Scalability and why it matters - Part 1

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read time: 8 minspublished 17 December, 2021

Black Friday didn’t go as planned? Once again this year, we noticed a few businesses struggling to keep up with demand during this busy retail weekend. For most, the likely culprit is a lack of scalability built into their applications. 

According to the Guardian, British consumers were expected to spend a whopping £9.2bn during Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year (link). Let’s reiterate that for clarity: that’s billions. 

Did your business take part or miss out?

Taking part in retail events like Black Friday isn’t always an option for some businesses. The sheer volume of customers that flood through your doors can easily overwhelm the underprepared, and the headaches involved in participating in Black Friday or any holiday or festive season can get too much. 

We get it. Suddenly having to ramp up to accommodate a brief flood of customers isn’t always technically possible. Or it can prove to be economically challenging. Or both - especially if you don’t have the scalability built into your existing platforms and applications. 

What do we mean by scalability?

In simple terms, scalability is the ability of your digital or ecommerce business to rapidly expand to meet an increase in demand. 

During normal circumstances, a business grows gradually. Slowly building on success one sale at a time. But during festive seasons, retail events such as Black Friday, Christmas, or any other major retail event  - it isn’t exactly business-as-usual. These days of the year present a different sales environment entirely. It’s a short, sharp bang… or for the unprepared: a bust. 

 It’s good to be cautious. Over or underestimated sales projections and the pressure to compete with ever decreasing profit margins can leave smaller businesses struggling to keep up – or even capable of participating in Black Friday. But don’t let it be your tech that lets you down. If you’ve made the decision to go for it, then there are several ways that you can ensure your business can scale flexibly to accommodate these short bursts of retail madness. 

How can you prepare your business for Black Friday 

There are a few telltale signs that your online business is going to struggle during the Black Friday sales event, or any period of rapid and significant growth or surge in demand. These include experiencing the following:

  1. Website loading time is too long

  2. Individual product pages are slow to load

  3. Painful checkout process

  4. Limited ability to administer and manage the website, product pages, and your catalogue

 Let’s look at each of these in more detail.

Website loading time is too long

Imagine your frustration as a customer at being drawn in by flashy adverts promoting jaw-dropping prices for things you really, really want … only to find you can’t get on the website to order them. Or it’s just taking too long and you don’t have the time or the patience to hang around.  

Something as simple as a website that takes more than a couple of seconds to load can create this frustration. Worse case scenario is that your website is not only slow, but the surge in demand overwhelms your existing systems resulting in a Denial of Service (or DOS). When potential customers are literally being turned away at your door; you know you’ve got a huge problem.

Beyond the obvious immediate issue of loss of revenue from frustrated customers, there are other reasons why ensuring your web applications can handle surges in demand is a necessity not a luxury: 

  • Avoid negative impression of your business

  • Avoid the potential loss of loyal customers

  • Avoid the long-term loss of new customers through negative word of mouth and reviews

  • Avoid damaging your brand and business reputation 

From a business perspective, there’s also the lost marketing spend, and the blood, sweat, and tears to get all your promotions in place, email campaign up and running, and advertising campaign optimised. Depressing, right? 

How We Do Code can help: We Do Code specialise in ecommerce solutions that are deliberately designed to scale from the outset. We look at architecture, optimise platforms, and customise where necessary to accommodate the unique needs of your business. Our focus is always on designing and building solutions that can grow with your business - no matter what the market throws at it. 

Individual product pages are slow to load

When individual product pages are slow to load, you are back to cultivating a bunch of frustrated customers who will ultimately abandon your website in search of one that will deliver the information that they want, when they want it. 

The issue here is around the capacity of your ecommerce platform and how it spreads out your data and therefore the load at busy times. Magento 2 is an example of how choosing the right platform that can easily scale with your business needs can help you avoid this particular pitfall. 

Having the ability to share across multiple databases allows you to isolate and scale specific areas of your business through a parent-child relationship. For example, you could have a parent database that only handles your product catalogue. This database can have multiple child databases that it uses to push/pull specific data elements of a product, or product category. Building a scalable architecture like this can make the difference between a product page taking seconds to load, or serving up your page almost instantly (milliseconds). 

How We Do Code can help: We Do Code have the expertise and ability to optimse and customise Magento 2, or your ecommerce platform of choice, to ensure that your applications serve up data as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Don’t get caught short this festive season: ensure your business is ready and able to adapt. Talk to us at We Do Code to learn more about how we can help your business improve its scalability from the ground up. 

In part 2, we’ll discuss the next 2 issues that could be hampering your business’ ability to cope with the festive season, and more tips on getting it right for next year’s Black Friday - don’t miss it!

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