Visitor Monitoring Orchard Brands | Keynote
Case Study

Orchard Brands

Orchard Brands uses Keynote Transaction Perspective with Virtual Pages — Monitors Transaction Performance on 17 eCommerce Sites

Impact Highlights:

  • Monitors performance of complex Web transactions on 17 eCommerce sites
  • Prioritizes issues that impact the customer and quickly determines whether a problem results from internal site issues, third-party content or network issues
  • Alarms and trending using Virtual Pages allows the company to optimize performance for its own content and hold third-party vendors accountable for performance issues
  • Reduced Mean Time to Repair (MTTR) by allowing IT to focus on content issues within their control and by simplifying troubleshooting

Company

Orchard Brands is a leading marketer of apparel and home products that focuses on serving the needs of men and women over the age of fifty-five. With more than $1.1 billion in revenues, Orchard Brands provides quality products to consumers through catalog, Internet and retail channels. Its brands include Appleseed’s, Bedford Fair, Blair, Coward Shoes, Drapers & Damon’s, Gold Violin, Haband!, LinenSource, Monterey Bay Clothing, Norm Thompson, Old Pueblo Traders, Sahalie, Solutions, the Tog Shop, Willow Ridge, and WinterSilks.

Challenge: Ensure High Availability and Performance for Transactions

A significant percentage of Orchard Brands’ revenues come from sales on 17 different Web sites, and the impact of the online channel only continues to grow.

With such a large portion of sales riding on its eCommerce channels, the company could not risk disruptive transaction availability or performance issues.

As Brent Koozer, eCommerce support lead at Orchard Brands, noted, “Broken content doesn’t make customers feel confident. Plus, there’s a growing perception that the speed of the page influences purchase behavior.”

While the company was already measuring the performance and availability of end user transactions on its sites, its existing tools were generating a large number of false positives. “It’s like the boy who cries wolf,” explained Jeff Runner, senior eCommerce analyst at Orchard Brands, “After awhile, it’s easy to stop delving into things with the same diligence and you can miss something important.”

Why Keynote?

After comparing solutions from several vendors, Orchard Brands selected Keynote Transaction Perspective because it allows the company to look at the impact of every page component on transaction performance and alert the group if something exceeded a specified load time.

Additionally, the eCommerce group had noticed that often, performance issues were the result of problems with third-party content. Keynote’s unique Virtual Pages technology within Transaction Perspective allows the group to determine whether the problem is with elements it can control or with third-party Web components, such as ads or reviews. Virtual Pages helps the eCommerce group to separate those elements into ones that affect customers and ones that don’t and set up alerts accordingly.

Another reason Orchard Brands selected Keynote was for its KITE tool for creating test scripts. Said Koozer, “The ability to create scripts ourselves is a big plus. Although troubleshooting isn’t our primary use for KITE, if we are diagnosing an issue, we’d rather create a new test script ourselves and then make changes on the fly, rather than have to wait our turn in a vendor’s support queue.”

Solution: Keynote Transaction Perspective with Virtual Pages

Today, Orchard Brands uses Transaction Perspective with Virtual Pages to run test scripts it creates itself over Keynote’s distributed network from five US cities every fifteen minutes. These scripts browse key pages and enable:

  • Monitoring – The company monitors key pages on each of its 17 sites to ensure that they’re up and running and that performance remains within acceptable bounds. Alerts instantly notify the group whenever a page goes down or exceeds a specified load time so that it can address issues proactively. The team also monitors key page components with Virtual Pages and sets up unique performance tolerances based on customer impact. This allows the team to better prioritize and solve issues when they occur.
  • Performance trending – The group views monthly reports to see performance trends. As Runner noted, “Producers don’t always tell us when they change something on one of our sites that can cause a problem. We can look at our reports to spot problems and bring them to the developers’ attention. For example, a producer added a graphic that was 750 KB and was taking a long time to load. We told them about the problem. By saving the graphic in a smaller format, he instantly improved page performance.”
  • Change management – When the group completes a major release or makes a major change, they compare performance before and after the change to determine the impact.
  • Troubleshooting – While troubleshooting is not the primary use, Transaction Perspective measurements do help the company determine the cause of problems. For example, if Transaction Perspective tells them that a problem started at 5a.m., they can look at what changes were made at that time. Or they might see that a problem is affecting only a particular server, which means that either that server is failing or there’s an issue with the local internet connection.
  • Justification of content delivery networks – The group is looking into the possibility of implementing a content delivery network (CDN). It is using Keynote to perform performance trending of its sites to determine whether a site might benefit from a CDN. And if they do implement a CDN, they will use Keynote results to justify its ongoing use.

Results: No More False Alarms

Using Keynote has benefitted Orchard Brands by allowing them to zero in on the most critical problems. As Koozer noted, “With Virtual Pages, we no longer chase false alarms. We focus on what truly impacts the customer. That’s a big win for us.”

Transaction Perspective helps pinpoint which issues the company can and can’t resolve—for example, which come from third-party content or as a result of network issues. This allows Orchard’s eCommerce team to notify the third-parties about issues related to their content or about network problems and concentrate on those originating on their site.

The group can now optimize performance. Said Runner, “We can look back at the site history to see how performance has varied as we’ve done different things. This helps us improve the tuning of our site.”

And finally, it can now more quickly troubleshoot live issues.

While Orchard Brands has achieved considerable value by using Keynote Transaction Perspective to pinpoint and prioritize issues that are most likely to impact customers, the company also values the partnership it has developed with Keynote. Explained Koozer, “Keynote has been an active partner and a great technical resource that responds quickly whenever we have an issue with a script or with our content.”

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