By every metric, online spending during the long Thanksgiving weekend—from Thursday to Monday—is up double digit-percentage points higher than a year ago. Cyber Monday 2015 was North America's biggest online sales ever, with retailers raking in over $3 billion. The annual National Retail Federation survey noted that over 1 million fewer shoppers ventured into brick-and-mortar stores than shopped online this year. Increasingly, shoppers on Black Friday and Cyber Monday are choosing "clicks over bricks."
This shift towards online shopping for the holidays comes as no surprise, as more consumers own smartphones and enjoy the convenience of shopping from their mobile devices. Remember that the phenomenon of "Cyber Monday" started ten years ago when home broadband options were limited and it was significantly faster for online shoppers to browse the Internet at work. Even with the ubiquity of smartphones and mobile broadband, retailers still promote Cyber Monday deals.
But even as retailers seek to spread the deals out across the entire Thanksgiving weekend, the stress on their infrastructure from Black Friday to Cyber Monday from online shoppers is often too much. Industry giants such as Wal-Mart, Target, Neiman Marcus, and PayPal all experienced website issues from the post-Thanksgiving flood of online bargain hunters. These issues are a sobering reminder that a company's IT infrastructure is more important than ever.
Here are three of the key takeaways from online retailers' Black Friday/Cyber Monday 2015 experiences:
- Scalability is critical – Retailers must focus on anticipating traffic spikes and delivering extra capacity on demand. To achieve this scalability, many of the larger retailers "overprovision" servers so they have 50 to 100 extra machines on hand to deal with capacity issues firsthand
- Cloud computing can control IT costs – For the companies who cannot spend money on servers used only a few days a year, cloud systems are the best option. While the cloud is less costly than overprovisioning physical servers, retailers are forced to give up some control when it comes to troubleshooting
- Data centers power the cloud – The physical servers behind every cloud are housed in dozens of data centers. By strategically locating these data centers in and near population centers, it greatly increases the performance of shopping websites and mobile apps
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