Gilt Groupe Brings Web Performance into Fashion

Gilt Groupe is in the business of selling men’s, women’s and children’s high fashion designer labels at deep discounts using ecommerce “flash sales.” In 2009, just two years after its launch, Gilt Groupe posted revenues of $170 million. This year, the company is forecasting that revenues will double, bringing additional stress to the website. Thanks to SOASTA, they’ll be ready.

“We are very excited to use SOASTA’s CloudTest® platform. As a previous user of other solutions, it is great to see a fresh approach to the way graphs and data are presented.” – Kevin Haggard, VP of Software Reliability Engineering

FINDING A SOLUTION

The wave rolls in every day at noon East Coast time. A few minutes before the hour, online retailer Gilt Groupe blasts out an email, and a hush falls over many a workplace, as phone calls are cut short and consumers rush to catch the latest finds in designer fashion. Many retailers are starting to prepare for “holiday readiness” by developing compelling online experiences and testing to make sure they can handle the expected, often huge, increases in website traffic. For Gilt, this sort of dramatic spike is a daily occurrence. During the hour after its weekday sales kick off, between noon and 1 p.m. ET, its website is visited by over 100,000 unique shoppers. For that time, it might as well be the most crowded store in New York.

Gilt Groupe is in the business of selling men’s, women’s and children’s high fashion at deep discounts. Countering predictions that a recession would mean the death of demand for luxuries, Gilt has thrived through the downturn, selling designer labels at prices around 70 percent off retail. Within the e-commerce sector, what Gilt does is called a “flash sale,” or a virtual version of a designer sample sale. The website’s best finds disappear immediately, and scarcity promotes covetousness, competition, and loyal attention. Gilt Groupe says that in 2009, just two years after its launch, it posted revenues of $170 million. This year, the company is forecasting that its revenues will more than double, which means additional stress on the website.

GROWTH CREATES OPPORTUNITY

The company has experienced phenomenal growth with its membership having multiplied sevenfold since launch. As a purely online business, web performance, uptime and an outstanding user experience are top priorities at Gilt. The QA team has historically tested its code and various aspects of its website on a regular basis with in house tools. However, with spikes in volume that can exceed 10,000 requests per second within five to fifteen minutes, it is critical to constantly test performance under load.

Using SOASTA CloudTest, Gilt Groupe learned they could accurately replicate the stress put on the infrastructure by the steadily increasing volume, as well as the dramatic spikes put into motion by flash sales. Seeing the results in real-time through the CloudTest Analytics Dashboard illustrated the speed with which they could identify potential bottlenecks. Integration into monitoring to see
all relevant metrics on the same timeline was another important decision criteria. And, not only can they use the CloudTest Appliance to do internal testing but they can seamlessly take those tests to the Cloud when they want to test at scale.

KEEPING UP WITH CHANGE

As the site is constantly updating with daily sales as well as new features, Gilt Groupe implements a gradual roll out of updates to ensure the changes perform as expected under load. Adhering to their commitment to optimal performance, Gilt decided SOASTA CloudTest can better help them test the code and handle the traffic spikes.

With CloudTest, Gilt Groupe no longer has to depend solely on home grown tools in Java that pinpoint only specific areas for testing. Because CloudTest is a browser-based environment they are also not bound to any specific platform for creating and executing tests. As a Mac shop, this was important to them. Ultimately, Gilt can improve quality, finding and fixing things like memory leaks or latency, much earlier in the development process as a result of using CloudTest. And that means a better shopping experience for Gilt’s customers!

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