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Virtual Waiting Rooms: Improve User Experience & Reliability

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Whether you are an eCommerce company planning for Black Friday or a ticket hub selling for a top artist, periods of traffic spikes can be a “happy problem” or a way to lose business. It can be challenging to prepare your infrastructure to handle 10x the traffic, despite the best “planned” chaos engineering and stress testing.

IT teams may have difficulty justifying ramping up back-end resources and reworking special features and functions for a short period of time when budgets could be applied to year round gains. On the other hand, online businesses cannot afford slow performing sites since customers will drop off and may not come back at all if the website crashes. On average, the top ten US eCommerce sites (outside of Amazon) can lose about $650K an hour and this number could rise exponentially during a key event.


Many companies have relied on virtual waiting rooms, only to be faced with crashes, endless looping queues, and failures at scale while using significant and costly infrastructure resources. In this blog, we will talk about a new approach to virtual waiting rooms that keep customers engaged and websites up and running even during high traffic events.

Intelligent virtual waiting rooms manage traffic and drive demand

Virtual waiting rooms act like "digital bouncers" carefully controlling entry when traffic surges to ensure excellent performance and reliability. When demand exceeds capacity, an intelligent virtual waiting room acts as a buffer between users and origin services and holds users in a queued "lobby" and then grants access at a measured pace to avoid overloading. This prevents crashes, maintains uptime, and improves the user experience. Key features include organized queue management, access metering, and custom branding during waits, providing a controlled entry point that manages traffic inflow.

By strategically deploying an intelligent virtual waiting room, businesses can smoothly absorb traffic variability without expensive over-provisioning. The welcome lobby could be personalized with interesting videos or other content, while letting the customer know their place in the queue and the time they have left before entry. Surveys show in traditional store settings, customers are 20% more likely to buy if they are greeted within minutes of their arrival. The personalized virtual waiting room is akin to an in-person champagne welcome that can make the wait time pleasurable and set the stage for the service or buying process. The key is customers need assurance on their place in line and visibility into their progress as they invest their time.

The positive side effect on sales conversions

One great benefit of intelligent virtual waiting rooms is that you are actually pre-qualifying your shoppers by placing them in a queue. Those who stay are more likely to purchase, providing a higher conversion rate. There are some interesting psychological and economical principles that a waiting room can leverage.

People assign more value to things that are rare or dwindling in availability, as the harder something is to acquire, the more people want it. The fear of missing out on a scarce chance makes us not want to pass it up, as the potential regret drives action. American psychologist and author, Robert Cialdini, lists scarcity as one of six key influencers of human behavior due to our instinct to value rare opportunities. Let’s not forget that 90% of our financial decisions are based on how we feel, so the psychology of human behavior plays a huge role.

Insights for service optimization and better personalization

Photo by Ashkan Forouzani on Unsplash

Intelligent virtual waiting rooms offer a wealth of insights into customer behavior. By tracking key metrics in real time and analyzing trends over time, companies gain invaluable data to optimize the customer experience. These services can shed light on metrics including:

  • Number of users in queue - Understand traffic volumes and plan staffing for spikes.
  • Average wait times - Monitor if delays remain reasonable or risk abandonment.
  • Abandonment rate - Identify pain points causing drop-offs.
  • Content views - See which content and offers resonate by view frequency and duration.
  • Survey results - Gauge engagement and preferences through response rates and feedback.

Look at the intelligent virtual waiting room as an extension of the customer experience, the company brand and the promotion or event marketing. The virtual lobby becomes a feedback loop for continual optimizations driven by real user signals.

Providing a seamless user journey

Photo by Clemens van Lay on Unsplash

Intelligent virtual waiting rooms enable a streamlined experience as users move through the queue. When a user first arrives at the waiting room page, they receive real-time updates showing estimated wait times and the number of users ahead of them in line. Progress bars and countdown timers keep them engaged as they move up in the queue. Right before reaching the front, users may see a quick “Get ready!” or whatever tailored message suits your brand or purpose, allowing time to refresh the page. Then, they are automatically granted access through a redirect to the origin website. Companies and agencies can really tailor the experience to their audience, or specific customers based on past data.

For example, a motor vehicle queue on the last day of the month (when service requests are high) could promote safety events, make citizens aware of new laws, or even provide low-cost insurance options. Based on the IP address, they could also share nearby construction plans for roads and have them sign up for updates. The idea is to find useful and interesting information while they are waiting and have the waiting room an extension of the company’s or agency’s site and customer/citizen experience.

