JD Williams eCommerce Case Study
By / 07th Sep 2018
About The Client: JD Williams
Founded in 1859, JD Williams is the oldest company in N Brown Group PLC. Their LifeStore, is a shop designed with customers in mind and are one of the largest retailers in Europe. They offer customers everything they need to live a colourful life from on-trend women’s fashion in sizes 10-32, to footwear, accessories, gifts, home furnishings & electrical goods.
“One of the great advantages of the solution is the complete protection from the unpredicted spikes, where the business publishes a deal that gets traction on the likes of HotDealsUK or HotUKDeals that can be bigger than any artificial spike generated by TV advertising” - Jeff Cattle, Head of IT Services
The JD Williams corporate marketing teams were embarking on a prime-time TV advertising campaign. Advertising to their target audience during the advert breaks in programmes such as Emmerdale, Coronation Street and The X Factor would drive huge spikes in the amount of traffic hitting their website and eCommerce platforms.
Jeff Cattle, Head of Computer Services at JD Williams was made aware of the advertising campaign and was tasked to prepare for the expected huge spike in web traffic. Jeff comments, “We knew a big spike was coming, but we didn’t know exactly how big it would be.”
Spikes in traffic cause major business disruption when customer demand outweighs IT capacity, leading to a degradation in performance and user experience, and in the worst cases website failure. Cattle continues to explain, “The biggest risk would simply be our websites would cease to function.”
However, as JD Williams is part of the N Brown group, Jeff saw a bigger strategic risk to the business, “It would not have just been for the JD Williams website, it would have been all of the other 20 websites we run for the other brands within the N Brown group.” With annual revenues of over £920m per annum, any website downtime will have a disastrous impact on sales revenue.
To prepare for the surge in traffic JD Williams evaluated three options for the project:
- Scale the existing website platform to be as big and as powerful as possible.
- Increase investment identifying and blocking malicious bots.
- Implement a virtual waiting room solution to handle any traffic the upgraded and scaled infrastructure was unable to support.
JD Williams appreciated how big and unpredictable their traffic spikes were going to be, so it was therefore essential to their decision-making process that they select and implement a solution that will provide 100% protection and security.
They selected the Netacea Virtual Waiting Room as their preferred solution as they needed a DNS-based approach to ensure they could manage traffic prior to it hitting their infrastructure. Jeff confirms, “we knew we needed a that had to sit at the edge, protecting the JD Williams and therefore our other brands within the N Brown Group.”
Seamless, Rapid Implementation
The Virtual Waiting Room solution simply sits in front of your website, it identifies and categorises traffic utilising a combination of global traffic visibility, threat database and advanced behavioural analysis through machine learning to give real-time visibility enabling businesses to take back control of their website traffic.
Through simple testing, JD Williams set a pre-defined capacity after which website performance would degrade when this is then hit customers are diverted into a fair queueing system that they control.
Despite being a very simple solution to integrate, (it is implemented by pointing your CDN or DNS to Netacea), Jeff and JD Williams were very pleased with the advice provided and knowledge transfer, “We were impressed by their willingness to see us through the spike and the collaborative approach of us learning from each other.”
The hugely successful advertising campaign resulted in a massive spike in web traffic, Cattle confirms, “the peak of the spike was 27 times bigger than anything we have ever experienced before, which was Cyber Monday.” Despite the investment in scaling out the website platform, a surge of such magnitude would have certainly led to a significant performance problem up until an imminent website failure.
It was during this event the Virtual Waiting Room first automatically provided the required safety layer prior to the website and eCommerce platform being overloaded. JD Williams used the solution to control access to the website in and fair and non-skippable manner.
The initial threshold where the solution kicks in was met and the additional several hundred customers trying to access the website during the advert break were placed in a customisable waiting room portal that kept the notified of their queue progression.
While queueing customers is not ideal, it is a much safer way to guarantee 100% website uptime for all customers. Jeff states, “instead of our customers getting a very slow response, or no response, instead they got a very controlled response and also indicated when they can expect to get into the website.”
Year-Round Peace of Mind
While some customers use the solution for individual key trading events in the year, JD Williams wanted to ensure their website could support any spikes in traffic, at any time of the year.
The company promotes other Sales deals throughout the seasons, and when they go viral the spike can be even larger than those experienced with TV advertising, meaning they took the strategic decision to have year-round protection.
About The Netacea Virtual Waiting Room
When the maximum number of visitors is reached, Netacea delivers a waiting page to all additional visitors without any access to your servers ensuring protection for your servers and quality of service to your site visitors.
By putting all additional visitors into a fair, first-in-first-out waiting room we ensure that all visitors get the best possible experience and your site remains available 24/7 no matter how busy it gets.
Netacea’s Virtual Waiting Room is a scalable, cloud-based service that sits in front of your website and controls access for all visitors. To learn more about our solution, sign up for a Virtual Waiting Room Trial to demo the product and test it on your live site or mobile app.