance factor out there and gave ourselves a little hat tip in the process, we thought it fair to look back at just how BloomReach performed during the holiday season.
Naturally, data flowing to BloomReach’s servers was substantially above normal, given that the holiday season is the busiest for our retail customers. No matter the season, that wealth of data gives BloomReach tremendous insight into what is happening on the web, particularly on commerce sites, on any given day.
Holiday traffic is a big test for everyone
But the holiday season is particularly interesting and particularly challenging. By one of the most telling measures of activity on our customers’ sites, traffic to BloomReach servers peaked at 300 percent of the traffic on a typical day. That mega-peak was Cyber Monday, not surprisingly, but traffic remained strong throughout the holiday season, as you would imagine.
And throughout the dramatic holiday traffic spikes, BloomReach’s digital infrastructure was up and running with no outages or downtime — with typical (or better) response times.
BloomReach provides tools to help drive organic search traffic, to personalize digital sites, to increase conversions through improved site search and navigation and to provide merchandisers with the insights they need to best tell the right story to their customers.
And during the holiday season, BloomReach was able to deliver those services with reliability that couldn’t have been better.
It’s a huge deal for digital retailers, who generally rank latency — or speed — and uptime — or reliability — as their top requirements when partnering with technology companies.
BloomReach has a unique view into the web
BloomReach’s position as the company that more than a hundred retailers, including some of the largest online sellers, rely on to improve their customers’ discovery and search experience, gives us a unique view into the workings of the web.
The company’s machine-learning technology relies on data from 75 million unique consumers a month. In all, BloomReach captures data from more than 20 percent of all U.S. e-commerce.
And based on all that data, BloomReach is able to get a firm grasp on the trajectory of e-commerce. Company data shows that server calls related to BloomReach’s Commerce Search product increased 2.7 times on Cyber Monday compared to a more typical Monday in September. Again, BloomReach handled the surge without incident, which is key, given that Commerce Search powers site search and personalization on retail customers’ sites.
The holiday traffic spikes were global, by the way, with traffic to our European customers up more than four times at the peak during the long Thanksgiving weekend. In fact, the data shows that Black Friday is a thing outside the United States, given that the peak in Europe hit on the day after Thanksgiving.
Reliability is a key consideration for any retailer choosing a partner to optimize the customer experience on their websites. Downtime means lost sales, frustrated consumers and the kind of poor customer experience that might mean that frustrated customer is not coming back.
A number of major retailers put their faith in BloomReach after head-to-head tests pitting BloomReach against multiple competitors. They included retail giants like Toys R Us and Staples, the largest office supply retailer online and a business that relies heavily on site search. Those retailers’ faith was rewarded over the holiday season, as BloomReach delivered service without fail.
Preparation is the key to a successful holiday shopping season
BloomReach’s peak performance, in the face of peak traffic, was no accident, of course. We think about preparing for high holiday traffic all year. In fact, given BloomReach’s diverse set of retail customers, we face regular spikes on days like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Singles Day and during the back to school season, for instance.
We torture test our systems in the run-up to the holiday season. We run drills, like first responders exploring ways to avoid the worst. We provision our cloud-based system with the ability to scale up in advance of monster traffic. As a result, BloomReach delivered its service to customers during the holiday season with the same speed it does during quieter times.
It’s nice, of course, to be able to look back at a successful holiday season. But if the season just past taught us anything, it’s the importance of looking forward. With the growth of e-commerce, the next surge will be here sooner than we think; and it will be bigger than the last.
Photo by Mike Cassidy.
Mike Cassidy is BloomReach’s storyteller. Contact him at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.