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Keep Your e-Commerce Available on Black Friday

Having a site or application outage on Black Friday is every e-commerce owner’s worst nightmare. E-commerce is notorious for it’s razor-thin profit margins, making these major holiday shopping days not only important, but critical to the success of retailers’ apps and websites. On average, online stores generate 300% more during the holiday weekend than other weekends in November [1], and according to Adobe Analytics, spend in 2021 reached 12 million per minute during the day’s peak hour [2]. And while these gains are a boon to most retailers, those that aren’t prepared for the extra traffic stand will suffer a huge loss in profits. This blog post will help understand the risks and how to handle the scalability and security challenges that can lead to site outages on the biggest shopping weekend of the year.

Increased Demand

With e-commerce becoming an increasingly competitive space, stores rely on big shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday to generate sales and provide leads for the rest of the year. And while big discounts may bring shoppers to your site, a flawless user experience is incredibly important to closing sales. A Hubspot study on e-commerce checkout revealed that 57% of users will abandon a site if a page takes more than three seconds for a site to load, and 80% will never return. [3]

Unfortunately, ensuring high performance amid massive traffic spikes requires responsive scaling and highly elastic resource use. For monolithic applications, this can be difficult, since “scaling up” means scaling the entire application, rather than only the parts that receive the most requests, forcing companies with legacy applications to underallocate or misallocate resources, risking slow service and outages.

In addition, the number of users shopping on mobile devices increases each year, posing its own unique challenges for e-commerce performance on Black Friday. Speed and access are highly dependent on location, resulting in high network latency for users in locations with poor reception. This is especially problematic for e-commerce stores, which often incorporate different payment options via multiple APIs, requiring more trips to origin servers that are already struggling to accommodate increased traffic. And a variety of screen sizes and resolutions make it hard to optimize many heavy images needed to showcase e-commerce products, risking timeouts and site abandonment for customers who don’t want to wait for images to load.

New Threats

In addition to preparing for more customers on Black Friday, e-commerce companies must prepare for more malicious traffic, which poses its own threat to availability. This is particularly true now, due to an increase in DDoS attacks, which attempt to shut down websites, apps, and networks by overwhelming them with traffic from malware-infected machines. Over the past two years, DDoS attacks have not only grown more frequent, but larger, and targeted at a wider range of businesses.

Since DDoS attacks are often designed to cause the maximum amount of damage to a company, they are often planned for times when legitimate traffic is at its highest, such as Black Friday and other holiday shopping days. This is more important than ever, given the rise of DDoS ransom attacks, which attempt to extort money from businesses by threatening attacks or offering to stop an ongoing attack.

Digital initiatives like transitioning from on-premise infrastructure to the cloud or adding new services to e-commerce stores presents more security risks by adding more attack vectors, exposing vulnerabilities that may not have been patched yet. A recent Forbes article noted that only 57% of companies conducted a data security assessment risk in 2020, and 78% of senior IT leaders lack confidence in their company’s cybersecurity posture. [4]

How to Improve e-Commerce Availability

Ultimately, the availability and performance issues stemming from increased traffic and security risks can not only decrease sales, but permanently turn customers off of e-commerce sites, making the stakes for Black Friday even higher. Cisco found that slow and unavailable websites are the two most frustrating problems for users, and that only 17% of users will contact customer service about problems they are having with an app.[5] Instead, a majority of users will choose other brands and even discourage others from using the app. This means poor performance on Black Friday, where many customers may be trying out an app or site for the first time, can not only reduce profit margins but permanently destroy a brand’s reputation.

To guard against this, e-commerce stores must ensure their mobile performance is an asset, not a liability. Below is a performance checklist designed to help e-commerce stores assess any potential issues and find solutions to common problems. For a complete checklist, view our full Black Friday Preparedness Checklist.

How Can Azion Improve Your Availability?

Azion provides a full suite of products that can help businesses maximize their performance and security. Unlike CDNs, which only cache static content, Azion’s Edge Platform lets companies perform complex computing tasks at the edge of the network, reducing traffic to origin servers that could overwhelm sites or threaten their security. In addition, our serverless platform enables e-commerce companies to scale automatically, efficiently addressing traffic spikes and streamlining operations so that businesses can focus on improving the user experience.

Scale automatically with Edge Application

With Edge Application, e-commerce companies can prepare for traffic spikes and obtain the best possible performance using cost-efficient, pay-as-you-go pricing. Edge Application includes modules that provide the tools needed to prepare for holiday traffic, such as:

  • Edge Caching: Improve bandwidth and reduce latency by creating customized rules for caching static and dynamic content at the edge
  • Image Processor: Reduce page load times by automatically resizing, formatting, and cropping images for a variety of screen sizes and resolutions
  • Load Balancer: Improve availability and reliability by balancing the load on origin servers, avoiding network congestion and server overload
  • Application Acceleration: Accelerate applications and APIs to improve reliability and page load time during peak demand

In addition, our serverless computing module, Edge Functions, allows companies to easily modernize their applications by creating lightweight, independent functions to run discrete pieces of business logic. With it, e-commerce companies can improve scalability and performance, run A/B tests, and easily add new features to enhance the user experience, increasing conversions and reducing cart abandonment.

Protect Against Attacks with Edge Firewall

Many of the changes companies implemented to accelerate their digital transformation, such as transitioning to the cloud and/or re-architecting their systems into microservices, have expanded their applications’ surface area to create new attack vectors that must be secured to guarantee availability on Black Friday. Azion’s Edge Firewall enables e-commerce companies to build zero-trust security, a new model designed to provide protection in today’s threat landscape by replacing legacy security models, which are designed to protect a single corporate perimeter, with updated protocols that secure workloads, users, and networks anywhere and everywhere.

With Edge Firewall, customers can run custom security protocols at the edge, enabling them to automatically block malicious traffic, easily discover threats, and act quickly to stop ongoing attacks and eliminate vulnerabilities. In addition to DDoS mitigation, Edge Firewall is integrated with WAF and Network Layer Protection, improving visibility and enabling automation to eliminate threats before they threaten your business’ availability.

Edge Firewall improves e-commerce security by allowing companies to:

  • Build and run zero-trust security protocols
  • Choose from a variety of DDoS protection plans to meet your business’s needs
  • Safely add new features and payment methods by securing APIs
  • Customize security policies to avoid blocking legitimate traffic
  • Protect against OWASP Top 10 Threats

To learn more about Azion’s solutions for e-commerce, check out this blog post or talk to an expert about how Azion can help your business get ready for Black Friday.

References

[1] User Report: How to Exploit Increased Traffic on Black Friday

[2] Adobe Analytics, Consumers Spent $10.7 Billion on Cyber Monday

[3] Hubspot, Psychology of Ecommerce Sales

[4] Forbes, Alarming Cybersecurity Stats: What You Need to Know for 2021

[5] Cisco, App Attention Index 2019