Why New Relic

Software analytics provide crucial insights into user experience, backend operations, and business performance

  • Facilitates real-time health checks across multiple devices and regions
  • Enables safe deployment of new features and fixes multiple times a week
  • Helps business meet sales targets by measuring and optimizing user experience

Moda Operandi Enjoys the Luxury of Deep Data

For most people, shopping online means getting what you want as quickly and as cheaply as possible, from a site that sells virtually everything. For online retailers, that means huge inventories, constant fulfilment headaches, and slender margins.

But does it have to be that way? Moda Operandi thinks not. This luxury online fashion retailer offers what it calls a “highly editorialized shopping experience,” giving its high-end customers unprecedented access to the hottest pieces on the runway, long before they appear on department store racks. How? Moda Operandi boldly broke the e-commerce mold in 2010 by reinventing a historic business model for the digital age.

That model was the traditional designer trunk show, where fashion designers showcase their latest collections to an elite clientele, who then place their orders for the upcoming season. Moda Operandi’s online trunk shows typically last about one to two weeks. Customers pre-order by paying a 50 percent deposit; when the designer fulfills the order for that season’s fashion, Moda Operandi bills the outstanding balance.

With an average order of over $1,600 (even higher during New York Fashion Week) and a significantly lower-than-average return rate, this is a very different kind of online retail. And with an enviable annual growth rate, it’s one that has definitely found its exclusive niche.

But replicating the glitz and glamor of haute couture online, while at the same time disrupting the standard e-commerce model, presents certain challenges—challenges that New Relic helps Moda Operandi Chief Technology Officer Keiron McCammon and his team to meet on a daily basis.

Great expectations

Where retailers would normally order items from next season’s collections, then sell them in stores six months later, Moda effectively allows customers to cut out retailers and pre-order directly from designers. “You’re selling something that hasn’t even been made yet,” McCammon says, “so you’re trying to woo the customer into placing an order that they might get three, four, five months down the line.” In our age of instant gratification, that wooing has to be done just right. In other words, there’s no margin for error when it comes to site performance.

Another challenge from McCammon’s perspective is the high price points of the items on sale. If a customer is spending $20,000 in a single transaction, they understandably expect a flawless interaction with the Moda Operandi site. Collecting payments in two instalments (deposit and balance) also requires careful management. And with multiple new trunk shows or collections going live every day, the site is in a constant state of flux.

Strategic tech investment

McCammon heads a 28-strong team in New York, with another 14 engineers offshore in Romania and India. “It’s an integrated team that just happens to be spread across three geographies,” he says. He calls it the company’s “Product & Technology Function,” a blended organization that combines design, UI/UX, engineering, QA, and product management.

As for its stack, you’ll find very few third-party tools. “Moda is a fashion company, but it’s built a really strong technology engineering DNA within,” McCammon says. “Everything we do—our website, our core e-commerce platform, our business systems—is built in house. It is a strategic investment we make, and continue to make. And that gives us a lot of ability to innovate.”

That investment really began when McCammon joined Moda Operandi in 2013. He oversaw a complete overhaul of the technology platform and website, with everything rebuilt from scratch in Ruby on Rails “for agility and speed of development.”

Certain tools have proved essential since then: NetSuite remains for enterprise resource planning; Amazon Web Services for core database, data storage, and warehousing; Heroku for runtime server infrastructure—and New Relic for for deep visibility into every aspect of Moda’s digital business.

“New Relic gives us a deeper dive than we ever had before into what’s really happening. It shows us what the user is really experiencing, which is tremendous.”

Keiron McCammon Chief Technology Officer of Moda Operandi

Diving deeper

Already an experienced New Relic user when he joined Moda Operandi, McCammon was eager to make it an essential part of his new team’s toolkit. “When we were building out the new platform, we integrated with New Relic very deeply,” he says. “After launching New Relic we were able to drive page load times down from 4.5 seconds to 3.5 for desktop, and from 5.5 to 3.5 for mobile.

Today, he relies on tools like New Relic APM™ for a constant site health check, and with New Relic Alerts hooked up to the team’s pager system, he knows within seconds when something’s up.

One of his favorite tools is New Relic Insights™. “We use Insights very actively to measure and monitor user response times of our site experience—critical for us as an e-commerce site.” Since page load times have a direct impact on conversion rates and revenue, seeing real-time response data for mobile and desktop across different parts of the site is invaluable. “New Relic gives us a deeper dive than we ever had before into what’s happening. It shows us what the user is really experiencing, which is tremendous.”

Meanwhile, New Relic Synthetics™ is at work behind the scenes, actively crawling different parts of the site, identifying potential weaknesses before they turn into problems for users. Synthetic transactions are also integral to the team’s hectic schedule. “We deploy twice a week as a minimum, so we are always pushing,” McCammon says. With a new feature or bug fix always in the pipeline, pre-release testing helps ensure a smooth rollout. And after each release, the quality assurance team relies on New Relic as it checks for errors. “Because we deploy with it, it’s one of those tools that we really couldn’t do without.”

Optimizing performance in style

In the first quarter of 2016, improving site performance was a top business priority for Moda Operandi. To prepare for this push for optimization, McCammon and his team spent the fourth quarter of 2015 setting up customized reports and events in New Relic. Those helped them not only to identify the most crucial issue—slow frontend page renderings—but to do the root cause analysis, too. “It really has become a diagnostic tool—one we use very heavily.”

The Q1 push was a success, but of course there are always more improvements to make. Right now, Moda Operandi has one site for all territories and currencies; the next step, McCammon says, is multiple languages. He also wants to step up the deployment rate and achieve continuous delivery. With New Relic now a permanent feature of his stack, McCammon has full confidence in his team’s ability to reach those goals, and the ones to come. “It’s something that I look at and use every day,” he says. “The whole team loves it.”

Like a favorite jacket or bag that you wouldn’t dream of leaving home without, New Relic is good for all seasons—a standout piece in Moda Operandi’s tech collection.

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