Like many companies with a robust online presence, Dillard’s executives knew the importance of ensuring that regardless of traffic levels their website experienced, that all customer activities would be fully supported. The ability to prevent website crashes and provide a favorable online retail experience for end users is a main priority throughout the retail industry, and Dillard’s leveraged SOASTA’s cloud testing solutions to deliver industry-leading website performance.
Testing challenges and inaccurate metrics
Dillard’s currently has more than 280 stores and 16 clearance centers across 29 states. Despite being one of the largest retail outlets in the U.S., Dillard’s is proud to be a family-operated businesses that has been serving its customers since the first location opened in 1938 in Nashville, Arkansas.
“Dillard’s leveraged SOASTA’s cloud testing solutions to deliver industry-leading website performance.”
Now the company has a large online presence in addition to its brick-and-mortar locations, with dillards.com being launched in 1999. The website was primarily created to be used for wedding registry, but now includes the business’s full product catalog as well as a mobile-friendly website version and application. Since the company first introduced its online services, the website has seen double-digit, year-over-year growth.
When Dillard’s first called upon SOASTA for cloud testing, the company had undergone a major software migration and rewrite, as well as including new products and features on its website in 2011. The company also discovered issues with the LoadRunner scripts it was using, which were not realistic enough and did not adequately reflect peak traffic levels. As a result, database queries were inefficient and were unable to properly illustrate customer behavior.
Before utilizing SOASTA services, Dillard’s had no external environment in which to test, making it impossible for it to perform load testing in any capacity. As a result, the company was forced to test in production, which, as Nancy Jordan, Dillard’s IT Middleware and Integration Manager pointed out, made the team very concerned.
Due to inaccurate metrics, the company was also unsure as to how much traffic to test for. Jordan noted that Dillard’s had experienced an outage during peak traffic periods the year before connecting with SOASTA, and the company could only guess as to how much real-time user traffic the website needed to be capable of supporting.
Identifying bottlenecks and other performance roadblocks
In order to address these issues and ensure proper support for the website, the Dillard’s team leveraged the SOASTA cloud testing solution to run several different tests. These included break tests to pinpoint traffic bottlenecks that caused the site to crash, special behavior tests to see how the platform would react when users carried out different activities and endurance tests where testers ran the website at a set number of transactions for a long period of time to see how the platform performed.
Jordan noted that Dillard’s saw a number of results from these tests, particularly the initial load test. This trial revealed several useful recommendations that the company put into place to improve website performance, including caching capabilities, adjustments to application code and WAS/HTTP configuration.
Benefits of using SOASTA
“Dillard’s partnership with SOASTA enabled them to efficiently run tests and enhance website performance.”
Thanks to Dillard’s partnership with SOASTA, the company saw numerous benefits that enabled them to more quickly and efficiently run tests and enhance their website performance. The SOASTA team was able to write the necessary load testing scripts – which mirrored actual users’ behavior – faster than the Dillard’s team ever thought possible, speeding up the entire testing process.
In addition, testing with SOASTA allowed Dillard’s to identify and address major website issues that would have drastically impacted performance. Overall, Jordan noted that the company saved millions and prevented an untold number of customer issues through performance and load testing.
“We have a better understanding of what our site can handle,” Jordan said. “It was much nicer to be able to say, ‘This is how many users we had hit the site this year during our peak day, and this is what we’ll be able to extrapolate it for. It was one of the very best investments to our website last year.”
To find out more about Dillard’s success story with SOASTA, check out this webinar.
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