Caching the Uncacheable: How Speed Kit Accelerates E-Commerce Websites
Industry knowledge states that three mega trends have changed how e-commerce works today. First, e-commerce exhibits two-digit growth rates, as more and more users shop online. Second, attention spans are declining, due to information overload and the number of screens that surround us. Third, usability expectations are at a maximum, since fast market leaders like Amazon set the benchmark extremely high. As a consequence of these trends, users leave when page loads take too long. This simple fact has complex implications for today’s online shopping, because building fast websites is not as simple as it used to be.
While traditional web caching plays a critical role in content delivery across all industries, the high degree of personalization in modern e-commerce has seemingly outgrown its capabilities. As the HTTP caching model has been designed for distributing static and generic assets under fixed caching times, standard caching does not account for content that changes unexpectedly or is unique for every user. Immutable and generic resources like images or stylesheets are thus usually accelerated with globally distributed content delivery networks (CDNs). Since modern e-commerce relies on product recommendations and other means of personalization, though, the performance-critical website itself (i.e. the HTML) is typically considered uncacheable and therefore extremely difficult to deliver fast.
To fill this gap in the current state of the art, German software startup Baqend has developed Speed Kit as an SaaS solution for accelerating e-commerce websites. Speed Kit is designed for websites of all sizes and trusted by customers ranging from medium-scale online vendors like Stylefile to billion-revenue retailers such as the OTTO daughter Baur or sports retailer Decathlon.
Since it is running as a Service Worker process within the browser, Speed Kit can intercept HTTP requests against slow origins and redirect them to Speed Kit’s fast caching infrastructure instead. For example, third-party resources like the Google Analytics script do not have to be served from Google’s domain over a cold TCP connection, but can be delivered from Speed Kit’s own CDN or even the browser cache. This kind of optimization is impossible for CDNs, because they do not optimize the last mile between the edge server and the user device.
Since measuring the uplift is just as important as achieving it, real-user monitoring (RUM) for statistically sound A/B-testing is already built into Speed Kit. To capture both performance- and business-related KPIs, data from every page load is tracked and sent to a scalable analytics pipeline hosted on AWS. The tracking data is ingested through a Docker-based EC2 cluster, stored in S3, continuously imported into an SQL warehouse based on AWS Athena, and ultimately fed into QuickSight dashboards for visualization. Since the entire analytics stack is built on top of AWS services, it combines automated reporting and complex analyses with low end-to-end latency at massive scale.
Speed Kit promises a new era of web performance and AWS provides the perfect infrastructure to make sure it delivers.