Revving Your Database to Keep Up With Shopping Festivals

Mike Azevedo
Friday, November 6, 2015
Mike Azevedo
Festivals and seasons have always been a major factor in influencing the volume of traffic seen by retailers. The festivals and seasonal observances that drive these shifts in traffic volume vary regionally, have shifted over time, and have been made more complex and intense by the rise of e-commerce. As The Independent reports however, the Black Friday phenomenon is not limited to the day after Thanksgiving in the United States. Boxing Day in the United Kingdom, Singles Day in China, and the run up to Diwali in India all draw a rush of consumers that has, to quote one account of the origin of the term Black Friday, the potential to put retailers back in the black.

Fifteen years ago during the first Web boom and the initial rise of e-commerce, life was simpler for retailers. E-commerce sales were a small proportion of total sales, and while the technology supporting the e-commerce infrastructure was not complex by contemporary standards, there was little need for sophisticated systems that could handle large transaction volumes. The situation for online retailers has changed dramatically since that time. According to U.S. Census data, the share of total retail sales taken by e-commerce sales more than doubled just since 2006, a trend that is both in response to and that has itself fed, the massive expansion of interest in special shopping holidays across the globe.

The rise of Internet access and mobile adoption has chipped away at many of the barriers consumers formerly faced in taking advantage of the shopping holidays in other countries as well, and in recent years major retailers like Amazon and eBay have offered Black Friday deals to their Indian customers. Indian companies as well are keen to capitalize on the growing international trend of creating new shopping holidays, and as the Economic Times reported in 2012 a partnership of Indian retailers including FlipKart and Snapdeal created The Great Indian Shopping Festival. The festival is akin to the kind of homegrown e-commerce-focused shopping holidays found in other countries, like Cyber Monday in the United States. More and more e-commerce merchants are growing by entering new geographic markets, adding to the cross-border festival phenomenon.

The Challenges Facing E-tailers

These forces are converging to create a unique series of challenges to the technology under - lying e-commerce platforms. Increasing overall volumes of online sales, as well as an increase in the magnitude of the spikes in festival-driven traffic, are requiring retailers to be more agile and adopt more flexible databases that can adapt on a seasonal timescale to changes in transaction volume, while still providing a database system that can weather the unique challenges of e-commerce applications.

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