Chapter 10. Could They Do It?: Real User Monitoring

A company once ran a beautiful monster of a marketing campaign.

The campaign was an attempt to drive traffic to its e-commerce site. Shortly after launching the campaign, sales dropped by nearly half. Synthetic tests suggested everything was fine. Web analytics reported an increase in visits, but a huge drop in conversions across every visitor segment. It looked like the campaign had appealed to a large number of visitors who came to the site but didn’t buy anything.

Management was understandably annoyed. The official response amounted to, “Don’t ever do that again, and fire the guy who did it the first time.”

Fortunately, one of the company’s web operators was testing out new ways of monitoring end user performance at this time. He noticed something strange: a sudden spike in traffic, followed by the meltdown of much of the payment infrastructure on which the site depended. This payment system wasn’t part of the synthetic tests the company was running.

As it turned out, the company had hit upon an incredibly successful promotion that nearly killed the system. So many people were trying to buy that the checkout page took over 20 seconds, and often didn’t load at all. Nearly all of the visitors abandoned their purchases. Once the company responded by adding servers, upgrading the payment system, and fixing some performance bottlenecks, they tripled monthly revenues.

It’s one thing to know your site is working. When your synthetic tests ...

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