Retail sites crash under weight of online Black Friday shoppers

Retailers from Walmart to J. Crew experienced website crashes on Black Friday, as unprecedented waves of consumers stayed home to shop holiday sales. 


Retailers like Walmart, J. Crew, Brooks Running and Lululemon soon received messages from frustrated customers on social media. - archiv

Black Friday sales began earlier than ever this year, with several retailers launching their holiday offerings on the Wednesday before or on the morning of Thanksgiving. Many customers experienced technical difficulties as hundreds of their fellow shoppers flooded websites, causing delays and full-on crashes. 

According to tech experts interviewed by Business Insider, site failures were likely due to infrastructure that couldn't support such high online traffic.

"If you have not load tested your site at five times normal traffic volumes, your site will probably fail," Bob Buffone, chief technology officer at web optimization software company Yottaa told the business news website.

This means money lost for unprepared retailers, with retail aggregate LovetheSales.com reporting that J. Crew alone could have lost $775,000 in sales and angered 323,000 shoppers in the single holiday afternoon, all due to Black Friday site setbacks. 

"Depending on how long the site is down, it can cost retailers a lot of money and also result in damage to the brand as shoppers take to social media to express their frustration," Buffone continued. 

Indeed, retailers like Walmart, J. Crew, Brooks Running and Lululemon soon received messages from frustrated customers via social networks. 

"I was just shopping @lululemon‘s Black Friday sale and can’t get to my shopping cart! Ugh!" tweeted one shopper. "I had a few super cute things. Then tried to keep shopping and got an error message “Oops something went wrong”, wondering if site crashed."

"What an epic failure by @Walmart," tweeted another. "System servers can't handle the load. Finally got something added to my cart and now it says unable to retrieve my cart over and over."

Some retailers offered new deals as an apology for the unanticipated online loss, with J. Crew tweeting that they would extend their Black Friday sales through to Sunday. 

According to Adobe Analytics, online sales rose more than 23 percent to over $6 billion on Black Friday, while sales on Thanksgiving grew 28 percent to $3.7 billion.

After spending figures from past years indicated that excitement around the shopping holiday was waning, the rise of online Black Friday sales has created a revival, while pushing brick-and-mortar businesses to create new incentives for shoppers to come out to physical stores. 

Retailers are now closely monitoring their sites for errors as Cyber Monday unfolds. 

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