February 3rd, 2015 | 3 MIN READ

4 Hidden Tweaks to Turbo-Charge Your Ecommerce Store

Written by Matt Dion

Matt is the VP of Marketing at Elastic Path. Matt has over 20 years of experience in partnering strategy, business development, public relations, analyst relations, product marketing, product management, and strategic alliances. He has helped grow revenue and market companies such as Crystal Decisions, Apparent Networks, and Meridex. Matt holds a Bachelor of Business Administration and Psychology from Simon Fraser University. He has served on the board of directors for Active State, 90 Degree Software, Meridex Software Corporation, ACETECH and Inetco Systems.

This post is contributed by Matt Dion, VP of Marketing at Elastic Path.

Speed is everything when it comes to digital commerce, and even small slowdowns can have a big impact on your bottom-line. For example, a 1 second delay in page response time can result in a 7% reduction in conversions. Put into perspective, if an e-commerce site is making US$100,000 per day, a 1 second page load delay could potentially cost US$2.5-million in lost sales every year.

With the recent decision by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to regulate the Internet just like telephones — a concept known as Net Neutrality — the need to improve the speed of your ecommerce application has never been greater. No longer will large retailers, in theory, have an advantage by being able to pay Internet Service Providers to guarantee the best available broadband speeds during peak selling times like Christmas and Black Friday. So how can retailers cope?

There are the usual tricks to getting more speed from your web store, such as enabling webserver compression, minifying JavaScript and CSS, and using image sprites. Most businesses are already doing these things now. However, in the age of API-based applications, native mobile apps, and other non-web based commerce applications, these tricks will only get you so far.

Here are four ways to speed up your digital business that you likely haven’t thought of yet:

1. Flatten your SKU data model

Simplifying your catalog SKUs can yield big performance gains. Even though your catalog may have many SKUs representing every product you have, you may be able to flatten it in the data model so that databases, in system memory and search algorithms, aren’t overloaded. What is a SKU data model? Imagine a retail catalog with xs, s, m, l, xl sizes. Add to that men’s and women’s and then 10 colors. All of a sudden you have 100 SKUs for one product. Considering that you might have 2,000 products in total, pretty soon you have a large catalog to deal with in system memory, searches and the product information database. Some questions you might ask your IT team about flattening your SKU data model include: Can you merge SKU types? At what point in the order process do SKUs matter to the business? In the fulfillment system only?

2. Caching is your friend and potential enemy if you don’t do eviction/expiry correctly.

Ideally, serving a product details page would not hit the database, except for price/inventory and even those should be in a short-lived cache for the product details page.

3. Push content forward.

You want content as close to the customer as possible – from an architectural layer perspective as well as geographically for global businesses.

4. High Availability (HA) systems generally support performance inherently due to horizontal scaling capabilities (that is, you can always add more hardware to the system to get more performance).

But a non HA system (such as an EFP system) in the mix can totally ruin speed. You would be surprised how often non-HA systems “need” to be involved in a commerce transaction. Isolating those systems behind an asynchronous integration is a good practice if you can’t remove it all-together.

Depending on your business, these improvements can yield performance gains significant enough to increase revenue and improve the digital experience for your customers.

Matt Dion is Vice President of Marketing for Elastic Path Software. Matt has more than 20 years of experience in marketing & partner strategy, business development, analyst relations, product marketing, product management, and strategic alliances. He can be reached at matt.dion@elasticpath.com.

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