Overstock.com has cemented its reputation as one of the leading online retailers in the world, servicing 30 million customers on a monthly basis, with 420 million page views, thanks in large part to their commitment to excellent performance across all of their online systems.
Overstock partnered with Catchpoint to:
- Gather historical data to set and manage performance benchmarks.
- Constantly ensure excellent customer experience across their online properties.
- Manage performance impact of third-party vendors 24x7 and during new deployments.
- Prepare and test their systems for peak traffic periods.
Catchpoint is providing a tool that we can use to emulate what our customers are actually experiencing, whereas a lot of the other performance providers have their own custom built thing that's faking an experience or quickly falling out of date. The ability to use our actual customer experience in our performance tests while still gathering diagnostic data has been huge.
In order to provide their users with a consistently excellent customer experience, Overstock’s operations team must overcome a number of performance obstacles.
Some of the biggest challenges are mitigating the performance impact of the many diﬀerent third-party marketing tags and advertisements which are hosted on the site, as well as managing the performance of third-party vendors such as CDNs and DNS providers.
Another challenge lies in the mobile realm, where the need for insight and optimization of their pages becomes paramount as users deal with obstacles like bad wireless connections.
These challenges become even larger during high-traﬃc shopping periods like Thanksgiving weekend, which only increases the need for a robust active observability solution that allows the Overstock team to keep an eye on all of the elements in their digital supply chain that have an impact on the customer experience.
When assessing the diﬀerent options for active observability solutions, Overstock wanted a vendor who not only provided in-depth insight into the many diﬀerent components of their online systems, but also one with whom they could work closely to develop new features and abilities to meet new challenges that arose. They found that vendor in Catchpoint, and have remained a loyal customer for over seven years.
“One of the reasons we've stuck with [Catchpoint] is because they’re staying up to date,” said Nate Auwerda, Overstock’s VP of Technology. “They’re not languishing in browser technology, and always adding new features that we did not get from our other performance vendors.”
Catchpoint’s waterfall charts, which accompany every test, display every element on the page being tested, and the details of how and when it loaded. Most importantly, it provides clear representation of how the rendering of each element on the page aﬀects all of the others that come after it, allowing Overstock to identify performance bottlenecks quickly and easily.
The screen capture, or ﬁlm strip view, shows Overstock’s Ops team exactly what the user is seeing at every step of the rendering process.
This is a particularly eﬀective way to convey how customer experience is aﬀected by performance issues, especially to the Overstock business team, or anyone else who doesn’t have extensive knowledge of performance data. It’s also very helpful when detecting issues with individual page elements.
With the ability to monitor every hop that packets are sent through on their way to the end user, Overstock can perform stringent network monitoring tests that are able to detect and diagnose isolated issues which are caused by poorly performing ISPs in speciﬁc locations around the world.
Global Node Network
Catchpoint’s industry-leading collection of nodes on six diﬀerent continents and dozens of diﬀerent ISPs means that Overstock can gain performance insight from all over the globe, which will be of even greater use as they continue to expand their footprint in international markets.
Catchpoint’s innovative nodes that are connected directly to Overstock’s private infrastructure has enabled them to compare the Dev environment with the Production environment as they make improvements.
By charting these two against one another, Overstock can make a direct 1:1 comparison to see if there are any optimizations that must be made.
In addition to detecting and diagnosing performance issues within their own systems, Overstock is able to quickly and easily share performance data with both internal teams and the various third parties that are hosted on their site.
“The fact that in any test, at any point, I can create a public URL that I can share is just amazing,” said Auwerda. “It’s a total pain on every other platform. When we're dealing with a third party we can say, ‘Look, here's the test. It's not up for debate.’”