In my previous blog I had talked about the tried and tested ways to launch a successful flash sale using the SFCC platform. Now that we know the ways to successfully launch a flash sale; it’s time for us to understand what happens when we launch a flash sale.

What Happens During a Flash Sale?

During a flash sale or a hype sale, there is large traffic to a storefront for few products. It’s almost like when a brick-and-mortar store declare a sale and too many people queue up on the store floor to avail the much-coveted price. However, both for the online and the offline store, the key is to manage the unprecedented volume of traffic and run a successful flash sale.

During a flash sale, if a storefront isn’t well prepared, the concepts of scalability and availability can go for a toss, but that doesn’t happen with a robust preparation. The good news is it’s possible if you know the right hacks.

In this blog post, we shall discuss the best practices for Salesforce B2C Commerce users to hold a successful flash sale.

Ways to Ace your Next Flash Sale like a Pro

In a flash sale with adequate preparation, the chances of failure are lesser and even if it happens, you will know the ways to get it up and running.

Now hold on tight to your reading screens, while I walk you through some of the unique hacks of traffic management during a flash sale.

  1. Early Engagement of Salesforce: When you plan for a flash sale, it’s best to inform the Salesforce Commerce Cloud team well in advance. If they are aware of the spike in traffic, they shall help you maintain availability and scalability of your site with solutions that are unique to your use case.

    Did you know amongst all eCommerce platforms SFCC has a record of 99.6% up-time?

  2. Disable or Reschedule Jobs: Critical resources should be up and running when shoppers visit your site during a flash sale. Hence, it’s wise to disable or reschedule the non-critical jobs until the sale concludes. Some of these include code and data replications, order export jobs, catalog and inventory imports, and index rebuilding.

  3. Advance Scheduling of the Replication and Caching Activities: The cache should have enough time to warm up before the flash sale starts, so it’s important not to clear or invalidate the page cache just before the sale begins. Also, remember to schedule replication activities at least four hours before the sale commences.

  4. Block Unwanted Traffic by Using Built-in eCDN Functionality: It’s better to use the built-in eCDN functionality to increase the threat level. Besides, you may enable the “Under Attack” mode during a flash sale. The “Under Attack” mode gives a CAPTCHA to every unique user before they are given access to the storefront. An effective way to keep away unsolicited activities.

  5. Leverage the Web Services Framework for Third-Party Integrations: Overlooking third-party integrations, especially during the checkout flow, isn’t a good idea during a flash sale. They may not have high scalability and availability, unlike the SFCC B2C platform, disrupting the entire sale process. However, with B2C Commerce Cloud for defining third-party integrations, you can experience non-disruptive failure and rate limiting. The B2C Commerce platform offers a framework that wraps requests to third-party services to provide monitoring and guardrails for them.

    Quick Fact: B2C Commerce guidelines suggest two seconds or less time-out for non-checkout services, and five to 10 seconds or less for checkout services.

  6. Do not Make the Product IDs Available before the Sale: When products IDs become available before the sale, shoppes might bypass the normal page and the checkout flows, causing an unfair situation. It can impact the scalability of a flash sale since requests to add a product in the cart and checkout are resource intensive operations in a flash sale. Therefore, to abort such practices, making the product IDs unavailable seems a feasible because that way creation of automated bots and scripts becomes a daunting task. You can set up real-time rate limiting capabilities for unperturbed shopping experiences.

    Quick Fact: Use a Web Application Firewall (WAF) for the real-time analysis of incoming requests based on a pre-defined set of rules.

  7. Plan for Bot Mitigation: Arobust bot mitigation strategyis crucial to ensure that human shoppers are buying the products during the flash sale. Many times, what happens is when there is a steep discount and limited inventory, malicious users try to amass a large volume of the stock to resell the discounted products at a higher price for profit. The ratio of bot traffic overwhelming your site is inversely proportional to the amount of discount that you give and your inventory size.

    The Strategies to Reduce Bot Attack are illustrated below:

  8. Consider a Lite Version of the PDP: Use a lightweight product details page (PDP) before making the product available, such as a PDP without an Add to Cart button or link. It enables the caching of key page elements before the product is available for purchase. The result is improved page performance during the sale.

    Quick Tip: Plan for the proper segmentation of cacheable elements and give enough time for caching (usually 24 hours or more)

  9. Be mindful when Inventory Reservation Occurs: During flash sale avoid reserving the inventory when shoppers add products to the cart. Reserving products when they are in the cart causes more abandoned carts and aborted checkouts compared to reserving the product inventory when the order is submitted. Pushing the inventory calculation logic to the end of the checkout process ensures high order throughput and low contention by selling on the first come first serve basis.

    Tips for businesses that support inventory reservation in the cart:
    1. Cut down on the reservation time to avoid aborted sessions from blocking the checkout for other shoppers
    2. Use a different checkout flow just for flash sale products

  10. Set up a Raffle or Reservation System: Just like abrick-and-mortar flash event when there is enormous footfall, using a raffle system is an intelligent way to manage the traffic. The same holds true for the virtual storefront. A raffle or reservation system generates flash around your promotion but reduces traffic to the specific products that are available in limited quantities. Only certain shoppers, like raffle winners or those with reservations, can purchase those products.

  11. Create a virtual waiting room: During a sale season; have you ever waited in a queue in a physical store to buy your desired product? Ever wondered why they make you wait in the queue and not allow all at a once into the store? Simple! It would create a major chaos leading to dissatisfied customers and a crippled backend system.

    It’s the same for virtual storefronts as well. To ensure the backend systems of online stores aren’t overwhelmed by excessive demands for a popular good which is in limited stock, creating a virtual waiting room is crucial. Waiting rooms limit the number of shoppers allowed to purchase products at a time. When a designated page reaches the threshold of maximum shoppers, the new shoppers receive a waiting page that doesn’t access backend systems.

    Quick Tip: Pair your virtual waiting room with pre-sale load testing and traffic forecasting for a delightful shopping experience.

Wrapping it Up

At the risk of sounding cliche, “Prevention is better than cure”, if you decide to implement the above traffic management best practices, you can host a flash sale seamlessly. During the flash sale hustle, you will have the peace of mind that your site can effortlessly handle the spike in traffic. Go take over the markets with a swag!