To prevent overloading the target servers, duplicate requests are detected and handled by holding those users at their current spot instead of letting them jump the line with a fresh request. Behind the scenes traffic is metered to maximize fulfillment rates. This seamless workflow allows the service to manage demand and maintain optimal performance in the background, creating a smooth journey for customers or citizens.

Upholding fairness with the FIFO method and more

Maintaining an equitable and consistent experience is crucial for customer satisfaction. Intelligent virtual waiting rooms optimize access through advanced algorithms that queue users fairly based on configurable policies like First-In-First-Out (FIFO) or a random option. This prevents users from unfairly jumping the line while still allowing businesses to tailor the workflow to their needs.

For example, eCommerce and retailers could prioritize users who have already invested time filling a shopping cart, so they don't lose their effort by dropping out of the queue. Or concert venues could randomly assign placement to give everyone an equal shot at the best seats.

For gaming, players can be placed in different segments of the queue based on the assessed skill levels. The queue could be dynamically adjusted based on the number of players online or the demand for matches.

The customizable queue placement models ensure resources are distributed fairly using access rules tailored to the specific business use case. Intelligent virtual waiting rooms deliver optimization through flexible, user-centric service policies that maintain fairness.

Effective DDoS attack defense and thwarting ticket bots

Photo by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash

Intelligent virtual waiting rooms also contribute to thwarting DDoS attacks and related malicious activity. During large events, bad actors will try to slip through the chaos and send thousands to millions of requests, perhaps as a distraction while they try other criminal activity like fraud. Here are some possible examples to watch out for:

  • eCommerce/Retail: In certain parts of the world, these attacks tend to intensify from October to December, leveraging legitimate holiday traffic as camouflage for malicious activities like purchasing highly sought items and reselling for profit on another site.
  • Ticketing/Events: For high-demand concerts, attackers may attempt to overwhelm the website right as tickets go on sale, allowing them to scalp those tickets at inflated prices.
  • Travel/Hospitality: During peak travel booking periods, DDoS attacks could be used to overwhelm sites to scoop up limited inventory for resale at higher prices. Major holidays and popular destinations would be potential targets.
  • Public Sector: DDoS attacks may be launched to disguise fraudulent electronic tax filings or identity theft attempts. The distraction provides cover for their crimes.

By controlling incoming traffic and filtering out suspicious requests, intelligent virtual waiting rooms act as a formidable defense against DDoS attacks, safeguarding the integrity and availability of online platforms. They also let SREs, DevSecOps, and Security teams focus on fraud prevention activities vs. traffic control.

PhotonIQ Virtual Waiting Rooms

PhotonIQ’s Virtual Waiting Rooms (VWRs) deliver lightning-fast response times and low latency surge protection for eCommerce, event, travel, gaming, SaaS websites, and public sector. Powered by AI, VWRs act as an intelligent gatekeeper, carefully controlling the flow of visitors entering a website. The queuing and access rules of the VWRs are fully programmable, and can be configured based on a variety of criteria like backend server loads, suspicious visitor patterns, visitor thresholds, geographic regions, traffic spike alerts, or other defined conditions.

Advanced routing can recognize previous customers, send suspected bad bots to looping queues, or deliver cached versions of a site to SEO crawlers without hitting the origin. Create fast seamless access anywhere in the world, and sort through criteria at edge speed with intelligent, AI-driven mechanisms. Use key metrics like request success rate, origin service utilization, duplicate request rate, and peak queue length to optimize settings and customer experiences.

Leverage fully programmable visitor prioritization

Organizations can create custom queues based on fair access, region, geolocation-based queuing, requests per second and more.

Make fair access simple with multiple options

Photo by Aksh yadav on Unsplash

There are multiple queue options for traffic control; FIFO, random, or lottery. While FIFO is popular, random or lottery may be a good choice for major events like Super Bowl or cricket World Cup tickets, considering people may not have the exact same connection speed. Let’s talk about how all three options work.

FIFO

FIFO (First In First Out) queues order users based on their arrival time. The first users into the queue will be the first ones granted access to the site when capacity opens up. This is a fair and intuitive approach - users can trust their initial queue position based on when they showed up. No one can jump the line.

Random

In random mode, users are assigned a random position in the queue when they arrive, rather than being sequenced strictly first-come, first-served. Random mode can help reduce the "early bird advantage" where the fastest clickers always get first access. It gives everyone an equal random chance regardless of arrival time.

