Behind the Scenes on Black Friday: How Criteo’s Technology Helps Our Advertisers Drive More Sales

Learn how Criteo's advertising technology helps businesses of all sizes engage shoppers and win sales on Black Friday.
Updated on April 3, 2024

Businesses plan for Black Friday months in advance. Well before consumers start looking for deals, retailers and brands are crafting their sales strategies, setting their budgets, and getting started on their marketing campaigns.

At Criteo, we know Black Friday is crucial for our advertising partners; for many of them, it’s the most profitable day of the year. To help our partners drive the most sales possible, we start planning for Black Friday even earlier than they do—nearly one year in advance!

Criteo’s Black Friday preparation is an institution. Every single employee plays a role, from our sales and account strategy teams to our technology development teams within our R&D organization. Our goal is to help businesses of all sizes engage shoppers and win sales on this uber-competitive day of deals, and our technology helps us do this.

Here, we’re giving a behind-the-scenes look at how Criteo’s technology and the teams that support it get ready for the biggest shopping day in the world.

A Look Back to 2019

Criteo’s R&D department is responsible for scaling our technology to handle the massive increase in online traffic on Black Friday.

Every year we assemble a Black Friday task force made up of talented engineers from our Product Reliability, Site Reliability Engineering, and Product Engineering teams, as well as members of our S&O, Technical Support, and Business Escalation teams. Each member of the task force is responsible for performing detailed reviews within their area of focus, identifying all potential risks to ad campaigns, and solving these issues ahead of Black Friday.

Last year, we dealt with a spike of 7.2 million bid requests per second without any problems! We ran over 64 million campaigns, and each of these campaigns was evaluated by our machine learning every second to make sure they were performing at their best. Criteo is running 45,000 servers worldwide to scale with this amount of data.

This achievement came after months of preparation and teamwork. This year, we’re well on our way to another successful Black Friday.

Ready for Anything in 2020

Based on the surge in online shopping we’ve already seen this year, we are expecting online traffic and sales to be higher than ever during the holidays—especially on Black Friday. The R&D team has been working all year to ensure that even with the highest amount of online traffic predicted, all campaigns will run consistently and at their best performance.

We do this by forecasting traffic volume and checking that we have the correct number of servers to handle this capacity. Our forecasts are powered by machine learning and are based on history, current trends, and market performance.

Because this year has been so unpredictable, we are recomputing our forecasts daily to make sure our servers can handle the maximum amount of traffic.

Today, we have more than 500 R&D engineers working around the clock to prepare for Black Friday and make sure every campaign is a success. In addition, our 24/7 Operation OnCall teams include members of R&D and operations and are available at any hour of the day to solve issues and make sure our advertisers don’t miss a single sales opportunity.

Meanwhile, our machine learning is continuously improving its models using the Criteo Shopper Graph, our identity graph that includes data from 2.5 billion active online shoppers, 35 billion shopping events captured across the web and in-app, and $900 billion in annual ecommerce transactions (that’s three times more than Amazon). With this historical and real-time data, our technology is optimizing every campaign at every moment to drive its desired objective.

All of this enables our advertising partners to deliver the most impactful ad campaigns on Black Friday and maximize sales.

What Happens Next

Black Friday will be here before we know it, and the members of Criteo’s Black Friday task force continue to perform risk analysis and daily forecasts.

In October, we continuously update our documentation. All our applications must be adequately sized, and all the ramp-ups in our data centers must be finalized. We also run capacity tests to measure their behavior and adjust the required capacity.

November is when we make the last adjustments and optimizations and confirm our forecasts with our analysts and commercial teams. We start a freeze period when nothing can be pushed in production, which guarantees that our systems are stable for Black Friday.

Finally, on top of our daily vulnerability scans and bug bounty program, we also perform a manual security audit done by a third-party company to ensure everything is correctly secured.

Then, it’s Black Friday! This is actually a calm day at Criteo across the globe. We’ve finished our preparation and our commercial teams are ready to go. In R&D, we spend Black Friday reviewing metrics.

We usually have a specific war room scheduled to gather people in case of an incident, but this year will be different due to the pandemic. To keep our employees safe, we will have a virtual war room where everyone is in communication. We think about all possible scenarios: “What if our videoconference system is down that day?” We’re already planning other ways to communicate that will not impede productivity.

Get in touch with us!

Have questions about your Black Friday campaigns? Reach out to your Criteo contact for tailored campaign recommendations.

Now, Criteo clients have access to our new Audience Module, where advertisers can connect all their existing data, enhance it with insights and Criteo’s intent data, and build enriched audiences that can be activated across the entire customer journey.

Already a Criteo client? Log into your account to see the new audience options available in your region. If you’re looking to get started on targeting your ideal audience, sign up to join the Criteo platform today.

Ruben Alves

Ruben is an R&D Engineering Program Manager at Criteo. He has a post-graduate degree in computer networks and systems security and a master's in networks in communications from FEUP (Porto, Portugal) He joined Criteo in 2016 and has worked on security, operations, and reliability within ...

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