David’s Bridal Inc. was getting a lot of new online customers late last year. So many that it worried about serving up pages quickly to thousands of new online visitors. To help handle the load and keep those brides and grooms happy, the wedding supplies retailer hired content delivery network provider Akamai Technologies Inc.
“Our traffic levels have increased by leaps and bounds,” says Jerry Baklycki, David’s Bridal’s manager of e-commerce development. He says the increased traffic was driving up operational costs beyond budget. While the site could render as many as 600,000 page views per hour during peak times, up from about 150,000 a few years ago, it still wasn’t enough. The company noticed that customers were also beginning to feel the effects of the increased traffic. Some were waiting about two seconds for certain pages to load, making the shopping experience less than optimal. And the retailer was concerned that load times would worsen heading into peak shopping periods, Baklycki says.
Finding and hiring qualified people to handle any expansion of the retailer’s web infrastructure would have taken time, Baklycki says, and the company had to get ready for the upcoming spring wedding season.
In December, David’s Bridal began using Akamai Technologies, and all traffic to DavidsBridal.com was routed to the Akamai network, which has thousands of servers, providing relief to David’s three active servers. Baklycki won’t say how much it would have spent on additional servers, but he says “as we did all the math, Akamai was the overall better solution.”
The 61,000 servers at Akamai’s command can absorb the traffic from a site like David’s Bridal, says Margaret Rivera, Akamai’s industry marketing manager, even at times of peak use. And Akamai’s many servers, spread around 70 countries, means they likely have one close to wherever a customer is accessing the Internet. That means a customer in Seattle is routed through a nearby Akamai server, rather than through David’s Bridal’s data center and servers in St. Louis. Akamai charges a monthly fee based on the number of page views, the company says.
Since deploying Akamai, David’s Bridal has reduced its peak capacity requirements by 40%, web server peak capacity requirements by 90% and peak bandwidth requirements by 98%—all while supporting double the peak traffic, says Stan Payson, the retailer’s vice president for interactive technology. David’s Bridal is No. 321 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.
In addition to these improvements, using Akamai has freed up the retailer’s staff. Time previously spent managing traffic is now spent improving the site. For example, staff has been able to complete major projects like catalog updates and designing a more rapid customer checkout.
The overall impact of having a speedier site benefits not only online shoppers but store customers as well, Baklycki says. David’s Bridal has more than 330 stores nationwide, and virtually every bride who shops at the physical locations first checks out the offerings online, he says. “We’re a traditional e-commerce site, but we also serve as a leading marketing engine,” Baklycki says.