August 22, 2013, 1:10 PM

For LoveSac, a “hybrid cloud” makes surging online sales more comfy

It uses private and publicly shared web servers to load pages quickly.

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LoveSac is on an online roll. The retail chain of 54 furniture stores in upscale shopping malls across the United States has been growing web sales at an annual rate of about 40% for the past few years. For 2012, online sales at the privately held company hit about $8 million, or 20% of total sales of about $40 million, says Darren Johnson, director of e-commerce.

Furniture is not an easy type of product to sell online, as shoppers sometimes  balk at shipping costs and often prefer to see and feel what are often big-ticket items before buying, Johnson says.

What makes LoveSac different is that 95% of its sales are of modular couches, or what it calls “Sactionals,” that shoppers can buy in small units that be easily mixed and matched in a customized setting, Johnson adds. The units are also small enough to be shipped through UPS and FedEx, and LoveSac offers free shipping and free returns on all orders.

It also provides a lot of large product images and how-to videos on LoveSac.com to help shoppers customize their Sactionals, which are popular gift items, Johnson says. But that all adds up to constantly increasing web traffic, which until a year ago had  slowed LoveSac.com’s page-load time, Johnson says.

To improve site performance, LoveSac switched in August 2012 to a “hybrid cloud” system of web hosting from Rackspace U.S. Inc. Under the hybrid cloud system, Rackspace hosts the retailer’s most critical and security-sensitive content, such as Buy buttons, checkout pages and customer account information, on dedicated web servers that only LoveSac can use. It hosts all other content, including product images, on public servers that may be shared by other Rackspace clients. In the past, all of LoveSac.com’s content was on private servers, which resulted in large product images and other data-heavy content loading too slowly, Johnson says.

By separating the product images and other data-heavy content on the public servers, the Rackspace hybrid system, which uses content delivery technology from Akamai Technologies Inc., is able to provide more server capacity to LoveSac’s data-heavy content, resulting in a 20% improvement in page-load times, Johnson says.

Going forward, the hybrid system may become even more important, he adds. LoveSac is planning to launch a site redesign on its Magento Enterprise e-commerce platform this fall, followed by a mobile optimized web site early next year. Both the redesigned web site and the mobile site will feature a product configurator by next year, making it more important to have a web-hosting system that ensures fast-loading pages, Johnson says.

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