Experience: The simple secret to eCommerce success

Blue shopping trolley on keyboard

It takes only a few seconds for an unsatisfied online customer to switch to a competitor’s website. Studies have shown that poor performance of eCommerce websites can directly result in loss of revenue, poor customer satisfaction and damaged reputation.  

To attract and retain customers, online retailers need to create a great online experience. Consumers expect fast, highly interactive, cutting-edge and visually appealing eCommerce applications. Therefore it’s vital to manage and optimise application performance to delight users. Traditional application performance management solutions haven’t kept pace with the demands of web 2.0, therefore next generation solutions have stepped in to bridge the gap.

eCommerce success is all about understanding and optimising the user’s experience. This calls for full end-to-end visibility into application performance from the user endpoint, the database, services and tiers that comprise the complete, extended application. To keep extended visibility both complete and simple, automatic analysis and correlation of data should occur with integrated visualisations and hot spots automatically prepared.

As IT and business alignment has become more important than ever, application performance management solutions must become truly business aware. This means going beyond sampling, statistics and averages to continuously capture all the facts to provide real depth and provide insight into the impact of performance and user experience into key business metrics such as conversion rates, bookings and revenue.

It’s important to understand the performance of key eCommerce transactions relative to peers and competition. Visitors expect response times that are faster than a blink of an eye. With competition only a click away and user patience declining, relative benchmarking and performance indexing is becoming a must for ongoing eCommerce success.

In today’s service-based, multitier application architectures, it’s often impossible to determine in advance the path a transaction, such as a log-in, product search or checkout will take in production. To be proactive in this dynamic environment, critical performance data for all transactions have to be continuously monitored, not just after an incident happens. It requires the data to be accurate end-to-end, going beyond averages to analysing the actual transaction details, including outliers.

Understanding how an application behaves under various production loads, especially during peak business demand, is critical to maintaining optimal user experience. Maintaining performance as application scales requires attention to architectural detail early in an application’s design phase. Often, no matter how much hardware is thrown at a performance problem in production, scalability will not increase. The more modern an application, the more modern the infrastructure. This leads to more e-commerce leaders turning to a DevOps or Lifecycle approach to application performance management.

DevOps calls for tight collaboration between development, test and production teams. Transaction-based performance-related information has to be visible to all groups in a view that’s relevant to them. When a potential problem is identified, smooth communication between teams must be facilitated. Actionable information in a form required by application specialists provides the best chance for rapid problem diagnosis and resolution.

This proactive lifecycle approach not only reduces negative surprises in production (e.g., an application that worked well in test but failed to scale in production), it can also accelerate time to market for new features and services by bringing proactive performance management to development and test.

The increased use of third-party commerce frameworks and external services, ongoing end-user demands for more functionality such as mobile eCommerce, and the ever-evolving technological innovations including virtualisation create very complex heterogeneous application environments.

To provide value in these environments, application performance management systems must easily integrate with pre-existing application architectures and management systems. They must be highly extendable to adapt to future needs. Modern systems are much lighter weight with 10 times more time to value, so reliance on professional services should be minimised. Application performance management solutions should adopt an open, community-supported model that makes future extensions and integrations easier and considerably more cost effective.

For complex, distributed, web 2.0 eCommerce applications, a modern application performance management solution such as dynaTrace provides critical business value across key dimensions, including the following:

  • Addresses the customer experience from the user perspective;
  • Captures all transactions end-to-end, 24/7 to ensure that all the facts are captured for deep visibility beyond just averages;
  • Is business-aware to provide a real-time view into critical business metrics;
  • Supports the life cycle by design across production, test and development; and
  • Is highly automated with zero configuration, enabling users to focus on what’s most important — maximising user experience and meeting customer loyalty and revenue goals, especially during peak holiday seasons.