Today is the first day of December. Holiday shopping is in full swing. Black Friday, the most highly anticipated shopping day of the year, is behind us. This year, one of the trends receiving a lot of attention is the lengthening of Black Friday deals and the ever-creeping holiday shopping season.
Holiday Shopping: Then and now
In the 1950’s, Black Friday began as a shopping phenomena. Large numbers of tourists heading into cities ahead of Saturday football games would squeeze their holiday shopping on the same trip. Some cities struggled to handle the crowds.
In the 1980’s, retailers began to leverage the hype around the shopping day. It was around this time that people began saying that the day was named for retail outlets moving from the “red” to the “black” in their accounting ledgers. Over time, Black Friday shopping extended through the weekend after Thanksgiving. And with the rise of eCommerce, the event expanded to include “Cyber Monday.” Cyber Monday came from the idea that employees took advantage of their office internet connections for online shopping. But, now shoppers have decent home and mobile connections. Therefore, consumers can conveniently buy from anywhere during “Cyber Week.”
As such, the holiday shopping season continues to expand. It stretches from the beginning of November and extends all the way through Christmas. This year, on the week before Black Friday, Amazon announced their “35 Days of Deals” that extends through December 22nd. Likewise, Walmart began advertising holiday deals in the first week of November. Macy’s, Best Buy, and others began sharing Black Friday previews weeks before Thanksgiving.
On average, retailers released their holiday sales 3 days earlier than last year. As a result, November spending prior to Black Friday was 27.2 billion dollars, up 4.3% from 2015. Black Friday is no longer a one-day event. Rather, it has transformed into a constant flow of promotions fueling a steady influx of consumers throughout the Holiday season.
Holiday Shopping Season mirrors trends in Software Development
Just as the holiday shopping season has moved towards a continuous stream of deals, software development has gone through a similar shift. Development is becoming continuous.
For much of the history of software engineering, the application development life cycle was composed of numerous stages with finite release dates. Developers would plan, design, build, test, and deliver applications managed through a traditional waterfall-based methodology. Technology organizations moved through these stages in preparation for large infrequent releases, typically annually or bi-annually. Release dates were similar to our old idea of “Black Friday” in that there were specific dates that could make or break the business.
Now, businesses are moving towards a more continuous stream of smaller software releases. For some, releases or deployments happen multiple times a day. This continuous release process necessitates different monitoring and testing processes. Now we must automatically audit performance, functionality, and reliability of constantly changing digital applications.
Best Practices for Continuous Monitoring
As a performance company, Rigor constantly looks for ways we can change or adapt traditional monitoring practices to better enable digital businesses to move faster with greater confidence. Here is a short list of performance best practices that we preach to our customers throughout the year:
- Monitor all business critical systems from the perspective of an end user.
With 50-80% of digital content coming from outside of your data center, you need a holistic view of application performance that incorporates both 1st and 3rd party content and systems. Don’t forget about APIs! Your mobile apps and single page apps (SPAs) may be loading fast, but if the APIs that power these applications are slow or go down then the app is not usable for end-users.
- Actively monitor performance in staging and pre-production environments.
Performance metrics for staging environments won’t be the same as your production environment, so comparing staging KPIs to production KPIs isn’t helpful. Instead, look at the deltas. For example, “Last week, the code in pre-production that we shipped loaded in 2300ms with start render of 800ms. The new code in pre-production this week is now delaying start render to 1100 ms. What happened? Should we push live?”
- Integrate performance testing into your deployment process.
While your QA team continuously tests new code for functional defects, your team should integrate tools that do the same for performance defects. You need transparency into the performance impact of your code changes before you go live. Remember: every code alteration is an opportunity for performance regression.
Performance best practices are especially important during holiday shopping. In conclusion, eCommerce teams must maintain high quality performance throughout a longer season.
If your company is struggling to integrate performance monitoring and testing into your continuous integration or continuous deployment process, we’d love to chat with you. Try a two-week trial of Rigor’s continuous performance management platform by signing up here.
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