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In many cases, the end of the year gives you time to step back and take stock of the last 12 months. This is when many of us take a hard look at what worked and what did not, complete performance reviews, and formulate plans for the coming year. For me, it is all of those things plus a time when I u...
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eCommerce Business Impact of Third-Party Address Validation Service
End user and business impact of third-party service calls

 

Are you running an eCommerce site that relies on Third-Party Services such as Address-Validation, Credit Card Authorization or Mapping Services? Do you know how fast, reliable and accurate these service calls (free or charged) are for your web site? Do you know whether it has an impact on your end users in case one of these services is not available or returns wrong data?

End User and Business Impact of Third-Party Service Calls
In last week's webinar Daniel Schrammel, IT System Manager at Leder und Schuh (responsible for sites such as www.shoemanic.com or www.jelloshoecompany.com), told his story on the impact of third-party online services to their business. One specific problem they had was with a service that validates shipping address information. If the entered shipping address is valid, users can opt for a "cash on delivery" option that is highly popular in the markets they sell to. If the address can't be validated or the service is unreachable, this convenient way of payment is not available and users have to go with credit card payment. As the eCommerce platform used to run their online stores also comes from a third-party provider, the Leder und Schuh IT team has no visibility into these third-party online service calls, whether they succeed and how that impacts end-user behavior.

Monthly Report Basically Means No Visibility
As stated before, Leder & Schuh uses an eCommerce Solution that was not developed in-house. Therefore they had no option to monitor the service calls from within the application as this was not supported by the platform (no visibility into application code). They had to rely on a monthly report generated by the Address Validation Service telling them how many requests they had last month, how many succeeded, partially succeeded (e.g., street number incorrect) or completely failed. With that aggregated data it was

  • Impossible to tell which queries actually caused the verification to fail (was it really the user entering a wrong address or is the service not using an up-to-date address database?)
  • Hard to tell whether a failing address validation has an impact on a user's decision to actually buy shoes (is there a correlation between address validation and bounce rates?)

Live-Monitoring of Service Quality
In order to solve this problem they had to get visibility into the eCommerce Solution to monitor the calls to the third-party address validation service. They were interested in:

  1. The call count (to validate the service fee they had to pay)
  2. The response code of the service (to see the impact the response had on users bouncing off the site)
  3. The actual input parameters that caused the service to return an address validation error (to verify whether addresses were really bogus or would have been valid)

Using dynaTrace allowed them to accomplish these and other general Application Performance Management goals without needing to modify the Third-Party eCommerce Platform and without any help from the third-party address validation service. The following dashboard shows the calls to the address validation service. On the top line we see green, representing the calls that return with a success; orange, representing validations with partial success; and red, representing those calls that failed. The bottom left chart shows an aggregation of these three return states showing spikes where up to 30% of the validation calls don't return a success.

Monitoring third-party service calls, the response code and impact on end users

Monitoring the service like this allows Leder & Schuh to:

  • Get Live Data on Service Invocations -> don't have to wait until the end of the month
  • Can look at those addresses that failed -> to verify if the data was really invalid or whether the validation service uses an out-of-date database
  • Can verify the number of calls made to the service -> verify if they don't get charged for more calls matches what they get charged
  • Can monitor availability of the service -> in case the service is not reachable this breaches the SLA

Impact of Service Quality to User Experience and Business
As indicated in the beginning, the option "cash on delivery" is much more popular than paying by credit card. In case the address validation service returns that the address is invalid or the service is down (not reachable), the user only gets the option to pay with credit card. Correlating the status and the response time of the service call with the actual orders that come in allows Leder & Schuh to see the actual Business Impact. It turns out that more users bounce off the site if the only payment option they are given is paying by credit card (Functional Impact) or if the validation service takes too long to respond (Performance Impact). The following dashboard shows how a business can be impacted by the quality of service calls:

Quality of service calls (performance or functional) has a direct impact on orders and revenue

Want to Learn?
During the webinar we also talked about general Response Time, Service Level and System Monitoring they are now doing on their eCommerce Platform. With the visibility they got they achieved some significant application performance improvements and boosted overall business. Here are some of the numbers he presented:

  • 50% less database queries
  • 30% faster Landing Pages
  • 100% visibility into all transactions and third-party calls
About Andreas Grabner
Andreas Grabner has been helping companies improve their application performance for 15+ years. He is a regular contributor within Web Performance and DevOps communities and a prolific speaker at user groups and conferences around the world. Reach him at @grabnerandi

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