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Helping Missguided smash its cyber weekend targets

For Missguided, the leading fast-fashion etailer, keeping its site transactional during cyber weekend was paramount. During previous sales its site had struggled with just a few thousand concurrent users, and with a target of £1m for Black Friday alone, Missguided couldn’t afford for its systems to fail again.

By the time Cyber Monday came to a close, Missguided had smashed its £1m Black Friday sales target, reached a peak trading point of 1.1 orders a second, and supported over 15,000 concurrent users.

In the run-up to the cyber weekend, the Session Digital and Missguided teams had worked on optimising the site’s performance, overhauling its backend systems to ensure users could complete transactions smoothly, unaware they were one of thousands of shoppers purchasing Missguided’s sale items at the same time.

In October, the Session team kick-started Missguided’s cyber weekend preparations. On top of its continuous site improvements, the Session team identified a series of peak mitigation initiatives to manage the impact of rising traffic on the site’s servers. The performance improvements were ranked and prioritised to deliver the most impact in the quickest time.

Between October and the cyber weekend, the Session team deployed a host of initiatives including:

  • Disabling the visitor logging – reducing the number of updates on the database when users hit the site
  • Enabling product deletion – allowing Missguided to delete no-longer-used products. This reduces the database size and improves indexing times
  • Progressive JPEG loading – delivering content faster to users and improving the image quality
  • Improvements to admin order grid script – reducing row locking to allow transactions requesting the same data to run sooner
  • Sagepay response improvements – further reduced row locking

Missguided also implemented Akamai’s Visitor Prioritisation tool, which allows servers to cool down under heavy load by limiting access to new users while existing shoppers completed their purchases.

The performance improvements carried out in preparation for the cyber weekend followed a year’s extensive architecture assessment and restructure.

In the beginning

Missguided first approached Session in 2012 when it discovered its advertising campaigns were driving thousands of users to its site, but that the site’s infrastructure could not support the influx of traffic.

The Session team’s first job was to assess the scale of the problem. Following an audit of the existing platform, the Session team dived into the site’s codebase and analytics to determine which elements of its backend architecture were failing to hold against its rising traffic.

Both audits revealed that an extensive refactoring of the codebase was required. Its legacy codebase was unmaintainable and customised in such a way that was simply unprepared for the rapid growth Missguided was experiencing.

By refactoring the codebase, the team restructured the foundation of the website and introduced flexibility and control where previously there had been only disorder and deficiency. This resulted in more stringent practices and processes to increase visibility and control.

The team then turned its attention to the physical hardware supporting the site. After a thorough assessment of its server stack and infrastructure requirements, Session completed the long task of streamlining its servers.

One of the biggest challenges facing Missguided was managing high spikes in traffic which were placing immense strain on the database. The Session team introduced Continuent, a load-balanced database clustering and replication platform which enabled the Missguided servers to have a highly-available cluster with built-in redundancy.

This not only reduced the risk of a server failure, but if an issue occurred, Continuent Tungsten could replace a failed master server within seconds ensuring continuous availability and no missed transactions. The use of Continuent Tungsten on the Magento platform was an industry-first and has since been adopted by other Magento-based ecommerce sites.

Such extensive architecture developments and improvements would be testing for any brand, but as a pureplay retailer, Missguided was reliant on the work being conducted without disrupting active users on the site.

At its peak during the project, the development team worked under the hood of the site with thousands of active users oblivious to the extensive work underway below.

Cyber weekend

By the time the preparations for the cyber weekend came around, Missguided had a scalable, reliable architecture that could be fine-tuned to cope with the predicted traffic increase.

The in-built flexibility has equipped Missguided with the ability to scale in line with fluctuating demand and its team no longer need to firefight technical issues when traffic reaches peak load.

The site continues to sell 600,000 items a month from 20,000 lines that are constantly under review and can be changed within minutes.

In a statement released after Cyber Monday, Missguided CEO, Nitin Passi, said:

We are thrilled with our strong performance over the cyber weekend and this is a testament to the hard work we have been doing over the last year in improving our product offer and mix and the performance of our platform.

Missguided CEO, Nitin Passi

Inviqa – which unified with Session and iKOS in 2016 – helped Missguided raise the sales bar even higher for 2015 cyber weekend, and we're confident that 2016's results will once again break records.

If you’re looking to prepare for your next surge in traffic, want to release site bottlenecks and stay afloat no matter the demands on your platform, Inviqa can help. Contact us to find out more.


Article update
This article was originally published under Session Digital, which unified with Inviqa in June 2016. Click here for more information about the unification.