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22 Feb 2018

How cloud-based ecommerce is delivering real business value

Ian Bristow

The switch to online means retailers need to ensure their web and mobile sites are always available. As little as a 100-millisecond delay in load time can impact on conversion rates by up to 7% – especially at peak times like Black Friday and the following holiday period.

Not only this, but recent findings suggest 53% of visits to mobile retail shops are abandoned after three seconds if any lag-time is encountered. We know that consumers expect instant experiences whenever and wherever they want, and retailers also need to be prepared for any sudden and expected peaks.

But it’s not just about keeping our web and mobile sites running – we need to be able to make the most of customer data from online purchases, capturing and interrogating it to improve experiences. This ranges from enhancing content to meet particular tastes to identifying cross-selling opportunities or even offering a new product. Being able to take information and turn it rapidly into action could be the difference between profit and loss.

In 2017, we had come to the end of what we could achieve with our own on-premise infrastructure, and changing consumer behaviour, as well as increased traffic to Internet Fusion’s sites, made it obvious that something needed to change.

Ultimately, we decided to migrate to the cloud, to harness the scalability and insights it can provide. As an internet retailer, we know how ecommerce works but needed some help with finding the right cloud solution for us. So, we partnered with Rackspace, which analysed our needs and helped us along our cloud journey.

Driving business value

One of the key benefits of adopting a cloud platform is to help manage peaks in site traffic. In our case, we took the decision to move our infrastructure to AWS as it provides the scalability we needed.

Thanks to its experience across the major cloud platforms, Rackspace was able to apply its expertise on how to best manage workflow and automate application level deployment, so that each site in our portfolio can now scale up and down without manual intervention.

This migration has already driven business value, handling increased traffic to double our Black Friday sales last year.

When applied to other areas, such as customer services, or warehousing, the cloud can help us manage and handle any requests or queries much faster than before. In particular, warehouse data can be processed by the suite of tools available in the cloud and is automatically updated on our systems. This increases the speed of order processing, purchasing, and ultimately total sales.

Tackling the transition

There are a number of challenges that businesses like ours face when migrating to the cloud – but perhaps the biggest one is ensuring that all legacy servers and architecture successfully transition while continuing day-to-day operations.

Retailers can’t just take their sites offline, but migrating to the cloud involves a huge amount of expertise to move that amount of data, which can be a time-consuming task. To help mitigate this, the major cloud platforms provide a service to directly transport servers to their cloud. Rackspace worked with us during our own move to the cloud, completing the migration of all our sites in eight weeks, while helping us keep everything else running.

Downtime would cost our business massively, so we’re thankful we avoided this!

Of course, just adopting the cloud doesn’t mean that a retailer’s website and infrastructure will improve – it needs to be managed correctly.

We, like many businesses, lacked the necessary cloud expertise to ensure we were making the most of our cloud. This is where a partnership comes into play. We can focus on running our business, while our clouds are monitored and run efficiently 365 days a year.

What’s in store? 

In the immediate future, we hope to bring the new websites we acquired as part of our Surfdome deal onto the AWS platform, while continuing to grow our business by updating each of the sites we manage. Our ultimate goal is to provide an industry-leading ecommerce experience.

We might not always know when the next shopping peak is coming, but we do know retailers need to be ready to adapt instantly, turning this insight into business intelligence while providing a consistent in-store and online experience.

With consumers hungry for fast and helpful shopping experiences, retailers have the opportunity to take advantage and build an infrastructure in the cloud that helps them drive long-term sales. Joining forces with a managed services partner means that we’re always up to date with the latest cloud innovations, and we can make decisions more informed decisions on which would be most useful for our business.

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