Black Friday and Cyber Monday Challenge Online Retailers
Every now and then, a controversial issue triggers a flood of online discourse. For our Noise Filter feature, the WHIR pans the raging rivers of opinion for shining nuggets of useful commentary.
Friday, the day when brick and mortar retailers are flooded with shoppers (supposedly turning their balance sheet ink from red to black), has also been a mixed blessing for online retailers, who have to deal with a massive increase in web traffic.
With Black Friday typically the second busiest online shopping day, Monday, the Monday following Black Friday, is usually the first. To say nothing of the problem of shopping online at work, the massive number of online shoppers leads many websites to suffer outages.
And history seemed destined to repeat itself this year.
Last year, downtime on Sears online shopping site on Black Friday morning made it one of the first online retailers to fall prey to the holiday shopping rush.
Subscribe to WHIR Newsletters Get Our Exclusive Report on "The Hosting Infrastructure Ecosystem".
Also, Keynote Competitive Research, the industry analysis group of on demand mobile and Internet test measurement solutions provider Keynote Systems observed that leading holiday shopping websites last year experienced slowdowns in its holiday shopping index, which tracks top retailers including Abercrombie Fitch, Banana Republic and Eddie Bauer. Across the index, sites slowed down to 70 percent of their normal download speeds on average.
This year, Keynote found that nearly all of the online retail sites on its online retail shopping index showed slowdowns on Black Friday, but, most of them weathered the storm very well. Others, however, crumbled under the pressure. Keynote competitive research director Ben Rushlo notes:
Overall the quality of the sites tracked on Black Friday improved this year over last, with fewer showing major outages and issues impacting a large number of users. The best performing sites overall were Wal Mart, Sears and Barnes Noble. EST). Overall, Wal Mart was the most stable site, showing not a single error (100% availability for the day) and very little slowdown. Wal Mart has struggled in the past with Black Friday traffic, but this year they got it right, offering their customers a consistently fast and reliable experience. Wal Mart and the other good quality sites prove that with proper planning, load testing and focus it is possible to offer customers a pleasant online experience even when customer volume is the highest. The websites display a message on the home pages explaining that they are experiencing high traffic volume The problems started around 9:40am EST and continue as we post this announcement. 7 hours and 30 minutes in 2007. Black Friday itself drew $595 million in online sales, making it the second heaviest online spending day to date in 2009 and representing an 11 percent increase compared to last year Black Friday. comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni said:
The $595 million in online spending this Black Friday represents the second heaviest online spending day of the season to date and a double digit increase from last year. While this acceleration in spending suggests the online holiday season may be shaping up slightly more optimistically than anticipated, it may also reflect the heavy discounting and creative promotions being put forth by retailers that now encompass the use of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Cyber Monday the traditional kick off to the online holiday shopping season and the subsequent weeks will be the real test for how online retailers fare this season. That said, this is a very encouraging start.