At least four retailers — Macy's, Lowe's, and U.K.-based retailers the Perfume Shop and Game — were affected by technical glitches on Black Friday that slowed purchasing activity and transaction processing on the busiest shopping day of the year. In each case, the problems were reportedly resolved within hours.
Macy's confirmed by Friday evening that earlier in the day credit card processing was slowed due to system "over-capacity" problems, an issue that affected stores in Chicago, Washington, D.C., San Diego and other markets, as well as the retailer's website, according to ABC News and other media reports.
Lowe's website crashed on Black Friday for about 20 minutes, while U.K. gaming retailer Game also reported a website outage, according to Business Insider. Another U.K. operator, the Perfume Shop, experienced a website crash as well, The Sun reports.
Not all the numbers from Black Friday have been tallied yet, although the day did get off to a strong start according to some reports, even amid expectations that much of the action has moved online and to mobile. Thanks to technical glitches, we also know which retailers' holiday hopes may have been dashed, at least temporarily, by problems.
Black Friday technical glitches have unfortunately become a common occurrence. This is the second straight year that Macy's experienced a website crash, while Target suffered one in 2015 and numerous other retailers have had slower-than-usual processing times for online and mobile purchasing between Black Friday and Cyber Monday in recent years.
This year's Macy's crash, however, is particularly troubling for a retailer fallen on hard times that has lately been trying to convince us it won't go under, as other big-name retailers have in the last couple of years. Macy's is now at risk of developing a reputation as the retailer that isn't ready for Black Friday, a cardinal sin in the sector, and a mistake it can't afford to make if the department store is looking to gain a larger following than the 10% of customers that make up half of the retailer's sales.
In addition to all the problems this could cause for Macy's going forward, the department store described the incident as a capacity-related issue, which makes it sound like something that could have been avoided with better planning — after all, what store chain isn't expecting its system or network capacity to be pushed beyond usual limits this particular weekend of the year? The retailer needs to work with its partners — either payment system and processing partners or network capacity partners — to make sure this doesn't happen again. Customers do not easily forgive retailers with lackluster e-commerce sites: 68% of shoppers will leave the site and look elsewhere if they encounter basic functionality issues.
Lowe's, as well as others affected by similar problems, needs to learn from these moments as well. While the good news for Lowe's is that the website was only down for about 20 minutes, the bad news is that that's still plenty of time for shoppers to head to another store's website or perhaps reconsider a purchase altogether. There are not many worse things that can happen to retailers on Black Friday — and with Cyber Monday in full force, those retailers might have more trouble on the way.