News

Black Friday: Online Sales vs Website Fails

24th November 2017

For every second a website has delayed responsiveness or downtime, customers move to an alternative competitor site to fulfil purchases.

Black Friday is the perfect opportunity for organisations to profit from their competitors’ failure by effectively controlling the flow of visitor traffic to their website and maximising customer transactions.

How Much Web Traffic is There on Black Friday?

On Black Friday 2016, there was a 220% increase in web traffic compared to a normal Friday. The traffic increased 155% on Cyber Monday in comparison to a normal Monday.

Third party payment agencies also have significant traffic spikes on Black Friday with PayPal alone handling £16,000 in payments per second – a third of which are on mobile.

Online Black Friday Sales Are Growing

A report from IBM, an Intechnica partner, states over the four day period between Black Friday and Cyber Monday global sales had a 20% increase from the previous year, with US sales increasing by 9%.

Black Friday never comes as a surprise – retailers know they will experience heightened traffic on this day. However, websites still slow down and crash on Black Friday despite it being easily preventable.

When Customer Traffic Outweighs Website Capacity

Web applications that cannot cope with large traffic spikes suffer increased load time or downtime – neither of which is ideal on a day like Black Friday. A two second delay during a transaction results in shopping cart abandonment rates of up to 87% as shoppers fear slow checkout pages mean something went wrong in their transaction, and 79% of shoppers who are unhappy with a website’s performance are unlikely to purchase from the site again.

Intechnica CTO, Andy Still, spoke about Black Friday and preparing for high levels of web traffic in this recent interview on the American Radio Station: Market Place.

What Are Companies Doing to Prepare For Peak and Why Are Crashes Still Happening?

The challenge is whether it is possible to deal with enhanced levels of traffic. In an ideal world, preparing for peak would just mean scaling systems to meet any level of demand.

Simply throwing money into scaling a website up to ensure it doesn’t crash on Black Friday is rarely the best option for online retailers for many reasons including:

  1. It is impossible due to system limitations or other factors, like licensing limits.
  2. Companies are limited by third party dependencies.
  3. It is uneconomic to scale a website up to cope with Black Friday levels of traffic because it is effectively scaling your system to be able to serve traffic for just one day of the year.

Pureplay online companies can typically handle scaling better as they have systems built from the ground up for scale. Whereas traditional bricks and mortar retailers are often dependant on older systems that cannot scale in the same way.

Ultimately, the big players will be looking to scale to the same levels as Amazon but that will only be done when it is economic to do so.

Is Affordable Scalable Technology Available?

The growth in cloud systems has made scaling for Black Friday more practical. Providers no longer need to make long term investments in technology with affordable traffic management systems such as TrafficDefender available on the market.

The majority of companies are looking to take much more control over the level of traffic hitting their site. This involves much closer communication between business and IT. Working together to control the flow of marketing activities in response to usage on the website, keeping systems as close to capacity as possible and maximising the value of investment in infrastructure.

Web applications should also have a safety net in place to ensure if there are any misjudgements, the site does not completely fail. Without this backup, businesses can end up with dissatisfied customers.

Do eCommerce Companies Profit When Competitor Websites Fail?

Absolutely. We do see that happening. Companies even adjust their AdWords campaigns to target other companies they know are struggling. Some companies have even utilised social media to interact with their competitors’ frustrated customers.

You can use our eCommerce Black Friday Checklist to prepare your website for peak sales events and sign up for Intechnica’s free webinar on Monitoring Black Friday 2017 to learn more about preparing for peak and how the retail industry has performed this year over Black Friday Week.

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