Black Friday and Cyber Monday represent the biggest sales days of the year – according to Oracle, consumers spent more than $2.9 billion online in the two days alone in 2013. In the UK, consumers are expected to spend a whopping £360,000 per minute for Black Friday this year, and Shop.org predicts an 8-11% increase in holiday spending across November and December.
If your business has been hard at work over the past few weeks promoting Black Friday and Cyber Monday discounts, the last thing you want to encounter is a website outage on the most important weekend of the year. Some of our customers generate nearly 50% of their annual revenue during the holiday period, so every moment lost due to web performance issues can have a major impact on the year’s revenue numbers. Worst of all, your competitors are likely benefiting from customers who were originally planning to purchase from your business.
Unfortunately, website crashes and glitches have been a fixture of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales since the early days of eCommerce. As recently as 2011, multiple global businesses such as PC Mall, Newegg, Toys R’Us, and Avon suffered website outages on Black Friday that lasted for more than 30 minutes, resulting in thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
Perhaps more famously, Walmart’s 2011 Black Friday mass outage left shoppers with broken checkout pages, empty shopping carts, and login errors. As a result, sales that were supposed to begin at midnight on Friday didn’t get started until after 3 AM – and by then, most popular items were already sold out. Shoppers took to forums and social media to vent their frustration, leaving Walmart with a major PR problem and countless disappointed consumers.
Similarly, Kohl’s suffered widespread web outages during the Thanksgiving weekend in 2012, after heavily promoting an early start to the weekend sales by starting the day before Thanksgiving. As a result, the company faced a particularly difficult public relations challenge, since it promised many time-sensitive discounts, such as more than 500 early bird specials and 20% off all orders on Thanksgiving night.
With many lessons learned in the previous few Thanksgiving experiences, most retailers have dramatically improved their website performance for Black Friday and Cyber Monday in recent years. Nonetheless, Urban Outfitters and Motorola’s websites crashed for most of Cyber Monday last year. Both companies were forced to run a Cyber Tuesday to clear product inventory and make up their discounts to consumers. To their credit, Urban Outfitters made light of its Cyber Monday glitches on social media, apologizing for “breaking the internet” and owning up to its mistakes.
Preparing your Website
If you’re a small or medium-sized business, online services such as Load Impact allow you to stress test your website for scaling and performance issues, so your team can identify weaknesses and address them before the busy Thanksgiving weekend. However, don’t forget – it’s important to not just have a functioning website, but one that is optimized for speed and an enjoyable customer experience. After all, every added second of delay in website load time results in a 7% decrease in purchase conversions.
Is your eCommerce business ready for the Thanksgiving weekend? Read our Black Friday and Cyber Monday Checklist to find out.