Quick Thinking Helps Our Ecommerce Merchant Cash In on Good Morning America

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One of our ecommerce ShopSite merchants was recently featured on Good Morning America’s Deals and Steals segment. This feature on GMA highlights products with steep discounts, and is very popular across the United States. It often results in tens of thousands of visitors in a short period of time, and hundreds to thousands of sales in just a few hours.

We’ve done these events for clients in the past, so we have a good understanding of what it takes to pull this off successfully.

The preparation

Since our client was using ShopSite for their ecommerce application (we love ShopSite for these type of events), we knew we could make this a success without too much trouble. ShopSite creates static html pages, which load quick and use very little resources. Additionally, the cart and checkout portion of ShopSite are also lightweight and load fast, which allows for a high number of visitors without using too many resources (CPU, memory, hard drive load).

We proposed our typical set up for this type of event. A managed dedicated server for the website / ShopSite, and use of our Content Delivery Network (CDN) for the splash page GMA would link to.

This would allow for a high number of orders with no issues, while the CDN handles the onslaught of visitors all at once without any downtime. We set up a sub-domain for the CDN landing page. This CDN URL is what the GMA website would use as a link.

On the dedicated server, we optimize it for high traffic, tweaking settings and configurations to serve traffic quickly and without becoming bogged down (things like custom compiled webserver, stripped down modules, KeepAlive tuning, MaxChildren, etc…)

Murphy’s Law strikes

It’s the morning of the event, and we have everything in place. I’m watching both the GMA TV show and their website. The hosts start to introduce the products, and the GMA homepage gets updated with a link to the deals page. We start to see increased traffic to the client’s site right away. Everything appeared to be working correctly.

I checked the GMA deals page, and noticed two very alarming things:

1. The URL being used by GMA was *NOT* the CDN sub-domain, it was the main domain
2. The URL used capital letters for the filename, but it was supposed to be all lowercase

No problem, we’ll adjust… (after the heart attack subsided)

Since traffic was coming directly to the dedicated server, there wasn’t much benefit to going back to the CDN splash page. We ramped up a few webserver settings, and put a 301 permanent redirect in place to lead to the proper webpage on the main site.

The server handled the influx of traffic without any issues. The Apache webserver spiked to around 500 simultaneous child processes (thousands of visitors), but did not miss a beat. The cart and checkout process were fast without any errors.

We looked over the raw web logs and found that only a handful of visitors saw a “404 not found” error due to the wrong URL before we were able to correct it. The 404 page led to the homepage, so no visitors were actually “lost”.

Traffic graph day of GMA

Traffic graph day of GMA

Orders orders everywhere

The orders started coming in quickly. At its peak, we saw a rate of five orders *PER SECOND*. ShopSite had no troubles, and hundreds of orders came in quite quickly. The event was a success!

Other GMA ecommerce sites not hosted with us had problems. I noticed that one merchant did not use a CDN in their URL, and the ecommerce site was down. Even when their site eventually came back up, it was very slow, and there were errors in the cart that prevented checking out.

Another merchant that did use a CDN had major issues with the “add to cart” links not always working due to the heavy volume of visitors.

Our client had smooth sailing from start to finish once the wrong URL was dealt with.

Having your website featured on a national TV show can be a very rewarding experience. However, it takes careful planning to make it a success. It requires a web host that understands how to plan and adjust quickly when things don’t go as planned. We were able to efficiently diagnose and come up with an alternate solution to make this event a success for our client.

If your web host isn’t providing you with the level of support and understanding your business needs to succeed, talk to us. We’ve helped hundreds of ecommerce clients transition over to us seamlessly, and have assisted them in getting the most out of their ecommerce website.

Looking for a web host that understands ecommerce and business hosting?
Check us out today!

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