Keeping Websites Online During Australia's Biggest eCommerce Event

Similar to Cyber Monday, Click Frenzy is Australia’s most highly promoted online mega-sale event that drives an entire nation of shoppers to retailer websites on a single day. Participating retailers anticipate big sales, but must also ensure that their websites are equipped to handle the traffic blitz.

With Opportunity Comes Risk

Click Frenzy, an initiative unique to Australia, started in 2012 and involves many of the country’s largest domestic and international retailers (including Target, Bing Lee, Myer, Microsoft and Dell) who run sales to attract a large wave of simultaneous buyers. The most recent one-day sales event took place on November 13, 2018, and the next is scheduled for February 26, 2019.

In its inaugural year, the Click Frenzy site crashed almost immediately following the start of the sale period. The Australian public responded with a trending #clickfail hashtag on Twitter and the creation of a set of memes mocking the event’s failure. Many consumers bypassed the official site entirely, going directly to the participating retailers instead.

These kinds of one day sales frenzies can drive serious profits. In 2015, Adobe found that Cyber Monday was the U.S.’ largest eCommerce sales day on record, pulling in more than $3 billion in sales. China’s equivalent, Singles Day, also held in November, generated $14.3 billion in sales that same year. Always aiming for record results, Click Frenzy and its partners must be able to accommodate potentially enormous spikes in traffic.

Preparing eCommerce Websites for Traffic Spikes

At Section, there are multiple ways in which we help website and app owners prepare in advance so that when traffic spikes happen, the technology behind them doesn’t fail. Three of the essential methods we use involve:

  • Caching Dynamic Content - Making sure generic HTML and other dynamically generated content is cached so the web application is freed up to do more meaningful tasks, such as cart management and checkout.
  • Caching Static Objects - Utilizing caching techniques, such as hole-punching, can dramatically decrease the load on your server by offloading large files such as image or video to reverse proxy servers. This leaves the website server open to easily handle the critical traffic. Developing a smart caching strategy is essential to ensuring scalability and improving page load time.
  • Optimizing the Front End - Reviewing your site to see what might be causing slow downs, such as large images that can be compressed, old third party JavaScript that no longer has value or alternately too much third party JavaScript, which should be removed.

Another solution is to employ overload protection services, such as a virtual waiting room, which lets you put a limit on the upper number of concurrent users on the site and display a queuing message to those waiting. This means that you can both provide a robust service to users already on your site who can successfully navigate, engage with and make purchases whilst keeping other users aware of how long they must wait until they can return to the website and complete their transactions. Once website users have completed transactions or left the website, the next set of waiting room users will be granted access.

Many clients use New Relic to monitor and alert on web application health and make judgments about when to adjust virtual waiting room numbers. New Relic’s APM service enables you to view and analyze large amounts of data and gain insights in real-time that are immediately actionable. Additionally, New Relic’s Apdex scores serve as a valuable quick indicator of web application health and can be used to trigger alerts should the application encounter difficulties.

Another critical high traffic event that Section has been involved with includes helping clients manage large spikes of traffic generated by the Shark Tank TV show. Section has helped multiple sites remain online through the Shark Tank experience and work simultaneously to improve site speed to deliver a superior user experience. We do this by minimizing traffic hitting the origin through carefully deploying a Varnish Cache configuration for each site, particularly focusing on areas that were susceptible to cache breakage, including session management, the completion of forms, shopping cart and checkout.

Similarly, Section plays a central role in keeping retailer eCommerce websites online during Click Frenzy. We ensure that the bounce rate stays low due to technical issues, site speed stays optimal and that payments are processed without fail. This isn’t necessarily easy, especially when a great campaign leads to so much traffic that it looks to your web server like a DDoS attack is underway. Website scalability at such a time is imperative.

In addition to the technological methodology we employ, Section’s Customer Engineering team can help you plan ahead for anticipated high-traffic events and come up with the right strategy to keep the site healthy and user experience great. We also ensure that we have the right team resources available to handle any unexpected issues that our clients may experience during Click Frenzy (or other events) and will arrange a post-event debrief to analyze what happened and prepare for the next.

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