Today, increasingly savvy online bargain hunters prowl through the jungle of e-commerce websites, looking for the best deals. Motivated by the thrill of the chase, these shoppers are quick to pounce on the promise of unique bargains offered by flash sales. These markets operate on the concept of scarcity; the perception that a desired item is only available for a limited time, at a limited price, and to a limited market is frequently the chief motivating factor in the customer’s decision to purchase.

Flash sales are at the heart of DeinDeal AG, a subsidiary of publisher Ringier AG, and one of the largest e-commerce sites in Switzerland. With its acquisition of MyStore SA in 2016, DeinDeal has cemented its strong market position among consumers. Its range of products includes three distinct market areas: high-end fashion and cosmetics products, tourism and travel deals, and localised coupons and discounts.

All three business lines leverage flash sales as part of their business model—and all three operate on a single platform. An offer on DeinDeal is viewed an average of 200,000 times. All told, the company has more than one million customers, nets over 25 million web page views per month, and sends out 800,000 packages annually from its warehouse in Geneva. DeinDeal’s top requirement is to ensure all its apps and websites deliver on the promise of a great digital customer experience by being consistently fast, available, and easy to use.

Every day is Black Friday

Every morning at precisely 7:00 a.m., DeinDeal emails a newsletter to its subscribers with the day’s exclusive deals. As a result, traffic to the website spikes for the first few hours of the day, making it imperative for DeinDeal to keep up with performance and uptime.

‘We do have a lot of daily users, but the bulk of our customers rush to the site to get a limited-time offer. It’s like having a Black Friday every morning’, says Alexandre Branquart, CTO/CIO of DeinDeal. ‘There’s a lot at stake. We need to prevent bottlenecks and identify and resolve issues before they affect customers on our site. Ultimately, the user experience, quality of service, and customer satisfaction are what drive business every day.’

Although the predictable nature of the flash sale model allows DeinDeal to plan in advance for heavy daily system loads, over time the environment has grown increasingly complex. Before adopting New Relic, the company was using a number of different tools to monitor components on different applications, without a unified view into the environment. To determine the root cause of a particular problem, the team would have to manually aggregate data, which could be a time-consuming and inefficient process.

In 2017 DeinDeal implemented the New Relic platform as its centralised solution to monitor and collect insights into its e-commerce systems. According to Thomas Chretien, web tech lead and architect at DeinDeal, ‘Our challenge lies in ensuring that all of the site’s multiple components work together seamlessly, and in tracking all of the potential issues that can arise in our applications. With the single-pane-of-glass view New Relic provides us, we now have a broad understanding of what’s going on, in real time.’

‘With just a few clicks, anyone on my team can go inside each application and easily check for errors. And since our site traffic is so closely tied to the daily newsletter, if there are fewer visitors than usual to the site after the newsletter goes out, we immediately know something needs to be looked at—and we can use New Relic to detect any anomalies’, he says.

‘New Relic has completely changed the way we look at our platform. The technical benefits on the backend have had a huge impact on our customers on the frontend, and across all other elements of their interaction with the site, such as customer service.‘

Alexandre Branquart CTO/CIO of DeinDeal AG

Shopping on the go, go, go!

As a channel that brings in a tremendous amount of traffic—and revenue—mobile is an essential part of the DeinDeal platform. In fact, more than half of the traffic to the site comes via its various mobile applications. The team currently runs more than 20 app versions on both iOS and Android.

‘The way that people shop online has been changing’, says Branquart. ‘In the past, we saw that people would browse our sites using their mobile device, but subsequently buy on a desktop. Now, we are seeing more and more customers who both browse and purchase directly on their mobile device.

We have done everything we can to optimise our mobile apps to provide the best possible experience for our customers, including using New Relic Mobile to identify certain bugs and performance issues.’

Load-balancing is also key for the team. The backend infrastructure is the same for DeinDeal’s mobile applications, mobile website, and desktop website. As a result, any technical issue that influences regular website traffic can impact the mobile user experience.

‘We need to be able to look at site behavior and load in real time, because everything is so closely connected’, says Branquart. ‘And we need to monitor that balance to make sure, for example, that a sudden influx of mobile app users won’t negatively influence the experience of a customer shopping in the regular web interface. New Relic provides us with complete visibility across all the systems and lets us monitor the exchanges between our API gateways, backend API gateways, and the mobile apps.’

Now, not only can Branquart’s team capture metrics on how flash sales and apps are performing, they can also see how they’re using storage and compute capacity, an important component. Branquart adds, ‘We can drill down across the entire application stack and see exactly how we need to improve our platform to have a better user experience for one channel or another. This visibility will continue to be vital to our process, especially as we scale further.’

The team has seen immediate results. Shortly after DeinDeal instrumented their mobile apps with New Relic’s mobile SDK, they were able to fix a persistent bug that had resulted in a number of user complaints. Says Chretien, ‘New Relic has been particularly useful in helping us determine whether a bottleneck or issue lies within the application or within the server. With this holistic picture of the integration between mobile and its backend, we have also improved our understanding of performance bottlenecks across our platform.’

The journey to DevOps, the cloud, and beyond

In addition to driving faster enhancements and quicker decision making when it comes to apps and the health level of the overall platform, Branquart and his team have been able to nurture a collaborative DevOps culture within DeinDeal by using New Relic.

Since Branquart’s team is geographically dispersed, it is crucial for all team members to be able to access the same data in real time. Now, the entire team has access to early alerting, real-time patching, and immediate visibility into latency via customised New Relic dashboards. Not only has this reduced mean time to repair (MTTR), it has generated unprecedented insights into the behavior of the DeinDeal platform and allowed Branquart’s team to approach the interface more strategically. Rather than waiting to receive customer complaints, the team can proactively respond to any anomaly as it arises.

‘One of my main goals was to get insights into our platform and link it to our customers’ behavior’, says Branquart. ‘New Relic gives us insight into deployment monitoring, so we can see what happened before or since we deployed a particular version, and how it affects customers. It’s impacted how we monitor the platform and how we deploy within the platform. If there’s a problem, anyone on the team can immediately see which system impacted the platform and gather meaningful metrics to make improvements. We did not have this type of cross-system notification before New Relic.’

As DeinDeal continues to make improvements to its e-commerce platform, the company has begun to work on a hybrid-cloud platform, SPA, and event-driven architecture. ‘We are constantly in business and technical R&D to ensure the business grows and we provide a great user experience’, says Chretien, ‘New Relic is helping us monitor this perpetual evolution.’

Branquart agrees: ‘New Relic has completely changed the way we look at our platform. The technical benefits on the backend have had a huge impact on our customers on the frontend, and across all other elements of their interaction with the site, such as customer service. This has helped us meet our ultimate goal of providing all of our customers with a seamless, high-performance, and effective shopping experience.’