Lottery

Lottery mode assigns users random positions, but only allows a subset to enter, similar to a lottery drawing. This creates artificial scarcity and inserts an element of probability into the queue experience to drive demand, like limited-entry raffles. While limiting entry, lottery mode gives all users an equal randomly-determined chance rather than rewarding those with the fastest internet connection or closest geographic proximity.

Strategic queue segmentation by region, domain, and requests per second

For global or multi-regional organizations, the ability to customize queues by geography or domain is critical. Rather than a one-size-fits-all queue, smart queue configuration allows tailored experiences.

For example, during a major SaaS product launch, companies may want to group users into queues by region to receive localized messaging. Setting up queues by domain could also ensure customers from high-priority markets get early access. For events like Black Friday with localized demand spikes, selective regional queuing reduces disruption. Traffic from North America could be queued, while other continents proceed normally.

PhotonIQ enables this flexible queue segmentation with multi-domain support and multi-origin capabilities. Separate queues can be created for different domains per origin backend. Having multiple origins allows virtual waiting rooms to route and queue traffic across different backend infrastructure to ensure scale, performance, and resiliency. With support for diverse origin types like web servers, databases, CDNs etc, multi-origin capabilities provide advanced traffic shaping and delivery optimization. These intelligent capabilities provide “extra insurance” to maintain uptime - even during periods of extreme scale.

Some organizations may choose "requests per second rate" as criteria to identify their most engaged users. This parameter empowers the system to distribute resources and prioritize individuals according to their interaction frequency, thereby enabling personalized resource distribution and the enhancement of user experiences. This is a way to make sure organizations get the most ROI out of their resources, while rewarding the most loyal and engaged customers.

Deliver optimal performance with AI-powered Intelligent Flow Control

Within VWRs, an Intelligent Flow Control mechanism ensures the smooth operation of origin services. This mechanism continuously adjusts the rate of dequeuing requests based on the desired traffic pattern. It consists of these parts: proportional, integral, and derivative control to manage the difference between configured limits and actual user counts, adapting the dequeue rate to maintain server stability.

The proportional dequeue rate dynamically adjusts based on the difference between the configured limit and actual user/request numbers, slowing the entry rate if the actual is too high. The Integral calculates the accumulated difference between the configured limit and actual user/request numbers over time, adjusting the entry rate to compensate if the origin was consistently overloaded. The derivative adjusts the dequeue rate based on the rate of change in the difference between the configured limit and actual user numbers, preemptively slowing entry if user counts are rapidly increasing.

Thwart bad bots and give good SEO bots cached content

WIth VWRs, you can prevent DDoS and the bad bot chaos they ensue by filtering suspicious traffic and limiting the number of users that can access a website at any given time. Stop bad bots in their tracks by identifying them vs real people with PhotonIQ Digital Fingerprinting that is integrated with VWRs. Create different types of APIs for different kinds of traffic; cached sites for SEO crawlers, and a honeypot for bad bots where they can’t take resources away from the origin. Even previously unknown bad bots can be identified by their activity and characteristics with PhotonIQ Digital Fingerprinting, so they can’t waste resources.

Take a privacy-first “cookieless” approach

VWRs also leverages PhotonIQ Fingerprint to improve customer experiences. Track users across sessions, browsers, and devices - without cookies or logins. This ensures that organizations can understand their waiting room visitors, all while respecting their privacy and adhering to local and regional laws.

What are you waiting for - optimize website experiences today!

The PhotonIQ Virtual Waiting Rooms emerges as a powerful tool to enhance user experiences and ensure the reliability of online services. By proactively managing traffic, preventing overloads, and offering insights into user behavior, these intelligent services enable businesses to navigate high-demand periods seamlessly. Moreover, their role in countering DDoS attacks and maintaining optimal server performance showcases their indispensable role in today's digital landscape. With their ability to balance user access, fairness, and metrics-driven optimization, VWRs are an essential asset for businesses striving to deliver exceptional online experiences.

Easily get up and running in 60 days or less!

Learn how PhotonIQ Virtual Waiting Rooms offers AI intelligence to ensure a fast and seamless customer experience with careful management of resources to prevent overloading. Digital fingerprinting lets you identify repeat or new customers to personalize experiences and place bots in a separate queue. Contact an Enterprise Solutions Architect to learn more today or view it in action in an on-demand virtual workshop!

First photo by Ma Joseph on Unsplash

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