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Microservices Journal: Article

How Bon-Ton Stores Align Business Goals with IT Requirements

Extracting business insight from application performance management data

Two or three times a year, Bon-Ton Stores products are featured on Jill's "Steals and Deals" segment on the "Today Show." The products are promoted with huge discounts. As soon as the segment first airs on the East Coast, the "Steals and Deals" site displays the featured products, with links to Bon-Ton's site, usually directly to the deal itself with a special promotion or coupon code. The questions that come up for the business owners are: How successful are these campaigns? What is impacting campaign success? How do we ensure better alignment with IT for future promotions?

How successful are my marketing campaigns?
Bon-Ton uses its APM solution to analyze statistics of these special promotions. The following graph shows the number of requests hitting the promoted deal on Bon-Ton's site after it airs on the "Today Show." As customers rush to their site to bag the deals, it's great to see the number of requests spike when the show airs in the different time zones. Besides the number of requests (green) they also look at metrics such as CPU utilization on its application servers, which shows a very close correlation.

What is the impact of individual promotions on the application Infrastructure?

Knowing the impact of promotions on the infrastructure allows the business to coordinate future promotions better with IT to ensure that the required resources are ready. It also gives architects the chance to optimize the website to better handle these peak loads, e.g., adding more servers during promotion periods (either on-premise or in the cloud).

Is our conversion rate impacted by site health?
In addition to monitoring request hits for special promotions, Bon-Ton also uses real-user monitoring to see the actual number of visitors hitting the page, how long they stay on the page, the conversion rates per promotion, and how much revenue these visitors generate by geographical region.

The following dashboard shows Bon-Ton exactly where users come from, how many orders get completed, how conversion rate changes during the day, and whether it's related to the number of visits attracted. The impact of any site health issues (infrastructure overloaded, slow performance or unavailability of services such as credit card check) on conversions is also monitored:

At a glance: Impact of site health and visitor distribution on conversion rate and completed orders

How much money do we make per brand?
Bon-Ton runs several different online store brands and is also interested in how well these individual stores are doing and how revenue is impacted by promotions. Bon-Ton runs daily reports on the generated revenue for web users as well as users shopping through their mobile application. The following screenshot shows one report that helps the business make strategic decisions on future marketing, brand development, and technology investments, like improving mobile shopping experience if conversion rates of mobile customers compare poorly with "traditional" web users:

Which brands attract more mobile shoppers? Where to invest in marketing activities to achieve business goals?

Conclusion: Extract Business Value from APM
The key to success for Bon-Ton was to extract the business insight from its application performance management data. Using this data source allows the business to better communicate the requirements of their promotions with IT as they know what impact promotions have on the site and its underlying infrastructure. Planning ahead ensures that enough hardware is provisioned and that the campaign money is well spent as the health and performance of the online store meets the expectations of the business and customers.

Also learn more from Akamai such as how they leverage Akamai as their CDN or how they used their UEM Solution to identify a problem for their mobile Safari users.

More Stories By Andreas Grabner

Andreas Grabner has been helping companies improve their application performance for 15+ years. He is a regular contributor within Web Performance and DevOps communities and a prolific speaker at user groups and conferences around the world. Reach him at @grabnerandi

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