How retailers survive Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Last edited on November 10, 2022

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    As retailers gear up for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, they will not be caught flat footed by the tidal wave of ecommerce sales. Lessons were learned during the unprecedented digital traffic during the pandemic. Retailers are taking new approaches such as shifting to a “Cyber Month” in order to promote deals early to avoid logistical nightmares, and developing lottery systems (like Nugget) to set expectations upfront. Some companies (such as Peloton) are even saying they won’t have a sale at all.

    Regardless of your strategy, Cyber Monday and associated holiday peak shopping periods will put pressure on your infrastructure. How are you going to handle massive traffic to your ecommerce site and prevent an outage? Will you survive a region failure? Are you confident when giving customers accurate pricing and shipping information? How many transactions can you process in an hour?

    In this post, we will cover three strategies retailers can employ to exceed customer expectations this holiday shopping season and beyond. (Interestingly, DoorDash just published a blog about how they deal with the challenge of inventory levels changing in real-time. Worth a read.)

    Website: How to handle massive site traffic with no downtime for your customers Copy Icon

    We will start here because if your website isn’t up and running, we can’t get much further. The backend of your ecommerce site should be able to withstand fluctuating traffic patterns without incurring latency for customers.

    Because CockroachDB offers inherent high availability you can ensure your apps and services are always on and available with 3x data replication. CockroachDB is literally (and ironically) impossible to kill. It’s architected on a node based system and is geo-replicated, so if one node fails, it automatically distributes the data evenly between all nodes.

    It’s also important to note that CockroachDB can process and store 10s of millions of transactions per day and accommodate peak performance insert rates with ease. CockroachDB is built to withstand fluctuating workloads without incurring latency. Additionally, it provides automatic rolling upgrades which results in 0 downtime – making developers very happy.

    Several retail and ecommerce companies use CockroachDB as a Point-of-Sale (POS) system of record for their brick-and-mortar stores and ecommerce sites. Because CockroachDB guarantees consistent transactions (more on this below), there’s never a problem with inconsistent data. Retailers can rest easy knowing that their website will maintain stable performance with CockroachDB.

    If you want to study the tactics for surviving surges in traffic in more gory detail check out this conversation with ex-Hulu engineer Gary Lau:

    Shipping & pricing: Guaranteed inventory and pricing for your customers Copy Icon

    Today, it’s absolutely crucial to be able to quickly and easily access your inventory so you can provide accurate purchasing and shipping information. It’s also important that you provide accurate pricing that reflects the continuously fluctuating deals.

    CockroachDB delivers correct data with a durability you can trust in any environment at local or global scale. It’s not eventual consistency like some databases promise. It’s guaranteed. Your customers don’t eventually want their order at the best possible price, they want it when you promise them.

    CockroachDB has a built-in Cost-Based Optimizer that serves low-latency, consistent, and current reads by accessing the closest data. This feature is especially valuable to customers who are using CockroachDB as a system of record for their supply chain operations. Retailers can manage inventory, pricing, and deliveries for all locations across the globe and ensure customers receive accurate and timely information. We know that guaranteeing inventory is more challenging than just having consistent, available data. Check our this inventory management reference architecture we designed based on what we’ve learned from some of the biggest big box retailers in North America.

    Customer privacy: global data protection/consumer identity Copy Icon

    Large-scale data breaches make headlines each year and often cause distrust between companies and their customers. However, retailers still need a way to sell to global audiences while keeping their customers' data safe.

    One of the most unique aspects of CockroachDB is that it offers the ability to partition data by its location, a capability we call geo-partitioning. This means that you can tie data to a physical location using row-level controls. For regulations like the GDPR, European customer data stays in Europe. So not only does this allow retailers to scale to a global audience with guaranteed consistent transactions, but they can also adhere to data privacy regulations regardless of where the customer is located.

    Because of this feature, many customers use CockroachDB to protect their customer’s data and ensure it is being stored in the right location. For example, if you want to authenticate global customers to your ecommerce application CockroachDB makes this easy by housing data close to customers even when they are traveling.

    Looking beyond 2022Copy Icon

    The massive leap in ecommerce between 2019-2022 put a lot of pressure on retail architectures. At this point, those lessons have been learned and businesses are adjusting to prioritize scalable, resilient, maintainable systems. There are a variety of paths towards achieveing these architecural goals. And there are tradeoffs no matter which route you take.

    Are you feeling confident in your stack? Are you ready to tackle the 2022 holiday season and the new ways consumers will be shopping forever?

    No? You should get in touch with us. Or try CockroachDB Dedicated for free. We have dozens of happy retail customers who use CockroachDB as the backbone to their infrastructure.