Cyber Monday Retrospective: How ShipEngine Powers Your Business Through the Holiday Rush

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are two of the most important e-commerce days of the year, with sales topping more than $14 billion in 2018 alone. And, online spend for 2019 is expected to grow by at least 14% over last year, according to a recent study by Deloitte.

E-commerce sales for Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2017-2019

With the rise in e-commerce sales around the holidays, it’s more important than ever to have consistent, reliable platforms on which you run your business. But how do you ensure this standard for your customers?

These numbers shed light on a key industry trend—e-commerce sales, year over year, play a critical role in the financial success of any business. The e-commerce boom means increased traffic to your site, and more purchases funneling through your online store. The last thing you want to happen is your order fulfillment process to slow or halt because of poor-performing software. 

At ShipEngine, our commitment to consistent load testing allows us to boast sub-second response times and 99.99% uptime year-round, ensuring that all ShipEngine users enjoy a seamless shipping experience—even on high-volume days.

To better explain the impacts of load testing, we sat down with two of our software engineers, Mandy Hubbard and Daniel Hampton.

Technical Experts from ShipEngine, software engineers Mandy Hubbard and Daniel Hampton

At ShipEngine, our engineering teams are focused on being proactive, not reactive. From constantly load testing through Load Impact to making changes at the software level, ShipEngine is prepared year-round on any given day to handle the same significant load experienced on high-traffic days like Cyber Monday and Black Friday. 

Last year, on Cyber Monday alone, our shipping API handled the following load:

Cyber Monday 2018 Performance for ShipEngine's shipping API

Our engineering team uses load testing throughout the year to simulate the high-volume moments experienced on fast-paced days for online sales. Our team focuses each day on maintaining the fastest, most reliable software so that your shipping workflow feels effortless, and end-to-end testing helps us better understand the problems that may arise from the customer side before they happen

For us, the goal isn’t performance on just Cyber Monday or Black Friday, it’s about scaling appropriately as our user base continues to grow so that we’re always ahead of the curve. Equally as important, ShipEngine relies on partnership integrations with numerous carriers, who all vary in how they interact with and respond to applications in real-time environments.

Performance testing (and testing tools like k6) allow us to evaluate the stability and responsiveness of our API under different load conditions.

Specifically, when it comes to load testing our shipping API, we use a Javascript library called k6, and we run our scripts within Load Impact. Load Impact spreads the load across multiple clients, meaning individual users (like ShipEngine) don’t have to maintain a massive hardware infrastructure just for testing. If we ran the same k6 scripts from a laptop, for example, we would exhaust the processing power well before reaching the test load.

LoadImpact also takes the output of our test runs and analyzes and graphs them for us. Otherwise, we would have to establish and maintain our own time series database for the data generated by our load tests. We can replicate similar traffic volume by running k6 scripts, which allows us to make changes until we’ve discovered the source of any issues.

Right now, ShipEngine is also working with different carriers for coordinated end-to-end testing. Load testing is not just important for our own system on its own, but also for our system when interacting with and responding to our partners. This level of testing ensures that our shipping API operates seamlessly when connecting to your preferred carrier, whether UPS, USPS or another.

ShipEngine may be running efficiently at any given time, but the key is figuring out how ShipEngine responds to different partners and the simultaneous ripple effects of those responses — seeing what our system looks like end-to-end as part of a unique customer experience.”

Daniel Hampton

While many testers might throw hardware at the problem, the ShipEngine team is actually making changes in the code to improve performance and make the product more scalable.

We’ve also set up tracing at a granular level, which requires significant monitoring and the scaling up of infrastructure. The goal is to increase scale appropriately to meet user needs in a way that also makes sense financially.

One difficulty: You never know exactly what the load numbers will look like; you can only know the load your system can handle. There will always be uncertainty, but the way we code our software and load test allows us to scale effectively when needed while quickly pinpointing specific issues.

By the time the holidays roll around, our engineering team has already tested performance and executed changes so that everything is ready and prepared for whatever load comes our way. A key part of recognizing potential issues is thinking creatively to anticipate where issues might arise. To that end, we test to ensure our system is more than just fast, but that it is operating efficiently end to end. 

We don’t just want to make everything super fast. By load testing and simulating tests with carrier partners, we can see what performance is like at our estimated traffic and make necessary changes before we get to Black Friday and Cyber Monday.”

Mandy Hubbard

It takes a lot of coordination across teams to make the changes that lead to reliable uptime, but the effort is well worth it to create outstanding experiences for our users. ShipEngine is ready to power you through any day of the year and any holiday rush. If you’re interested in experiencing the power of our load testing, we invite you to sign up for a free API key.


Want to learn more about how to optimize your e-commerce business for the holidays? 

We’ve teamed up with our partners at Volusion to bring you a free e-commerce holiday bootcamp! From ways to save on shipping to decking the halls with your marketing promotions, we’ll show you how to prep your online shop for Black Friday and Cyber Monday like a pro.

Register below to join us on:
Tuesday, November 5th @ 12 PM CST

Volusion and ShipEngine Ecommerce Holiday Bootcamp Webinar

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