Featured News | November 28, 2014

How Black Friday Broke the Internet

It’s Black Friday! Have you been out to brave the cold and wet in order to battle it out to get a great bargain? Many people are doing their entire Christmas shop today, and in the fight for 32” televisions at 30% off and 3 for 2 beauty products, stores are struggling.
In fact, a number of the largest retailers in the UK have suffered some technological issues. Websites are down everywhere, and others are extremely slow, meaning you could be stuck in a virtual queue without even leaving the comfort of your home.

Big Branded Websites Are Down

Here are a few of the biggest Black Friday eCommerce site fails we’ve seen so far today:

Argos

Currys PC World

Game

John Lewis

Tesco

Net-A-Porter

Boots

How to Beat the Traffic Crash

Prevention

Too many customers is a great problem to have and the obvious solution to these website issues is prevention.
• Stress testing beforehand is a great way to see if your site can handle the spike in traffic.
• Try compressing your web content into zipped files, which are left unzipped for visitors’ browsers. This can reduce the load on your site, making it load more quickly and improve the user experience.
• Many people will research items and make purchases using their phone or tablet, so prepare for those using mobile devices by creating a lightweight version of your site. A pared-down version will be more mobile user friendly and take the stress off the main site. Start by removing elements that may be eating up data, such as auto-play videos and large images, and go from there.
• Consider using a content delivery network. This is a third party site that will host your content and present it when users navigate to your pages. CDNs mean the load is shared out among other servers and will lessen the pressure on your main site. These should take only a few minutes to set up and can save you a lot of effort in the long run.

Solutions

But Black Friday is now here, and if you’re looking to maximise sales without user experience being affected here are a few things you can do to ensure your site stays up and running – or gets back up as soon as possible.
• Take a look at your plugins. You may have added extra for this particular occasion, and they may have clashed or overloaded.
• Ensure a stable checkout process, so customers can quickly and safely make a purchase with no tech problems. Make sure your site can handle multiple orders at one time.
• Could your competitors be spamming your site or stealing your bandwidth?
• While you are sorting out the problem keep customers up-to-date through social media. Give updates every few minutes on the progress and apologise for the inconvenience. In the meantime, you may also like to let people know when items have limited stock, are sold out or selling quickly, as well as providing info on your best deals of the day.
• Integrate a queue system with a countdown clock to help funnel customers through to your site. This way you can keep control of the number of people on your site, and prevent further problems. You’d think Argos, would have got this down since they do this in their actual retail stores.
There’s a great example of this on the Currys PC World site.
• Are your PPC ads too effective? Your digital marketing agency may have implemented campaigns for Black Friday to boost traffic, and now you simply have more than you can handle. Scale these back and see what happens.
Have a go at a few these things and see if they make a difference. And if you are looking for more tips and tricks to improve your eCommerce site, check out a few of our blogs.
The best of luck with the rest of the sales in the run up to Christmas and the New Year! We’ll be keeping our eyes peeled for more examples of crashed sites, let’s hope yours is not on our list.

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