Web Performance Lessons from Death Wish Coffee: The Small Business that Won the Super Bowl
Test and Monitor | Posted February 09, 2016

Here in the US, the Super Bowl  is more than just a football game — it’s a national holiday, with its own traditions, festivities, and food and drinks.

One of the most important aspects of super bowl is the commercials.

Every year, brands spend millions of dollars to get the attention of the more than 120 million Super Bowl viewers. The Wall Street Journal created this brilliant interactive chart of past ad spending. We are sure that the all industries outdid themselves in terms of spending again this year.

Spending by Industry

Aligning performance goals

Brands and ad agencies go above and beyond to create memorable (and sometimes weird) commercials; all in an attempt to drive traffic and increase sales. For brands that use e-commerce as their primary revenue generator, such ads are even more critical.

But beyond advertising, the companies investing in these ads also need to take steps to make sure their sites and applications can support the influx in traffic that’s sure to come.

What if the marketing team excels in bringing more traffic to the website or app than ever before and the technology fails to support it? What if the website gets overwhelmed with such traffic? What if the customers can access the website, add items to cart but can’t checkout? Such failed conversion not only impacts revenue, it also leads to negative branding and lost opportunities.

Providing a high quality e-commerce experience — that is customer ready 24 hours a day — requires a strong alignment among all stakeholders responsible for the organizations success. From marketing to procurement and from IT Operations to distribution, everyone needs to be prepared.

A small business gets a BIG opportunity

One of the businesses we were most excited to see in the Super Bowl spotlight is a brand that many people probably hadn’t heard about before the big game.

New York-based coffee company, Death Wish Coffee, was the proud winner of Intuit’s Small Business Big Game contest. As the winner, Death Wish Coffee, was given a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl broadcast. This is a great opportunity for any startup their size.

Death Wish Coffee Homepage

At SmartBear, we love startups and we love coffee, so we wanted to see how well prepared these coffee pirates were for the biggest wave of visitors.

Using AlertSite, our premium synthetic performance monitoring tool, we were able to create various tests for Death Wish Coffee.

The first test was for availability. We set up a monitor (EST time) to see if the website was up from some of the major cities across North America (from Atlanta GA, Chicago IL, Dallas TX, Fort Lauderdale FL, New York NY, Salt Lake City UT, and San Diego, CA etc, rotating locations for each run). We saw that the average connect time of the website with simple up/down monitoring was excellent – well below 2 seconds.

[caption id="attachment_22262" align="aligncenter" width="816"]DeathWishCoffee.com typical performance. DeathWishCoffee.com typical performance.[/caption]

Then we looked at behavior at the browser level – here on FireFox.

[caption id="attachment_22255" align="aligncenter" width="1202"]Chart 3 Website performance in FireFox browser.[/caption]

Browser is the place where all dynamic components of your website come together. Simple up/down monitoring only shows you half the picture. Real browser testing showed us that the response time ranged from as low as 1 second to as high as 12 seconds to customers from different locations. We can clearly see the result of increased traffic as the commercial aired during the game.

[caption id="attachment_22256" align="aligncenter" width="1220"]Chart 4 Website performance by location.[/caption]

We also created a real browser monitor emulating sample user transactions – adding a 1 pound/ground to our cart and checking out using PayPal. Here, since the transaction was being tested at the real browser level, we could see the realistic page load time as seen by customers from these major American cities trying to buy this extra strong coffee. For some of these synthetic customers, the performance was on the slower side, at 22 seconds.

[caption id="attachment_22258" align="aligncenter" width="1239"]Chart 5 Website performance by location: Montreal, Quebec.[/caption]

These charts further give a waterfall of all the components and their contribution to the performance. We got bunch of juicy data to understand what was slowing this website down and where they can improve.

There is certainly a room for improvement, and improving performance is a continuous process, however the most important point to note here is that they stayed up and available during this rush hour.

Death Wish Coffee was able to make the most of the opportunity and avoided costly setbacks, like the one experience by the team behind Beyonce’s website — which crashed after announcing her upcoming tour.

Lessons from Death Wish Coffee’s Super Bowl victory

When your online assets not only bring you revenue, but are a direct extension of your organizations core brand persona, you simply cannot ignore importance of everyone on the team being on the same page.

Proactively monitoring your web and applications helps you understand your performance, establish alignment, and collectively set performance improvement goals. You and your team will be able to welcome the traffic surge, without worrying that your site will crash.

We give kudos to Death Wish Coffee for being well prepared and well aligned for this incredible opportunity.

Between the highs and lows of the game, Twitter overreactions to the half time show, and Puppy-Monkey-Babies, we thoroughly enjoyed monitoring this website. We wish them good luck and say congrats on a job well done.

Hopefully organizations will start focusing on this very critical part of web/application performance – alignment.

Are you monitoring your website or application’s performance? AlertSite makes it quick and easy to set up tests to see how different areas of your website are performing so that you can find and fix issues before they impact your users. Try it free today.

Looking for additional performance resources? Check out SmartBear’s Performance Monitoring Resource Center.


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