5 Ways to Improve the Performance of your B2B Platform
While the strategies to succeed in B2B ecommerce can be different to traditional B2C platforms, there is one area that is critical across both; performance. Recent industry research directly correlates improved page speed load to reductions in conversions, with almost the majority of customers expecting web pages to load in two seconds or less.
While in B2C, high page load speeds result in reduced conversions and therefore sales; in B2B it will frustrate customers who need to regularly re-order, increase churn with customers reverting to traditional offline methods of ordering, increasing cost and potentially result in lost contracts which ultimately result in customers moving to other providers who have a better digital offering.
Motivation is a key factor in the B2B buying journey. These customers are buyers, not shoppers. They are there for a specific job which is to order a product to complete their business task. It is not an emotional purchase, it is functional and can sometimes happen up to ten times a day in replenishment scenarios. Typically the aim is for the user to get in and out as fast as possible and to let them get on with their day.
Reliability is a key factor in the B2B buyer journey as the user grows to rely on the platform to complete their daily business which increases the glue factor between them and the brand.
Site performance is an area worth investment as continually eeking out those extra few milliseconds will lead to happier, more satisfied customers who will show increased loyalty.
Below are some areas to consider in improving the performance of your B2B application:
Cache is a critical mechanism to make your website experience faster. B2B applications can be heavy with unique pricing per customer, stock allocations based on location, advanced promotions, custom catalogues etc. With complexity comes processing which takes time. The beauty of caching is, you process once and deliver the cached copy to users until you need to update and process again.
In the example of Varnish which is a HTTP accelerator, the cache acts as a layer between the application and the customer’s browser. The first customer that visits the homepage triggers the application to build the page. The successfully built page is then saved to the cache so the next time the page is requested by another customer, they are served the snapshot of the page as opposed to asking the system to build it again.
This type of caching can handle dynamic data too by serving the snapshot of the page and then overlaying with dynamic data (such as customer specific pricing or a user’s cart).
This provides a lightning fast customer experience while also decreasing the load on your server as there is much less processing involved. The server can then focus its resources on load intensive tasks such as completing checkouts for customers with large baskets.
A CDN, or Content Delivery Network, is a great tool to increase a website’s performance. A large amount of time spent in delivering a website to a browser is through the delivery of static assets such as images, videos and various files. Not using a CDN requires the web server to individually serve each asset on a page, and a page can be made up of hundreds of images and files. With 100 concurrent users, you are potentially delivering thousands of requests per second which can significantly slow down a site and dramatically increase your hosting bill!
By using a CDN, you offload the responsibility to the delivery network to serve this content which reduces the work of your server. Not only that, the CDN is optimised to deliver these assets much faster than your server and in most cases it is distributed.
This means if you are requesting the website from Australia and the server is in the UK, instead of each image being loaded from the UK and transmitted across the world, it is served from an Australian data-centre which decreases load time for the user.
Recent research shows that more than 50% of all traffic on the internet are bots, mostly with legitimate interests while others have more malicious intents. You want to avoid a scenario where all of your server resources are spent serving bots requesting the website for their various purposes. A combination of a HTTP Accelerator like Varnish and a CDN can protect from this, reserving all of your processing for real customers, spending real money.
The cherry on top is Anti-DDOS (Distributed Denial of Service) protection which most CDNs offer, so if you site is attacked, the CDN provides protection, ensuring site reliability and up-time.
Such a simple tip however so many sites overlook the compression of images. It only takes one member of the team to upload a high resolution 10MB image to cause big issues for customers trying to download on a slower 3G connection.
Without a CDN, these images can cause a large traffic overhead between your server and end customers, particularly in peak times of day such as coming up to delivery cut-offs.
Various services are available online for one off image compression or even dynamic image compression based on images uploaded to your ecommerce application.
Index your data
As mentioned earlier, ecommerce systems and specifically B2B ecommerce systems can be quite complex with data stored across a vast array of database tables. It’s important to utilise an ecommerce platforms indexing capabilities to ensure that simple requests for products can be served efficiently as opposed to executing complex database queries each time.
For example, your catalogue may contain 100 attributes to describe different types of products. Typically ecommerce platforms are flexible enough for you to fully manage attribute definition however with this flexibility comes an overhead, which is complex database queries.
Similar to caching, in Magento Commerce, this overhead is managed through a series of indexes. Magento initially builds an index (which is a single database table) from all the sub-tables and then all future requests for product information are served from this index as opposed to querying the underlying tables. The indexes are regularly rebuilt either by updating data in the backend, through an integration or via a scheduled job at night.
Indexing data is an important tool in improving your sites performance and worth utilising.
Ultra fast search
Finally, we recommend the utilisation of an ultra-fast search engine to power catalogue search on B2B ecommerce sites. Search is a critical aspect of the B2B buyer journey with a lot of users knowing the product code off by heart. Compared to B2C where a user may only ever purchase once from your website; in a B2B context, pain-points in search are compounded as customers will constantly face the same problem each time and eventually disengage with online.
Search is also a major performance issue as search queries can be complex and require processing each time to load relevant results. Customers now also expect search auto-complete where with each keystroke they see the search results unveil in front of them.
Dedicated search engines, such as Elastic Search, provide lightening fast search results that are highly relevant to the customers query. Relevancy is impacted by a number of factors which are fully configurable.
An ecommerce application delegating search responsibility to a stand alone server improves performance, user experience and reduces the heavy lifting of the application letting it focus on the important tasks of managing baskets and checkout.
Get in touch
If your site needs a performance tune, get in touch with Monsoon Consulting and we’ll help you deliver a blazing fast B2B platform in no time!