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Keep Your e-Commerce Available on Black Friday 2021

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. Due to the pandemic, many shoppers opted to avoid crowded stores and order online last year, using curbside pickup or delivery to minimize contact while receiving their purchases. As many shoppers continue to adjust their shopping patterns pre- and post- pandemic, and others make permanent changes to their routines, e-commerce stores must ensure their sites are prepared to handle huge traffic spikes this holiday season.

Increased Demand

Given last year’s extraordinary circumstances, it may be tempting for e-commerce stores to expect less traffic this year–but data suggests otherwise. While vaccination efforts are making many people likely to venture back into stores, it’s clear that for many consumers, online shopping is now the norm, with or without the pandemic. In June, Adobe Analytics reported that long-term trends continue to reflect an increase in online shopping, with a 58% two-year gain, and predicted that online retailers will see a 19.7% increase this holiday season if May’s spending growth continues.

In other words, you can expect to see more online shopping on Black Friday this year, not less. Unfortunately, planning for this massive traffic spike 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. 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 in 2021, 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 year, 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 especially true in 2021, 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.

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. 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.

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 Computing 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 product, 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 during the pandemic, such as transitioning to the cloud and/or re-architecting their systems into microservices, expand 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.