As many of the UK’s major retailer’s websites crash on their busiest day of the year, Dan Sutherland of Carrenza talks about why it is completely unacceptable for major websites to crash in this day and age.
by Carrenza's Dan Sutherland
As many of the UK’s major retailer’s websites crash on their busiest day of the year, I talk about why it is completely unacceptable for major websites to crash in this day and age.
For as long as shopping on the internet has been possible retailers have been battling the ‘Big Days’ in their calendars. Tackling the problem of how to handle vast spikes in traffic for short periods of time, especially when those spikes mean revenue, is neither trivial nor cheap. Thus from the early days of Interflora using Intershop to drive online sales for Valentine’s Day in the late nineties, through to the growth of online Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the late noughties, the same problem has reoccurred; the website has been overwhelmed by users.
In 2007 Black Friday was still a US only event. E-commerce was at a pre-crash peak and Americans had full credit cards to use. Amazon was pretty much the only major retailer not to go down that day. Since then (with full credit to Amazon) the Cloud has arrived, bringing with it scalability and flexibility – the very things that were hampering the ability of retailers to respond to rather than engineer for peaks in demand.
At the same time the growth in the market has been staggering, year on year Black Friday online sales growth from 2012 to 2013 was still 34% for mobile and 15% overall. That’s major double digit growth for established retailers like Target or Walmart. Growth they can’t and won’t replicate in any other areas of their business. So there is huge demand, multiplied by the power of the internet to globalise markets. Black Friday is now not just a ‘thing’ in the US, it is a feature of retail calendars from Copenhagen to Nairobi.
But, despite the opportunity and the criticality of events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, numerous websites keep falling over and it’s not just small retailers. In 2013, the Black Friday casualties included the likes of Walmart, Motorola and RBS. To underline that problem the tech press is awash with “thought leadership” and “comment” articles by website monitoring and load testing companies, indirectly plying their wares, albeit perhaps a bit late.
The downside risk of your site falling over is huge, recent research by Akami showed that 64% of online shoppers disappointed by the experience will shop elsewhere next time.