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(Source: MagicEyes)

(Source: MagicEyes)

By David Sawatzky

A star athlete wearing a new brand of headphones during practice prompts millions of fans to go to a retailer’s website to buy them. A sleeper movie hit suddenly sparks sudden interest in the novel on which it was based. A young celebrity wears an affordable dress on the red carpet and creates a surge in orders.

While overnight sensations like these can be boons for business, they often catch suppliers and retailers off guard, especially online retailers.

Sudden influxes of online shoppers can, and do, bring down commerce sites – sometimes at the very moment the retailer is counting on big sales. The situation is untenable. Today’s websites look beautiful and feel seamless, but behind the state-of-art facade they are often interacting with applications that may have been developed decades ago.

This pairing of the new and old is sometimes necessary, but complex integration can cause catastrophic failures that can’t be solved by simply installing a new piece of hardware. Making sure sales sites don’t crash from traffic surges requires meticulous planning and close coordination between the Sales, Marketing and IT teams.

In order to effectively plan the system capacity, the IT team needs to rely on accurate business projections and a detailed understanding of the impact of marketing and advertising plans. Retailers can plan for expected traffic surges for new product launches or sales specials.

But the same planning must be made for the unexpected sales surges as well. When planning for peak performance, businesses should evaluate the capacity of their current infrastructure in place. How many page views per-visit does each visitor make on average? What is the peak number of visits the site can handle at one time? How many orders per second, per minute, per hour or per day can the site process?

David Sawatzky, Vice President, IBM Commerce

David Sawatzky, Vice President, IBM Commerce

Answers to questions like these can help ascertain the capacity and considerations necessary to meet the desired business objectives: capturing the optimum sales opportunity from any surge in traffic. While accurate answers for these criteria are vital for capacity planning, organizations must also take into consideration dynamic factors that will influence how consumers are likely to behave.

The ability to quickly respond to events, no matter what channel – online, smartphone, physical store – is key. With 5.2 billion mobile users connecting with brands 24×7, even the shortest periods of disruption, whether on the site or in the supply chain, can become the weakest link for a brand.
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