On Cyber Monday, Target's website was slow or not working at all for many shoppers, a situation the retailer insists was not a “crash” but rather a tactical “metering” of traffic that kept people in line as they waited to shop or check out.
The retailer had offered a 15% site wide discount as well as other promotions in limited quantities. A Target spokesperson told Retail Dive that the site set a traffic record on Black Friday that was then doubled on Cyber Monday.
PayPal also went dark at times on Cyber Monday. “Earlier today, PayPal experienced a brief, intermittent interruption in our service,” the payments company said Monday in a statement. “We have resolved the issue and customers can pay with PayPal on Cyber Monday.”
The Black Friday and Cyber Monday retail brownouts on the web point to the importance — and the difficulty — of ensuring that a retailer has enough capacity to handle peak traffic loads.
Target was insistent Monday that its site hadn’t crashed, but rather that the retailer had resorted to a tactical metering of traffic that allowed customers to “stay in line” to complete their shopping expedition.
“As we experience spikes in traffic, our systems place guests in a queue and prompt them to access the site later,” a Target spokesperson said in a statement. “We apologize to guests who experience any delays, we appreciate their patience, and encourage them to try again in a few minutes by refreshing their browser.”
The distinction wasn’t much appreciated by many customers, who took to social media to vent with a #targetfail hashtag about the difficulties of shopping there. At least a few on Twitter made a point of saying they would look for the items they were attempting to buy on Amazon, which notably had no metering or crashing (or whatever you want to call it) despite heavy promotions.
Target seemed to have taken a lesson from its own website crashes earlier this year, when its limited Lilly Pulitzer line went on sale. At the time, that retailer said it would extend its capacity to prevent that from happening again, and had smooth e-commerce operations through the weekend. On the weekend, Target CEO Brian Cornell said that he was happy with Target’s e-retail performance. But he may have spoken too soon, with traffic overwhleming the retailer's site on Monday as it scrambled to appease disappointed shoppers on social media.