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On Black Friday some of South Africa’s leading ecommerce platforms adopted the international holiday to run specials and boost sales. It’s a pity they didn’t realise that to do so you need to follow international tech trends as well. The specials came out, the customers came and the technology failed. Ecommerce in South Africa blacked out and this time there was no Eskom to blame. Only bad practice and a lack of focus on what really runs your business — your tech platform.
The real issue here
Yes, loss of revenue is a problem. Yes, in a space where retention is everything, upsetting your customers is a problem. Unfortunately “The Blackout” speaks of a problem that runs deeper. It exposes a culture problem; one that lacks innovation, does not keep up with trends and only fixes things once they finally die.
It will not go away
Ecommerce shopping is increasing at a fast pace. Predictions are that it will not slow down any time soon. Blackout Friday has only demonstrated what may be expected in the future. It has given us a looking glass from which we should be learning and changing.
So what do we do ?
Scaling problems are not new and there are a myriad production tested, bullet-proof ways of handling this. Some of the techniques have been around for a long time. Caching, scaling with containers, building 12 factor apps and proper configurations scratch the surface.
We should have pride in our platforms: how they look, how they follow standards and how effective they are. South Africa’s ecommerce platforms should be inspiring technology leaders, not lumbering “but its doing the job” monoliths.
Take Walmart as a case in point. It has adopted a technology called node.js at a very early stage. A whole development culture has sprung up around it – it releases products as open source and stimulates the industry around it so that it in turn reaps the benefits and is also kept on its toes. It’s taken this culture so far that it’s started Walmart Labs (here are its open source contributions) .
Does it go down on Black Friday?