T'was the season to deliver a seamless online user experience, to bring under two second response times to shoppers looking for the best pre and post Christmas sale. Except that it wasn't. At least not for the following five companies.
Every Christmas, e-commerce, ticketing, flash-sale and other online businesses prepare themselves to meet the demands of expected visitor traffic. Most fair exceptionally well because they take the necessary precautions and run realistic load and performance tests well in advance.
Yet, as more and more traditionally offline services move online and consumer demand for faster response times increases, the post-mortem on websites that crash during the holiday rush draw ever more media attention.
The increasing media attention is also due in part to the fact that innovation in performance testing has dramatically reduced the cost of doing so and the proliferation of cloud-based tools make testing services accessible to every website owner within just a few minutes. Basically, there is really no excuse for crashing.
Here's a recap of some of the websites that crashed on our watch this holiday. We definitely didn't catch all of them, so please do share your stories in the comment section below. Moreover, as we are a Swedish based company, many examples are from Sweden. Feel free to share examples from your countries.
1. December 4th, Wal-Mart.com:
Wal-Mart went down for a brief period, about an hour, on December 4th. Admittedly, they did claim to have had over 1 billion views between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday and to have had the best online sales day ever on Cyber Monday.
So, despite the brief downtime, we'll give it to Wal-Mart. They did have a pretty massive load to bare and if anyone can take it and recover that quickly, it's probably them.
2. December 16th, Myer.com.au:
On boxing day, Australia's largest department store group, Myer, suffered technical difficulties that prevented online purchases during the biggest shopping day of the season.
According to the media, Myer has pumped tens of millions of dollars into improving its website over the years. Despite boosting its technology, this isn't their first crash during peak shopping periods. They also crashed in June when heavy customer traffic triggered a website failure half an hour after the start of the annual stocktaking sale.
Although Myer is pushing an omni-channel strategy and hoping to boost its online sales in the long-term, the website is only responsible for about 1% of the company's business today.
Although online sales may not make up a significant part of business today, it would be wise not to deny the impact these constant crashes probably have on the successful implementation of an omni-channel strategy. Yet this is how Myer CEO, Mr. Brookes, seems to be behaving when he made this odd statement about the recent boxing day crash.
"There will be no impact at all on our profitability or our overall sales"
Sure Mr. Brookes, if you say so.
3. December 25th, Siba.se:
The day after Christmas, Siba - one of Sweden's largest electronic's dealers - crashed due to overwhelming visitor traffic. This in turn led to a social media storm of customers complaining that the site was down.
As a curtesy to those who were not able to access the site, Siba directed visitors to its sales catalogue saying: "Oops, at the moment there is a lot of traffic on the site, but you can still read our latest catalogue and stay up to date through our Facebook page".
Thanks Siba, reading about the sales I'm missing out on is totally the same as taking advantage of them.
4. December 29th, SF.se
In the period between Christmas and New Year's, SF - Sweden's largest movie theatre chain - suffered continuous day long crashes and delays. This left many people unable to fill those long cold days, when not much else is going on, with a cozy few hours at the cinema. In fact, these "mellandagarna" (days between Christmas and New Year's) are the busiest movie going days of the entire year.
Needless to say, people were very frustrated. Particularly because SF has a monopoly and if they go down there is pretty much no where else to turn to get your cinema fix.
5. January 1st, Onlinepizza.se:
For the third new year's day in a row, Onlinepizza.se crashed due to heavy user load. This may seem trivial to some, but to Swedes it's devastating. That's because on new year's day, Swedes eat pizza. It's just what they do.
So, despite the nearly 30,000 or so pizzas sold that day through Onlinepizza.se, many hungry swedes were forced to brave the cold and wind and buy their pizza the old fashion way - in a pizzeria.
Some of the holiday website crashes described above are bearable; most of us can go without buying another electronic device or pair shoes for at least a few days. But not being able to cozy up in a warm cinema on days when it's to cold to go outside and nothing else in the city is open is just disappointing. As is not getting a home delivered pizza when you just simply can't stuff another left-over Swedish meatball down your throat.