E-commerce demand can crash a website

April 20, 2015

Having an online selling platform is extremely important for businesses trying to expand, and increased e-commerce activity points to that fact. 

Having an online selling platform is extremely important for businesses trying to expand. E-commerce catalogs allow consumers to browse products from any location and on their own time. Some shoppers go online to find the best deals, while others prefer buying on the Internet because they do not like waiting in long store lines and even more customers simply do not have the time to shop during work hours. By maintaining an online store, in addition to a physical showroom, businesses can enjoy the best of both worlds and ensure that their products are always accessible. Recent events show that the demand is there, but whether companies are technologically prepared is another issue.

Online selling platforms see surging demand for certain products
E-commerce buying continues to capture more retail market share and several trends and developments will keep this momentum going strong. Today, e-commerce businesses like Amazon and eBay not only offer customers the ability to shop from home on their desktop computer, or on the go using a mobile device, but faster shipping times, helpful product reviews and easily navigable catalogs make the experience even more appealing. The Independent recently reported that Target’s website crashed on Sunday, due to the flood of eager consumers looking to purchase Lilly Pulitzer luxury clothing at a discount.

Shoppers overwhelmed the retailer’s online platform and Target was forced to take its site offline for 20 minutes in order to manage the increased traffic. Lilly Pulitzer’s bathing suits and shift dresses were selling at a fraction of their usual price, which attracted swarms of bargain-hunting customers. The Wall Street Journal also pointed out that Target had to pace visits to the site, causing many shoppers to be unable to access the site or shopping app. 

“When the traffic got heavier, we made the website inaccessible,” said Target spokesman Joshua Thomas, noted the news source.

According to Nasdaq, Target intended to start the sale up by 3 a.m. Central Time, but traffic caused delays of a few hours. The number of visits was apparently similar to what was witnessed on Black Friday. Three hours after the sale started, the whole selection was sold out online.

E-commerce activity indicates that consumers are very active online
Nasdaq also mentioned that this was not the first time Target’s website crashed due to increased demand. In 2011, the company’s site crashed after the launch of the Missoni collection. It is important to point out, as well, that Target relies on its website to compete with other online retailers such as Amazon.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the shopping frenzy on Target’s website had a ripple effect online that was seen in social media marketing and on eBay. Items that quickly went out of sock appeared on eBay and other sites at three times their original price. Dean Crutchfield, an independent brand consultant, commented that through these events, Target benefited from increased media awareness.

“It’s not a marketing ploy, but it is a marketing advantage,” said Crutchfield, according to the news source. “This to me creates more demand.”

Company websites must be able to accommodate traffic
According to The Independent, many disappointed consumers took to Twitter to air their grievances regarding Target and its shaky site. Industry experts later speculated whether the events would have a negative backlash for the company. The Wall Street Journal noted that Target management is aware of the need to improve its online capability. A crashed website can really upset consumers and the company’s spokesman acknowledged this fact.

“We realize there is an extreme amount of excitement around this collaboration, and we apologize for any disappointment this may have caused our guests,” added Thomas, according to the media outlet.

Ultimately, what should be learned from recent events is that when consumers desire certain products, their interest can overwhelm sales platforms that are not ready to accommodate the traffic. Target’s executive team eventually announced improvements to the website, and going forward it is likely more effort will go into ensuring the platform is stable.

For small businesses, the example of Target should demonstrate the importance of having a strong online presence. Simply having a website is not enough. It should be secure, reliable, easy to navigate and visually appealing. E-commerce buying will continue to increase and much of that interest will be from mobile device users. Since m-commerce allows consumers to access sales platforms from any location, that could translate to much higher traffic in months and years to come. Also, as mobile payment technology becomes more ubiquitous, a significant convergence of m-commerce and e-commerce will be witnessed. All companies should make the necessary IT and infrastructure investments to ensure that they are ready to accommodate that growth.

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