After the Goldrush

How can online retailers keep the tills keep ringing now Thanksgiving is over? Chris Livesey talks about easy ways to prevent website wobbles.

As my colleague Derek Britton recently noted in his blog, Cyber Sunday is the latest extension of the traditional – at least in contemporary terms – Thanksgiving retail feeding frenzy. Wal-Mart has decided to further test their website’s resilience to heavy digital footfall by a further 24 hours.

Similarly, the UK-based technology store Carphone Warehouse brought forward their Black Friday event by 24 hours and joined Amazon and Argos in offering deals that run from November 23 until December 2 inclusive.

Whether it is out of consideration for the consumer or just another dead-eyed strategy to squeeze more pre-Christmas cash out of consumers, the line between the end of one sales event and the commencement of another is increasingly blurred. And it is less of a trend and more of a way of life. UK shoppers spent more than £718.7m online every week throughout 2014, an 11.8% increase on the previous year.

The Reiss Effect

So what happens after the seasonal rush? Everything goes back to normal, right? Well, maybe not. Online retailers are still vulnerable to The Reiss Effect. This happens when a company isn’t prepared for, well, the unexpected and loses out as a result.

In this case, Kate Middleton being pictured wearing a Reiss dress had unforeseen – and unfortunate – consequences for the manufacturer. The website crashed. Reiss were unable to take advantage of their good fortune. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity passed them by. Unable to process orders from new or established customers, they lost revenue and became a ‘thing’.

Websites are the virtual shopfronts for retailers and manufacturers and, just like shops, can quickly become overwhelmed if not battle-ready. Unexpected opportunities can quickly become unwanted headaches. The same Social Media platforms that plug your product can quickly damage your brand.

We are not bemused

Underestimating the potential popularity of your offering can be just as damaging is just another form of unpreparedness. The website for Dismaland, the pop-up art project set up by British graffiti artist Banksyrecently crashed, leaving thousands of would-be visitors unable to purchase tickets. But as the creative theme of this ‘bemusement park’ attraction was disappointment, this may well have been the intention.

So the key to online retail success for Black Friday, Cyber Sunday, ‘Gratuitous Spending Wednesday’ and beyond is to road-test your website for any eventuality. It’s easier than you think. As the CMO for Micro Focus Borland I am proud that we help prevent our customers – who include some of the biggest names in online retailing – becoming another ‘thing’.

It’s easy with Silk Performer and Cloudburst. This is stress-free, stress testing for websites and applications. With it, users have Cloud-based scalability and access to unlimited virtual users as they like. Without it, they may not detect the errors that can turn go-live into dead-in-the-water day. Try it here.

But even the best tool can’t prepare an organization for everything. Sorry, US Airlines, but if a opossum is going to chew through the power cable, you’re on your own.

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