Why Reaction is Real-Time

Every now and then, a question pops up in one of our social channels.

“Why is Reaction real-time?”

Occasionally, that question is followed up by another one: is it even necessary for an ecommerce platform to be real-time?

We wanted to take a minute to explain why real-time not only matters, but is actually 100% vital to the well-being of an online business.

In Commerce, Conversion Matters

There are many reasons why a real-time commerce solution is necessary, but the main reason is this: we’re building Reaction to be a conversion-first platform.

We plan on offering analytics, merchandising, and promotional applications, all designed to help retailers and brands convert visitors into shoppers, and all in real time. These apps will help retailers and brands engage more shoppers, which, we believe, is the most important aspect of commerce. Since every millisecond wasted in commerce hurts conversion, being able to load products quickly and offer dynamic promotions, pricing, and personalized merchandising, all without page reloads or app updates, will serve as a huge advantage.

Consider, for instance, Google Docs as an example of a successful real-time solution. The world was dominated by Microsoft Word when Google Docs arrived. I actually remember thinking, “Why would I need this?” Then, once I experienced the magic of real-time collaboration and how much that simplified my workflow, I was sold. We believe the same can be said for commerce. Right now, for most businesses, the workflow for administering a shop is outdated. It often involves spreadsheets, multiple offline steps for approvals—it’s generally just a mess. We plan on simplifying the headaches associated with managing a retail storefront through a real-time publishing workflow with detailed roles and permissions.

Everyone is fighting for attention, often doing so after the fact, via aggressive email marketing tactics, to try to get shoppers to come back to the site. If Reaction can convert shoppers at a higher rate before they leave the site through relevant and personal real-time merchandising, that's a win-win.

Speed Can Make or Break You

Reaction is challenging legacy commerce models and experiences.

First, we’re a single-page app. This means that when you initially visit a Reaction shop, we load the entire shop behind the scenes. Then, every “page” that’s visited during that first visit loads lightning-fast, because all the data is already available locally. We’ll share details in a subsequent post, but we’re optimizing Reaction to perform and load quickly from the start.

According to Google Think, “The average time it takes to fully load a mobile landing page is 22 seconds, according to a new analysis. Yet 53% of mobile site visitors leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load. That’s a big problem.” And that’s just mobile! For every increase by the second in page load times, there’s significant increase in bounce rates.

Second, we use webhooks and modern protocols to synchronize data. Without getting into the complexities of it, even something like an API works differently in Reaction. Think about it. Since an API is request and response, the need to wait for something you’ve requested to come back is inherent in its design. Now, that wait may be milliseconds, but in commerce, every fraction of a second wasted hurts conversion.

With Reaction, we are built on top of Meteor and their Distributed Data Protocol (DDP), which uses a simple publish-subscribe (“pub-sub”) messaging pattern. This protocol is used for streaming and synchronizing data between the database and the front-end experience.

We regularly get asked if we have an API, and our answer is usually, “Well, yes. But…” Yes, you can create a REST API from DDP methods, and it’s on our roadmap to create a Reaction API, even though there are already many solutions out there. Sometimes, we might also reply, “Why would you do that?” Ultimately, shoppers are demanding fast experiences, and with Reaction and DDP (and eventually GraphQL, along with other services), speed is architected into the core.

A Series of Events that Lead to a Sale

Finally, the last reason why real time matters is this: ecommerce is, by its very nature, event-driven. Newton’s Third Law states: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite Reaction.” Think about what happens when a customer adds something to their shopping cart: A product is viewed. A product image is clicked on. A variant is selected. A product is added to the cart. All of these actions are events. And because JavaScript, our core technology, is also event-driven, it’s a match made in heaven.

With Reaction (and JavaScript), we can track every single one of these events and provide a real-time update, without a page reload or app refresh, to better respond to customer behavior, increasing conversion. Here’s a simple example: let’s say a shopper has viewed a product for the 10th time over the last three days. Our platform will then know to send a promotion to that shopper in real time, with no page reload, on that 10th visit to entice him or her to make a purchase at that very moment. Cool stuff, right?

Conclusion

When you’re optimizing for a real-time experience, there are always potential tradeoffs and challenges. We believe we’re solving and optimizing for those tradeoffs. We also believe we’re constantly reiterating, improving, and reinventing. It's an ongoing learning process.

We're excited to get to the fun stuff, the stuff that truly illustrates the power of real-time reactivity. Helping retailers become more successful through intelligent merchandising, pricing, and promotions—that’s the holy grail of commerce. Once you see these actionable, integrated analytics and apps in Reaction, we think you’ll truly understand why real time matters. We promise.

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