Whether it is selling books, groceries, gadgets or tickets, the volume of orders being taken online continues to grow. Ensuring that customers receive a prompt and personal experience, whilst remaining assured about security, is essential to the ongoing success of online retail. One of the key challenges for retailers is the management of the applications that provide up-to-date information about what's on offer to customers and handle their orders-especially when there are peaks in demand.
This paper discusses how online retailers can better prepare their applications for a future of increasing, but often irregular, demand. It should be of interest to those tasked with managing online retail applications and those that manage the revenue streams that rely on them. Executive summary
The rapid growth of online retail puts the applications that drive retail websites under stress, especially at times of peak load, when poor performance can lead to frustrated customers and lost orders. It is also necessary to make sure customers are confident about security and that they receive a service customized to their needs when possible. Application delivery controllers can enable an optimized, secure and personal online retail experience for all.
- Online retail continues to show strong growth despite the recession, but on the high street demand is not evenly distributed throughout the year For many European and US retailers the most obvious shopping peak is before the Christmas holiday. However, there are many others, such as charity fund raising events that lead to surges in online donations or the moment tickets for a particular high profile entertainment event are made available and fans rush to secure their tickets from online agencies.
- Ensuring an optimal performance at all times for online customer experience minimizes lost transactions and customer churn It is easy for online shoppers to go elsewhere. Even when online visitors are forced to persist, for example when donating to charities or transacting with public service providers, if the experience is poor they will leave with a bad impression and may turn to other, less efficient, channels in the future.
- Even online customers expect to receive a personal experience Loyal customers want to be recognized and rewarded; even if it is just through being treated with a high priority. Even new customers can be offered a customized experience by recognizing something about their location in the "real world" and modifying the content they are shown accordingly.
- The growth in online retail relies on customers remaining confident about security The big security issue with online trading is the safe handling of credit card information. The payment card industry data security standard (PCI-DSS) provides the guidelines, but its recommendations are exacting and can be onerous to comply with.
- Application delivery controllers (ADC) can help address many of the challenges of performance, personalization and security Advanced ADCs help overcome all three issues. They ensure sufficient computing resources are available, balance workloads across those resources, manage traffic to minimize bandwidth use, act as local data caches, off-load intensive tasks from web servers, provide geolocation information, act as web application firewalls and allow the scripting of rules as to how transactions should be handled.
Offering an unreliable or sub-optimal online service is not an option in the 21st century. However, performance and availability are only the start. Those organizations that compete best in the long term will be those with a reputation for secure trading and providing their customers with a personal experience that can exceed that achievable on the high street.
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