A music equipment e-retailer tunes up its checkout process

UniqueSquared learned why customers couldn’t cart items after Saturday night concerts.

Paul Demery

It’s Saturday night, the live concerts are rocking, and the folks at UniqueSquared.com are waiting for the typical post-concert rush of music fiends looking to gear up with equipment ranging from guitars and keyboards to microphones and video recorders.

But until recently, Saturday night was often a bust for online sales, says Paul D’Arrigo, CEO of Unique Squared Inc. The rush of music equipment buyers would show up as usual, but often when a buyer placed, say, a new Vox SSC-33 electric guitar, into UniqueSquared.com’s shopping cart, the checkout process stalled. The situation left D’Arrigo and team scratching their heads.

“Every Saturday night for about an hour and a half, the same issues were coming up,” he says. “The buyers were able to locate the items on the e-commerce site. The items were selected and placed into the cart, but they weren’t able to complete the transaction. The store was effectively closed.”

Confounding the performance conundrum was the fact that the problem with putting items in the cart items appeared to be intermittent, making it difficult to identify the cause.

UniqueSquared, which does about $25 million in annual online sales, recently upgraded its site to the Magento Enterprise e-commerce platform from eBay Inc., but that upgrade turned out not to be the source of the problem. That problem was that the Internet hosting service wasn’t in tune with the web servers that support both the site and its databases that store product information needed to complete a purchase.

Working with Rigor, a company that monitors the performance of web sites and web applications, UniqueSquared learned that its database servers were becoming temporarily disconnected from other servers supporting the site during routine maintenance periods conducted by the retailer’s Internet hosting service on Saturday nights. With the product database disconnected from the web site, the site’s shopping cart was simply unable to process purchases of carted products, says Craig Hyde, president of Rigor.

“As it turned out, our intermittent issues were not intermittent at all,” D’Arrigo says. “The routine maintenance being done by our hosting provider caused problems and prevented our users from completing purchases.”

UniqueSquared has since contracted with a new Internet hosting service, and Saturday nights are back to normal. The retailer says it has already figured that it can now accept orders for an additional 90 minutes each week.

“If we weren’t running Rigor’s monitoring system, our lost sales would have continued to go undetected,” D’Arrigo says.

Problems that cause web sites to malfunction will be discussed at the Internet Retailer 2012 Conference & Exhibition in the session, “My web site is down! Why the Internet doesn’t always work and what this means for your business,” presented by Kevin Diamond, chief technology officer, HauteLook, and Lelah Manz, chief strategist for commerce, Akamai Technolgies Inc.


e - commerce, e-retail, music equipment, music equipment buyers, Performance management, Rigor, unique squared inc., UniqueSquared.com, web-only