It May Be Too Late Now, But Maybe This Will Help Next Christmas – A Cyber-Monday primer

From the Principal’s Office

The forecast for the holiday season in retailing is not good, except for a couple of individual retailers who expect to buck what Morgan Stanley has predicted as an almost flat season.  Meanwhile, all the gloom notwithstanding, the stock market is at an all-time high (indicating good things for 6 months from now) and retailers are spending on information systems initiatives.  Our Article this issue is written by Mark Lilien, an RTG alumnus and recent recipient of the Computerworld Top 100 CIOs award.  Insightful.  Poses many an interesting question.  See you at the NRF Conference?

Bob Amster – Principal, RTG


It May Be Too Late Now, But Maybe This Will Help Next Christmas – A Cyber-Monday primer

By RTG Alumnus Mark Lilien

December 2 is Cyber Monday, one of the highest ecommerce-volume days of the year.   Will your site be ready?  These questions and suggestions may be obvious to you, but based on previous Cyber Mondays, they weren’t obvious to everyone.

1.  Have you tested the peak volume you expect?  Can that volume be sustained all through the business day?
It’s not unusual for a site to handle a great peak for a short time.  But if your peak is ten hours long, will your site start to run further and further behind?  Will your order confirmations start to be delayed by a few minutes, then an hour, and then a couple of hours?

2.  Have you done your volume testing in proportion to how people actually browse the site?
If product A is forecast to be 2% of total sales, and pickup in store is expected to be 15% of total sales, and the average customer visits 12 different screens before making a purchase, and only 17% of your shoppers enter the site via the home page, do your test script volumes reflect those statistics?   Have you tested every kind of sales promotion, in proportion to its likely volume (buy 1 get 1 free, $10 off for loyalty card holders, free shipping for a $50 order, etc.)?

3.  Have you tested the most popular pages’ latency during the expected peak volume all through the business day…?
…or will the pages run slower and slower, reducing your conversion rate?  Will your shoppers be waiting 2 to 4 seconds for a screen or will they be waiting 9 to 12 seconds?

4.  Are you measuring the latency based on the typical DSL “last mile” including the delays within the shoppers’ browsers…?
…or are you measuring the “backbone” speed?  Retail shoppers use the least expensive (slowest) DSL or the cable modem equivalent.

5.  What browsers did you use to test?  What versions?
Many shoppers don’t update their browsers and operating systems to the latest version.  Although iOS7 is used by most iPhone users, 20% of iPhone users still use iOS6 (see  Who wants to jeopardize 20% of their sales?

6.  Do you stick to your freeze date?
Everyone expects to change the site’s content every few hours, but it’s far more dangerous to be performing maintenance updates, patches, and installing “minor” fixes.

7.  Have you tested your DDOS system? Have you tested your disaster recovery site? How recently?  When was the last time you did thorough PCI scans?

8.  Have you asked your third-party fulfillment people to document how they prepare for the busy season?  

Every Holiday season, some sites will struggle.  Not just a few famous ones.  The embarrassments come to businesses of all sizes.  Most don’t end up in the news, but their IT staffs, their customers, and their owners feel the pain.

Do you have any suggestions not already listed?  RTG would love to hear them.

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What’s New with Us

Alumni News
Mark Lilien, this quarter’s contributing editor, was named one of Computerworld’s Premier 100 IT Leaders for 2014.  Mark is an alumnus of the Retail Technology Group and currently the CIO at Things Remembered, a specialty gifts, mall-based, national retailer.  Congratulations Mark!  (Click on the title to learn more.)

A New One from Apple Insider
This is another attempt at getting rid of YOUR wallet, but definitely worth learning.  Do you have an opinion?  (Click on the title to read the article.)

Choice Pet Supply
We are engaged by Centripetal Capital Partners to select retail software for inventory management, POS, CRM and more for this early-stage, successfully growing, regional retailer.

Metropolitan Museum of Art
We are completing our engagement with The Met to assist in the selection of end-to-end retail applications for the museum’s retail business.

Expert Assistance

Robert Lawson continues to work for a major software developer of in-store solutions for a number of key retail clients.

Barneys New York
We are proud to have stood in on an interim basis as this venerable New York retail institution was searching for a VP of Information Systems and Technology.

Investor Due Diligence
We are engaged with Palladin Consumer Retail Partners, Boston MA, with two projects in which we are assisting in conducting due diligence on the IS&T function of both target companies.

If You Have a Need
…and would like to discuss it with us, please contact us at the number below.  We would be happy to review with you how we can help you.


The Retail Technology Group:
is located at:
761 Rock Rimmon Road
Stamford, CT 06903-1216
Telephone 203-329-2621