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MandM Direct speeds web development

By Retail Technology | Tuesday March 4 2014

Online fashion retailer achieves higher conversion rates and enhanced customer experience with web experience tool, enabling multi-device delivery

UK online fashion retailer, MandM Direct, is using Ion web experience software from Akamai to significantly enhance its online customer experience and website performance. 

The web delivery system is also helping the retailer to reduce development and maintenance time by enabling consistent delivery to all devices from a single site.

As a result, MandM Direct has significantly reduced bounce rates for mobile customers as well as increased conversion rates and across smartphone and tablet devices. It has also nearly halved page load times for the full site from non Wi-Fi connections.

To improve consistency of its site, while making the customer's web experience richer, more personalised and dynamic, MandM Direct decided to adopt a responsive web design approach. However, the inherent complexity of responsively designed pages, as well as the dynamic nature of personalised content, mixed devices and connection qualities, posed significant optimisation and development challenges, which MandM Direct worked with Akamai to help solve.

Managing peak trading periods

Working to tight deadlines and driven by the fast-approaching peak Christmas season, MandM Direct worked with Akamai on a proof of concept combining a responsive web design with the Ion web experience solution. The page load improvements delivered gave MandM Direct the confidence that it could implement a single, highly-responsive website design to serve smartphones, tablets and PCs, rather than needing to deliver bespoke sites for each device category. 

The overall development time required for the project was greatly reduced and simplified by removing the need to develop a site for each of the most common device scenarios, allowing developers to focus on the features of a single site. 

The Akamai Ion Web Experience Solution is designed to dynamically optimise browser content based on the device, connection quality and browser flavour. It is an integrated suite of delivery, acceleration and optimisation technologies with the required intelligence to make real-time web experience optimisation decisions based on the requirements of the given situation. Ion is designed to help simplify the complexity of modern web delivery while delivering a faster experience that is highly available, secure and scalable to meet peak capacity demands.

Graham Benson, IT director at MandM Direct, explained: “As a retailer, having a single site that is device-agnostic ensures a consistent user experience irrespective of the access device that the consumer chooses to use. This is very important to us. And from a marketing perspective, it increases business agility by reducing the maintenance and development windows. 

Rationalising development resources

"A single site is quicker, cheaper and easier to build/maintain than three separate ones," he added. "Finally, the implementation of Ion, including its front-end optimisation capabilities, has meant that our internal IT team do not need to become browser optimisation experts. Instead, they can concentrate on the site’s functional components, safe in the knowledge that Akamai will take care of the performance elements of the site.”

In addition to providing customers with superior web experiences across devices, implementing Ion brought a number of internal business benefits: MandM Direct also eliminated the need to grow its server infrastructure; traffic throughput at the data centre dropped, as did the resource requirements for each server. 

This is due to the advanced web acceleration features of Ion, which offloads requests from the originating servers for assets and other media to the Akamai Intelligent Platform. MandM Direct was also able to take advantage of Akamai’s other offerings, including further offloading, security and media acceleration, as peak trading fluctuations required.

Benson concluded: “We worked very closely with Akamai to achieve these results, but we retain a great deal of deep granular control over the configuration of our services through Akamai’s Luna Property Manager. It means that we are self-sufficient and our costs are lower, where in the past we would have relied on Akamai’s professional services teams to make configuration changes.”

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