How to have a commerce website that provides reliable, responsive and consistent results


Today businesses are dealing with challenges of  supporting a commerce website. The commerce website have become more complex with the changing business requirements, customer expectations and changes in browser technology and devices. IT departments have commerce solutions that are complex and are difficult to maintain. The commerce solutions get more complex due to requirements with catalog restrictions, customer specific pricing, regulatory compliance, security compliance and merging acquired companies or divisions to a common platform.  This complex website provides a poor shopping experience for the user. The business expects a website that meets the customers increasing demand for a commerce website with an evolving business.

To make matters worse, the expectation of your client is getting more demanding and more specific. Today the customer is only one bad user experience away from jumping to your competitors website. At the same time it only takes one bad experience on your competitors  website and a excellent experience on your website to gain new customers.

To meet the growing and demanding expectation of customers it is important to architecture our commerce website to provide a shopping experience that is prompt, accurate and reliable. When a website is prompt, accurate and reliable I consider the website meeting the PAR standard.

The idea of the PAR standard is based from the idea of a par in golf. Every customer and business expects the shopping experience to meet each of the PAR standard. In golf each hole has a specific amount of hits you should complete to finish a hole. If you complete the hole in the required amount of hits it is considered to be par. The PAR standard expects each website to be prompt, accurate and reliable. If the website meets the standard, the modern user expectation is met.

For a website to meet the PAR standard the website needs to be prompt. The business expects the website to be prompt and all requests need to take less than  1 second. This includes the product detail page, adding a product to the cart or checking out. If it takes longer than a second the website is slow to the modern user. The business will lose sales to it's competitors if the website is not prompt.

To meet the prompt requirement the website should be optimized to cache data and optimize of your code base. It is important that the website is prompt for all orders including large orders. It is important to profile the current code base to identify the bottle necks, then optimize the code to increase the page performance. The website performance will need to responsive during high traffic levels,

The business expects the shopping experience to be accurate. An order is accurate if the order is completed successfully with no issues. When a customer order is being delayed it is important to notify and inform the customer with the most accurate and detailed information. This will allow the  commerce website set the customer expectation early in the shopping experience. Ideally it would be best to notify the user during the checkout process about any delays or out of stock items, then allow the user to modify the cart based on there needs.

The customer are now expects timely and accurate notification for each order and notification right away if any issues appear. The customer also expects to have accurate and detail information with any exceptions to the order communicated to the user. A customer will be more loyal when they are informed a shipment will be delayed due to a specific product being out of stock when placing the order. The customer will have a bad user experience if they have to follow up with the company to find why the shipment is late. In todays environment customers expect to be notified right away and will have a negative experience if they are not kept in the loop. We are now seeing customer expectation to get the latest real time tracking on the order. It is no longer acceptable to update the order history once a day.

The last requirement a commerce website needs to pass the PAR standard is a reliable shopping experience. The website must be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days year. Ideally, the website should have 100% uptime. Upgrades to the website should  not impact the user experience or cause the website to go down. The business will not allow website to be down for 4 hours to a upgrade the website. The user should have successful experience no matter when the order is placed, and this includes the order submitted 1 minute after a upgrade.

The business expects process and procedure established to verify code changes will not impact the shopping experience (crashes, missing or incorrect product, lost carts or lost orders). Automated test needs to be created to minimize the long term cost to verify the website still works as expected with each release.  The business expects the ability to quickly and reliably test and fix production bugs quickly. Waiting a day or weeks to fix an issue that causes the add to cart to fail is not acceptable. Businesses expect every order to be processed correctly and in timely mater. All the above changes will help your commerce website meet the PAR standard.

Due to the increase expectation from customers and the critical role, the commerce website is now capturing a larger percentage of the companies orders. Companies are now reviewing the current commerce website setup and architecture. The company CEO are now being informed of any issues with the commerce website. The company's ability to grow is now dependent on commerce website ability to adapt.

The majority of the commerce websites fail the PAR standard. The standard commerce website contains several patches of hot fixes added over the years to meet the businesses needs. Each fix makes it more difficult to maintain the software. Company's will attempt to improve the commerce website so it will pass the PAR standard. The initiavies will fail unless the overall architecture is improved and the website has a core commerce foundation. Without the proper design and architecture the website gets farther from meeting the PAR standard with each code fix.

It is important for a business to look at the technology currently used and identify how well they are currently performing against the PAR standard. This review will help identify how much the company is losing based on failing the PAR standard. If the website is not providing the positive shopping experience the customer will go to the competitor.  This will cause lost revenue or an impact to the profit due to fulfillment errors. In today's age users are pick. Each customer is one bad shopping experience from buying on your competitor website.

During the review it is important to identify if a core commerce code base that will exists to handle the standard commerce functionality and the checkout process. If the core commerce code exists it is important to review the code to see how modular and streamlines the code is. During the review the code will be checked to see if it follows the best practices and uses the simplest approach.

Today businesses demand to have a website that pass the PAR standard. To meet this standard you need to create a solid foundation for your commerce website. The solid foundation is created from commerce component that provide basic commerce functionality.

The business will need to create the solid core commerce foundation when the business does not want the bottom line impacted due to lost revenue from a poor user experience. If the commerce website is not built on a solid foundation it will be a difficult and costly website to maintain and to meet and maintain the PAR standard. Without a strong Commerce foundation it will be expensive to add new feature, increase cost to enhance the code and a large overhead will be required to keep the system running. The lack of a strong commerce foundation will continually increase the company cost to maintain and enhance the website.

It is important to review your current implementation and identify if the website fails or passes the PAR standard. Multiple strategies exists to help a legacy website pass the PAR standard. If the website is slow you could optimize the website by caching the data. Caching will not fix everything and could cause additional issues. In addition it is important to make sure the 1st page load is responsive. Most caching techniques will only increase the page load on the 2nd page load. The problem is if you provide a bad user experience. The user will assume the website is broken and never visit the 2nd page.

The PAR standard allows for a business to help identify if the commerce website is working with the latest expectation of the modern user. If the website fails the test the website must be improved and fixed to past the test. Today users and businesses expect the website to be prompt, accurate and reliable. If you don't meet the PAR standard your rival will meet it and steal your customers.

 
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