Target's website crashed Cyber Monday morning, overwhelmed by traffic, as it pleaded for patience from shoppers on social media. By 11:00 a.m. the site was mostly back online, but still fluctuating at times between its "please hold tight" error message and normal operations.
UPDATE: Later on Monday, Target took issue with the characterization that its site was crashing, telling Retail Dive that, rather, the "please hold tight" banner was a tactical way to help customers keep their place in their virtual line, whether it was to shop the site or check out purchases, at a time when the site was experiencing record traffic levels.
Meanwhile, the websites of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., PayPal, and others saw significant slowdowns and even outages during the Black Friday weekend.
Wal-Mart had offered opportunities to access “doorbuster” prices online earlier than in stores, but many customers weren’t able to complete their purchases and in some cases had to get to the store after all to get what they wanted at the special Black Friday prices.
Wal-Mart sees just about 3% of its sales online, but has boosted its web efforts to increase that number. The retailer was apparently unprepared for the extent to which shoppers would take advantage of its own online doorbuster prices hours ahead of its actual doors opening Thursday night.
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 clearly he spoke too soon, with Monday morning seeing traffic overwhleming the retailer's site as it scrambled to appease disappointed shoppers on social media.
Jeffrey Neuburger, a partner with the law firm Proskauer and an expert on technology, media, and advertising-related business transactions including data and security matters, had told Retail Dive that retailers unprepared for a surge in e-commerce sales this year would likely suffer slowdowns, which in many cases costs dearly as shoppers go elsewhere.
To avoid issues, which could be made worse by an increase in mobile commerce, retailers must take a hard look at their capacities in light of increased mobile and web sales, according to Neuburger.
“A lot of people have contracts in place that are multi-year contracts and they may not have looked at them to anticipate the need,” he notes. “Take the contracts out of the drawers, look at them, run some ‘what if?’ scenarios. It may cost some money, but I think that’s a better outcome than experiencing a crash on Black Friday.”