Cyber Monday is one of the most important shopping days for e-retailers looking to grow sales and expand their reach into new customer segments. However, the kind of shopping surge that occurs on days like Cyber Monday can be a disastrous event for e-retailers who have not put into place the technologies to instantly scale and load balance their online stores.
Cyber Monday is the launch of the holiday shopping season, which Forrester Research defines as November through December. Forester predicts that U.S. online sales will reach some $78.7 billion during this year's holiday shopping season and is projecting double digit growth rates from previous years, with 2013 offering a 15 percent increase over 2012.
Forrester also predicts that 167 million shoppers will do holiday shopping online, spending an average of $472 for the 2013 season.
For e-retailers to benefit from this shopping boom, their online systems must work well and achieve performance levels that do not compromise transactions or aggravate shoppers.
Accomplishing those goals falls upon the technologists that keep systems up and running during the holiday season, and those technologists can find a powerful ally in the most recent crop of application performance management solutions. However, knowing which one to pick still proves to be a major challenge.
Essential APM Features
The key to finding the right APM solution comes in the form of understanding which features are needed and how those features enhance performance and prevent latency and/or downtime. Critical features include:
- Managing performance, availability and capacity for a given application suite
- Providing visibility into applications, network and infrastructure visibility
- Incorporating automation techniques to respond to demand
- Cross platform support for onsite, cloud and hybrid deployments
- Providing support for mobile applications
- Unified management, offering a single interface to manage all aspects of performance\
- Integrated diagnostics
- Extensive monitoring and reporting
The idea is to select a platform that is integrated with every step of an application transaction, from endpoint to host, with a big focus on supporting mobile device transactions such as purchases done from tablets, smartphones and other alternatives to desktop computers.
Supporting mobile devices creates additional concern for most e-retailers, since an additional transport layer (wireless connectivity) can add to latency, dropouts and security concerns. With that in mind, it becomes critical for a full-fledged APM solution to include enhanced encryption and multi-OS support, as well as the ability to maintain connection persistence.
From Application Monitoring to Management
Forrester’s John Rakowski, analyst, Infrastructure and Operations, offers several tips on how to best handle the move to effective APM solutions, starting with how to monitor systems and derive value from monitoring, which leads to more effective management. Rakowski offers a step-based approach, which is derived from his report on Guarantee Business Value From Technology Monitoring. The following graphic offers a visual approach to the process:
The first three steps focus on best practices in regard to governance of monitoring strategies, centralizing monitoring functions and integrating with service desk or wider customer service operations.
Steps four through six focus on choosing the right monitoring technologies to be part of the business technology monitoring portfolio. The rapid growth in APM and related analytics solutions, combined with the reality that one solution will not provide all you need, can make decisions pretty daunting. Rakowski's advice is to focus on end-to-end or system-wide monitoring, with particular focus on how you are going to monitor the customer’s experience of your company's digital offerings.
Step seven is all about continuously reevaluating the approach to monitoring and ensuring that new digital offerings or changes are monitored appropriately. The monitoring approach should also be able to feed valuable insights back to the business, as these could potentially be used to tailor new competitive strategies.
Rakowski's sage advice exemplifies the importance of monitoring, when it comes to judging application performance. Not knowing what the customer experiences leaves e-retailers with a false sense of security, and customers could abandon sales in droves if their expectations are unmet.
Frank Ohlhorst is an award-winning technology journalist, professional speaker and IT business consultant with over 25 years of experience in the technology arena. He has written for several leading technology publications, including ComputerWorld, TechTarget, PCWorld, ExtremeTech, Tom's Hardware and business publications, including Entrepreneur, Forbes and BNET. Ohlhorst was also the Executive Technology Editor for Ziff Davis Enterprise's eWeek and formerly the director of the CRN Test Center.