What Does it Mean to Build for Today’s E-Commerce?

All industries are constantly evolving, but some experience change faster than others. E-commerce businesses, to be certain, fall into the fast and furious category.

The primary driving force behind change in the industry is rapid growth in the number of people conducting transactions online. In the U.S. alone, for example, the number of digital shoppers will reach 215.1 million by 2018, up from 172.3 million in 2010, according to research from Statista.

Mobile commerce growth, in particular, is changing the e-commerce landscape significantly, evidenced by a recent report from Business Insider that found that more than 60 percent of U.S. Web traffic across the nine largest retail websites in July of 2014 was generated from mobile devices.

An increase in the number of customers—and potential customers—is, generally speaking, excellent news for e-commerce businesses. It does, however, present some new challenges. For example, more traffic on a website means more stress on the underlying database. In a scale-up relational database that is essentially a one server “box,” when the box is full, a website will begin to experience performance issues, such as slow load times or inventory that does not update in real-time. When that happens, e-commerce businesses are forced to buy a larger and typically more expensive box.

But just as cloud computing has revolutionized the way companies do business (with cloud communications or storage, for example) it has the potential to help even the fastest growing e-commerce businesses handle their unique challenges. Specifically, a true scale-out, cloud database allows businesses to add servers in the cloud with a few clicks, providing the capacity necessary to ensure top-notch performance and customer experiences even during unexpected traffic spikes.

It is critical for growing e-commerce businesses to keep in mind that even if their sites are performing at an acceptable level today, that doesn’t mean an increased traffic load won’t change that in the future. In other words, for many online businesses, building for today and tomorrow may require a hard look at their underlying database architecture.