June 30, 2005, 12:00 AM

Why ShopNBC.com monitors site performance in multiple dimensions

To ensure that all aspects of its site redesign were operating smoothly, ShopNBC.com used performance analysis tools to recreate real-time customer sessions. The result helped ShopNBC.com make several significant adjustments after the launch.

With 65,000 daily unique visitors clicking on ShopNBC.com to peruse more than 9,000 SKUs, including $18,000 diamond rings and other high-end jewelry, the e-commerce site, a unit of ValueVision Media Inc., can ill afford performance problems.

That’s why to head off trouble or correct problems as fast as possible when they do occur, ShopNBC.com takes a multi-dimensional view of web site performance monitoring and management.

For instance, when ShopNBC.com re-launched its e-commerce platform in October, the web store debuted with an entirely new layout and site navigation. To ensure that all aspects of the launch were operating smoothly-and to measure the shopping experience customers were having on the new home page and product pages-ShopNBC.com used performance analysis tools from TeaLeaf Technology Inc. to recreate real-time customer sessions. The result helped ShopNBC.com make several necessary adjustments, including adding better and broader site search.

When customers came to the redesigned site, ShopNBC.com discovered through its analysis of customer sessions that the search box wasn’t delivering enough timely information. The results delivered product information, but the analysis also pointed out that shoppers were typing in queries about the online retailer`s shipping policies and shipping rates to distant locations such as Alaska. As a result of careful site monitoring after the relaunch, ShopNBC.com fixed the problem, then expanded site search to deliver results that pulled more information from multiple product, customer service and other databases. Analysis of real-time customer sessions also revealed that shoppers were having trouble using a new back button, which ShopNBC.com fixed by making the button more prominent on its pages and easier to find and use.

“You do all kinds of research and analysis prior to the launch, but it’s been the analysis of the customer sessions that has enhanced site performance,” says Steve Craig, chief technology officer for ShopNBC.com. “When we see what customers see, we can do a better job of trouble shooting and making changes.”

ShopNBC.com takes a multi-dimensional view of site performance because its customers have to enjoy a trouble-free shopping experience. “We sell higher-end jewelry and other merchandise and if the site doesn’t load quickly or they can’t find the merchandise quickly, they may go elsewhere,” Craig says.

As part of a multi-dimension web site monitoring program, ShopNBC.com uses various measurement tools and programs to frequently monitor conditions such as load times. The online retailer will benchmark its load times and page speeds against its competitors such as QVC.com and others, against other top loading sites in other industries and in different geographic locations. The goal is monitoring performance so that users coming to the site over a T1 line can access ShopNBC.com in about a second and dial-up users in several seconds. “We measure and monitor the customer experience from several different angles,” Craig says.

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