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The power of MySQL for ecommerce

Importance of the database in ecommerce development

The database is the backbone of any ecommerce business. It must hold up and scale efficiently during spikey periods for online stores like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It has to reliably track which orders shipped, how much inventory is left, and how much revenue is coming in. Without a trustworthy database, this all falls down for online shopping retailers.

MySQL has been backing ecommerce businesses for decades and is proven to hold up under demanding loads. There’s a reason eBay, Etsy, and use MySQL. In this article, we’ll cover why MySQL makes the perfect type of database for ecommerce businesses.

Why MySQL is a good fit for ecommerce

MySQL is a popular choice because of its scalability, ability to handle spikes, and relational structure.


MySQL scales fluidly as needed. For a new shop or one going through their offseason, MySQL can be scaled down to minimize costs. As business picks up, MySQL scales up vertically, or horizontally with database sharding, to accommodate even one million queries per second.

Handling traffic spikes on ecommerce sites

Ecommerce businesses have spikey loads around sales happening in real time. Database failure results in lost business and a damaged reputation. MySQL is chosen by businesses like Square, Uber, and Shopify because it holds up under these spikes.

Attentive’s case study on switching from PostgreSQL on Amazon RDS to MySQL with PlanetScale is worth a read. With this change in providers, they were able to handle a 10× volume increase and spikes of 400,000 QPS. Relational databases for ecommerce

MySQL is a relational database management system (RDBMS). This means its database design structure uses tables with relationships to each other through keys.

For example, a customer might have multiple orders. In a relational database, you associate these two entities by creating a Customers and Orders table to track the customer information. Each customer has a unique ID as a primary key stored in the Customers table. The Orders table has a column called CustomerID that stores the unique ID of the customer. The CustomerID becomes the key to connect these records.

Some other examples of relationships:

  • Product information associated with discount, inventory, and product_category.
  • Inventories associated with Warehouses and Stores.

Managing ecommerce data

Managing ecommerce data reliably with MySQL is straightforward with SQL statements.

For example, if we had a shopping carts table, we could insert a new record with:

INSERT INTO shopping_cart(id, customer_id, product_id, quantity) VALUES (1, 101, 2001, 2);

We then update the Quantity.

UPDATE shopping_cart SET quantity= 3 WHERE ID = 1;

Finally if the cart is abandoned, we delete it.

DELETE FROM shopping_cart WHERE ID = 1;

MySQL uses transactions to maintain data integrity. All SQL commands are treated as a single unit of work. If an operation succeeds, the transaction is committed to the database. However if the operation fails, the entire transaction is rolled back. This prevents cluttering your database with records that may have partially been inserted or updated.

Backing up and restoring databases are crucial for any ecommerce business. There is a lot to track, such as product information and credit card payment methods. MySQL has two primary backup and recovery methods – physical and logical.

  • Physical backs up raw copies of your database’s directories and files. This is preferred for large databases.
  • Logical involves a SQL script that recreates the original database, tables, and records. This is suitable for smaller databases.

Optimizing MySQL for ecommerce performance

There are a couple things worth mentioning on how to optimize performance – connection pooling and replication. Connection pooling

MySQL slows down if too many clients are opening and closing connections. This overhead puts stress on the server that impacts its ability to serve users.

Connection pooling solves this by caching active connections, and handing them out as needed. Connection pooling introduces its own complexity, but PlanetScale with Vitess under the hood simplifies this.


Replication is another optimization option. This involves continuously copying data from the main database, such as product details, to additional database instances. The main database continues handling insertions, updates, and deletions, but offloads all operations reading data to the other database instances. This takes the pressure off the main database handling critical write operations.

This also improves reliability because if the main database fails, one of the other instances is promoted to keep things running smoothly.

Integrating MySQL with ecommerce platforms

MySQL works in a client-server model, making it an ideal database to integrate with ecommerce platforms. MySQL can be integrated with all the major platforms such as WooCommerce, Magento, and BigCommerce.

MySQL also acts as your source of truth if your business uses multiple applications to manage inventory and orders. Instead of syncing data between two data stores, the applications can use the same MySQL backend.

Building rich dashboards for reporting and analytics with MySQL as the data source is ideal because MySQL can house immense amounts of data.

All these integrations are demanding on your MySQL instance, especially during traffic spikes. Managing all this complexity can be a nightmare for an ecommerce business.

PlanetScale is a managed platform that alleviates these concerns. It scales infinitely through sharding and unlimited connections to ensure you never have to worry about dropping orders during the next big sale. This ecommerce database design will improve your customers’ user experience.


If you’d like to learn more about MySQL, check out PlanetScale’s free MySQL for Developers Course.