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How Dunelm became one of the UK’s fastest ecommerce platforms

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Anyone in ecommerce will tell you that speed is everything. And that’s more true today than ever before.

 

Studies show that 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load. And those precious seconds come at a price: in 2019, it was estimated that poor website performance costs retailers a record £10.6bn in lost revenues each year. With consumers expecting fast online shopping experiences, the pressure on IT teams to deliver seamless user experiences is greater than ever. So how can retailers provide the ultimate digital experience?

 

In 2017, Dunelm, the UK’s largest retailer of home furnishings and accessories, faced just this challenge.The company’s team of over 200 engineers, spread across the UK and Portugal, build and manage a portfolio of applications, including a robust customer-facing ecommerce website and a suite of tools for internal use. While the team is highly capable, the legacy systems the engineers relied upon were showing their age and holding the team back. Its platform engineering team, led by Tom Hayman, needed to overhaul their whole setup in order to optimise performance and improve page load times across Dunelm’s website.

 

Tom and his team, therefore, undertook a major re-platforming initiative that would allow Dunelm’s engineers to leverage the many advantages of cloud technologies. They replaced the company’s legacy off-the-shelf, on-premises hardware solution with a modern, cloud-based architecture. This meant Dunelm’s website could better support rapid business growth and provide a faster, smoother experience for customers.

 

In addition to the customer-facing improvements, the ability to make and deploy changes quickly was extremely important to the platform engineering team. This need was hindered by their previous CDN, which was not scalable and limited engineers to deliver just one release per month. So, to align with their new infrastructure-as-code strategy, the platform team partnered with edge cloud provider Fastly to make use of its programmable content delivery network.

 

“Purging our cache used to take 15 minutes to one hour. With Fastly, it now takes less than half a second,” explains Tom. Fastly also offers engineers greater flexibility and deployment speed, meaning they can respond to strategic decisions and market shifts with pace. “Fastly enables us to deliver 200 releases per month instead of only one. It’s a massive step change for our organisation,” says Tom.

With Dunelm’s code-first approach, the Fastly API gives engineers programmatic access to all of Fastly’s services, including its Image Optimizer which allows the retailer to deliver 100,000+ product images, optimised for device and connection speed. Fastly’s edge cloud platform is highly configurable and enables Dunelm teams to harness the power of the edge to deliver innovative and personalised customer experiences.

When it comes to security, Fastly serves as an extension of Dunelm’s network and enables the team to deliver safer customer experiences without compromising performance. As Tom explains, “Fastly makes it easier for us to enable WAF and DDoS protection because it’s built directly into the network.” Again, Dunelm’s code-first approach dovetails with Fastly’s platform services, and Fastly’s solutions team is on hand to offer guidance to developers and security teams within Dunelm.

 

Since implementing Fastly, Dunelm.com has become significantly faster. The retailer has benefited from a 23% increase in basket add and a 200% lift in deployments. Meanwhile, the platform team has seen new traffic surges during the COVID-19 pandemic as more people shop online.

 

Tom concludes, “Fastly helped us improve page load speed by up to 900%, making Dunelm.com now one of the fastest ecommerce platforms in the UK.”

 

Join our upcoming webinar: Out with the old: how Dunelm transformed itself by rethinking its technology
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