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Why Homegrown eCommerce Websites Cause Black Friday Nightmares

eCommerce website house of money

Attention retail business executives: Does the online holiday buying season bring with it a sense of dread or even full-blown nightmares of eCommerce website outages on Black Friday or during the Cyber 5 shopping frenzy?

If this sounds familiar, consider re-examining the messy homegrown systems and infrastructure you rely on for your eCommerce business.

Despite the inherent risks, are you still attempting to your eCommerce site on in-house developed or homegrown systems? And do you have the nagging feeling that something bad could happen at just the wrong time, like in the middle of a holiday sale or promotion that has gained major traction.

Well, here’s a news flash, something bad is going to happen. In this blog post, we examine the many pitfalls that you might encounter along this precarious path.

eCommerce website crashes hurt bad

For eCommerce leaders, it is wise to heed the lyrics from the song “Black Friday” by Steely Dan, the great 1970s jazzy rock band:

“When Black Friday falls
You know it’s got to be
Don’t let it fall on me”

Homegrown eCommerce website systems are generally complex and were developed over the years with multiple code bases. Usually, only a few developers (one person?) in the organization have intimate knowledge of the system as a whole, its intricacies, and its various potential points of failure.

We all know that losing revenue in your peak selling seasons can be financially devastating for a business. Unavailable or super slow page load times drive irritated shoppers to other sites that are working.

One large retailer, for example, recently went down for three hours and lost $180 million. Big names like Office Depot, Walmart, GameStop, and Cabela’s were all affected (infected?) with crashes in last year’s holiday buying season. Which, by the way, started even earlier due to the remaining COVID brick-and-mortar retail hangover, we think.

According to estimates from the handy website Statista.com, the average of cost of enterprise server downtime in the world in 2019 was an estimated $350,000 per hour.

A legacy of not good

There are many potential risks when relying on legacy or homegrown systems to manage your eCommerce website. Should any one of these risks be realized, your business will suffer by exponential degrees of scale. Some of the major issues with homegrown enterprise systems include:

  • Website infrastructures that crash in times of peak demand
  • Only one or two developers with intimate knowledge of the system as a whole.
  • Unresponsive / slow page load times – no sales, no repeat customers, bad reputation.
  • Compatibility issues – no new software tools, no new tech (AI/ML-driven search and recommendations, VR, omni-channel promotions, etc.).
  • Data silos – siloed data equals unrealized revenue.
  • Security breaches – are you prepared to ward off all hackers? Ransomware is no bueno.
  • Lack of support – not only lack of 24/7 support, but time wasted in-house fixing self-made bugs.

Complex to a point of failure

In any system, the more complexity, the more ways the system can fail. Unfortunately for eCommerce websites, many of the homegrown systems and infrastructures they are built upon are really complex. Consider the common infrastructures of many legacy or homegrown eCommerce websites:

  • Web servers
  • Application servers
  • Database servers
  • Load balancers
  • Siloed enterprise applications (no comment)
  • Disparate search tools
  • Unreliable shopping carts
  • Payment systems (PayPal, Venmo, Worldpay, etc.)
  • Credit card systems (Experian, Mastercard, VISA, American Express)

Other potential problem areas for legacy websites include:

  • Small ownership group – one developer? Two?
  • Code errors – bugs happen y’all
  • Plugins – same
  • Security – hackers
  • Third-party tools – relying on something you can’t control
  • Third-party integrators – same
  • DNS errors – same

When you add in the fact that most retail websites are product heavy and image heavy and dynamic with promotions, it only adds to the strain on the server farm back home. Most experts recommend load testing at least 5X your normal traffic volumes months in advance of the holiday rush. What happens, however, when you get 10X your normal traffic? This is the stressful types of pontification from which nightmares are made.

The wrath of social media

When and if your eCommerce website does crash, expect to hear about it far and wide on social media. Consumers expect the best and if they don’t get it, they tend to take to Facebook or Twitter to voice their frustrations.

During last year’s (2021) Black Friday, Walmart, for example had angry customers posting their frustrations on their favorite social media channels.

“What an epic failure by @Walmart,” one angry shopper Tweeted. “System servers can’t handle the load. Finally got something added to my cart and now it says unable to retrieve my cart over and over.”

So, now not only is your eCommerce website’s crash a finite (albeit potentially very large) financial number, it has grown to represent a much larger number in terms of damage to your brand, loss of customer trust, loss of potential future customers, and the loss of associated potential revenue.

The solution

It’s time to take the steps to move your homegrown eCommerce website forward and eliminate the Black Friday nightmares once and for all. Consider an enterprise-grade, composable eCommerce platform that enables innovation, personalized customer experiences, and prevents revenue loss due to crashes or slow page load times during peak demand.

Learn more at RETISIO.com

More resources

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Learn more about our composable eCommerce platform.


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