"While consumers are certainly embracing e-commerce across all devices, the specifics around how and when they use particular devices have become increasingly varied in this multi-screen landscape," said Jason Miller, Chief Strategist of Commerce at Akamai. As the holidays approach it means that retailers must optimize for all devices and all scenarios to ensure fast, reliable and secure user experiences. Reflecting on the past seasons' trends – as well as their own users' experiences – will help you focus on meeting customers' expectations of a seamless experience across devices. Preparation and execution of the following steps is critical to ensuring a successful event:
Step 1: Understand how your desktop and mobile sites are performing.
Last year, for the first time, Akamai saw more than 50% of holiday traffic from mobile devices during certain periods of the day. This trend will undoubtedly continue to rise as shoppers embrace multi-channel experiences. In order to ensure that you are well prepared it is important to analyze the current offload and performance statistics. Akamai has the following list of tools available:
- Akamai's Real User Monitoring (RUM) reports provide you with an understanding of the actual page load time visitors experience across the myriad of devices and networks. Ensure RUM is turned on for your sites by checking the Real User Monitoring section in the LUNA Control Center (http://control.akamai.com). Once turned on review the performance of your site across mobile vs desktop user agents as well as geographic location. Identify opportunities for performance improvements. You can force a RUM beacon to be injected into a response by requesting the page with an "akamai-rum=on" query string or cookie. Please review the RUM guide.
- Understand your site offload to Akamai by reviewing the Offload Report under the monitor section in LUNA. Run the report for 3 months and all production Content Provider codes (CP codes). CP Codes are used for tracking and reporting of delivered content. All CP Codes are tied to one or more services, which are then tracked and reported under that CP Code. The Luna Control Center Traffic, URLs, (Unique) Visitors, Response, Offload, etc. all display traffic information by CP code.
- Review trends and pay special attention to the TOP URLs and offload. If a specific URL is getting a low offload, review it and determine if it can be offloaded to Akamai. Caching on Akamai for even a short period of time (30 seconds) will greatly improve offload. Next review the responses report for 3xx responses, if you have a large number of redirects it is time to offload them with Akamai's Edge Redirector Cloudlet.
Now that you have gathered all your current site information performance data compare it against the performance of your site last year during the holiday season. What made a difference for the customers? What offload and performance did you see and how did it compare to what you see on the site today? Saving a baseline year over year will help the team understand trends. The reports in LUNA are only available for 90 days.
Step 2: Update your configuration to include best practices and additional offload.
- Do you have a big upcoming promotion? Is it a static web page? If yes, place it on Akamai NetStorage. This will guarantee 100% offload and faster performance around the world. Go to Configure – NetStorage and set up your directory and upload your page. For more information review the NetStorage guide here. However if the page is dynamic, using a Visitor Prioritization module to help offload your infrastructure is the best approach. The Visitor Prioritization Cloudlet will help prioritize your most important traffic to your site while directing others to a static waiting room page.
- Property manager interface on Akamai makes it incredibly easy to update your configurations. Review the following questions to determine the changes that need to be made and implement using the ION Integration guide
- Are the top URLs from the Offload report being cached? Cache the content for as little as 30 seconds to improve offload.
- Are your web pages displayed the same way for a large number of users (i.e. anonymous)? Implement dynamic page caching to help alleviate high traffic spikes.
- Analyze the HTTP response data and see if anything can be optimized there such as:
* Chasing 302 redirects?
* Increasing 404s TTLs?
* What else can be cached?
* TTLs - can you further increase them?
* Cache control headers - do they conflict with Akamai TTLs?
- Is Tiered Distribution enabled?
- Do you have Site Failover in place for potential hiccups under load (5xx) ?
- Is compression enabled?
- In order to ensure you have better performance upgrade to ION and enable all the FEO standard features.
- Enable Adaptive Image Compression to improve performance on your mobile sites to help load your site quicker across a variety of mobile networks.
- Please review the FEO optimizations getting started guide.
Step 3: Conduct Load Tests and Set up Alerts
- You can gain a better understanding of your website's capacity and vulnerability by simulating realistic event traffic with third-party load testing providers. These tests will reveal the website’s breaking points based on the volume of traffic, which you can then use to avoid glitches in real user scenarios.
- Acknowledge what could possibly go wrong and determine what steps will be taken to recover the site. Simulate failures to different parts of infrastructure to see how the rest of the system handles it. Once completed you can take comfort in knowing that even if the worst does happen, you are prepared.
- Set up alerts to be notified of any anomaly issues on your origin or Akamai. Alerts are easy to set up by going to Configure Alerts. This article will give you step by step directions.
Work with your load testing partners and Akamai to develop a plan for your anticipated event traffic and the potential threats it presents. Akamai professional services can deliver site and configuration assessments to ensure you are prepared for the holidays. It is important to always be well prepared during the high traffic periods - remember a second difference in page performance could mean thousands of dollars in revenue. To make sure your company achieves the maximum amount of revenue during this holiday season, follow the steps listed above.