On Cyber Monday 2011, if shoppers wanted to take advantage of the deep discounts being advertised by high-end menswear retailer Bonobos, they would have been disappointed. It was on this day that the e-commerce firm experienced a crippling outage that caused them to take their website offline on one of the biggest sales days of the year.
The holiday shopping season is prime time for many retailers, and Cyber Monday is when many online vendors make much of their profits for the year. Therefore, any interruption to services around this time is disastrous for a company and calls for immediate action. However, by adequately preparing the platform ahead of time, retailers can ensure that their online offerings are more than ready for the peak traffic levels at this time of year.
More traffic than planned for
Undoubtedly, decision-makers at Bonobos did not want to run into this kind of issue ever again. According to an unofficial explanation posted by Bonobos product design lead Jon Schlossberg on Quora, the vendor’s site crashed due to extremely high traffic levels that the platform simply was equipped to handle.
“In short, we experienced 10x more traffic than we planned for,” Schlossberg wrote. “And we planned for a ton. The incredibly high volume revealed several major issues with our infrastructure, the worst of which resulted in charges to customers’ credit cards without an order being placed.”
After discovering the issues – which also included severely slow load times before the website crashed and was taken offline – the company refunded any erroneous charges and issued personal apologies to each customer along with a $20 store credit.
This was not the only problem facing Bonobos, however. The company still had to address the back-end complications with its website to ensure the platform would never again be unavailable to customers, especially at such a pivotal time of year.
Performance testing provides the key
In order to address the infrastructure issues Schlossberg noted, Bonobos turned to SOASTA for our best-in-class performance testing capabilities. To prevent a second crash due to high traffic levels, SOASTA engineers ran a range of tests on Bonobos’s website that simulated the actual gestures consumers make: signing in, browsing through products, adding items to the shopping card and checking out using different payment methods. After each test was completed, the variables were adjusted and the trial was ran a second time to ensure not a single element was able to slip through the cracks unconsidered.
The tests also resulted in a specialized diagnostic report providing insights on website load times depending on consumer traffic levels, how much power and memory the platform was utilizing as well as details of the errors that lead to the Cyber Monday crash. By having this information on hand, Bonobos was able to pinpoint its website issues and correct them to assure a positive shopper user experience.
The tests illuminated an error within the company’s checkout process where the customer’s address did not copy over from a previous location. This caused an error message to appear, preventing the shopper from completing their purchase. This problem was immediately corrected, as was the resulting performance issue.
The SOASTA advantage
In addition to highlighting Bonobos’s performance hitches, SOASTA engineers were also able to design website performance tests for the company that can be utilized year after year to ensure proper functionality.
“We save the tests from one year to the next, which helps cut down on the time and effort spend setting up the next time,” said Bonobos CTO Michael Hart. “The ability to easily create tests and execute them at a reasonable price makes it a no-brainer for us.”
The year after Bonobos’s website crashed, the company saw traffic levels that were 64 times the normal level. Thanks to the tools and insights provided by SOASTA, the website performed optimally throughout Cyber Monday and the entire year.
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