Record traffic on Cyber Monday led to site troubles for Target, others

1 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Cyber Monday booms despite site crashes.

Smartphones have put the Internet in our pockets, meaning there’s less need to wait until Monday morning when people return to their office computers to scope out the digital deals.Shoppers hunting for bargains that didn’t require cutting Thanksgiving meals short or fighting long lines took to the Internet yesterday to buy “‘til their typing-fingers dropped” on Cyber Monday.

Cyber Monday isn’t over yet but it already looks poised to set a record this year, with early indications that online sales have grown 14% and leading retail websites including Target crashing temporarily, seemingly overwhelmed by high customer traffic.Target Corp. struggled to handle a surge of e-commerce traffic on Cyber Monday, its biggest day for online sales, making the website inaccessible to some users. Plus, holiday shoppers have already been on a digital spending tear for several days: 103 million people shopped online between Thanksgiving and Sunday, and consumers spent a record $8.03 billion online during that time period, a 17 percent increase over last year. Some of the most popular websites experienced an overload on Monday, similar to a crowd pushing its way into an already packed brick-and-mortar store.

And yet online sales on Monday were on pace for a record-breaking day, with forecasters from Adobe projecting that $3 billion would be spent online before the deals bonanza was over. Shoppers were for a period of time unable to gain access to the site of Target, the discount chain,and PayPal, the online payments processing service. Even as retailers were ringing up big online sales, the day provided ample evidence that some of them still have a long way to go to adapt to an era when more and more people are shopping from their smartphones and tablets.

Upscale specialty food retailer Harry & David, payment operator Paypal and mega retailer Target suffered crashes. “So sorry but high traffic’s causing delays,” read the greeting to customers who couldn’t connect to target.com. “If you wouldn’t mind holding, we’ll refresh automatically & get things going ASAP. Foot Locker, Groupon and Victoria’s Secret also experienced brief outages or slowdowns Monday afternoon, according to Catchpoint Systems, a web monitoring firm. The site remained working, if slower than usual. “As we experience spikes in traffic, our systems place guests in a queue,” 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.” Similar technical difficulties were reported during the five-day shopping spree starting on Thanksgiving by PayPal, department store chain Neiman Marcus, Walmart, Victoria’s Secret and Foot Locker. Amid a crush of traffic, the retailer said it had to resort to metering activity on its site, prompting frustrated shoppers to get a message advising them to “please hold tight.” Meanwhile, Adobe reports that as of 10 a.m., 15 out of 100 product views across the e-commerce landscape were showing an item that was out of stock. Adobe tracked 80% of all online transactions from the top 100 US retailers and said sales are on track to meet its expectation of a record $3bn by the end of the day.

He pointed to the corrective measures parcel carriers such as Atlanta-based UPS have taken since their disastrous holiday season two years ago when they underestimated demand. The 14% boost on Monday is equivalent to the 14% jump in sales that Adobe recorded for Black Friday online shopping, when it tracked the activity of 4,500 retail websites.

That likely means some shoppers who hit the Web later in the day came up empty, especially on certain in-demand toys (especially “Star Wars” items) and electronics. The good news, he said, is that there will be about 6.6 million more paychecks hitting consumers’ wallets than last year, according to a study of payroll trends.

According to Adobe, email promotions drove 25% more sales than in 2014. “Consumers are hyped for Cyber Monday, with social buzz more positive than what we saw on Black Friday, but they need to brace themselves for the highest out-of-stock rates of the season so far,” said Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst at Adobe Digital Index. Wal-Mart, for example, started its Cyber Monday sale at 8 p.m. on Sunday after noticing in previous years that many shoppers started hunting for the deals around that time.

Amazon.com, meanwhile, started its blitz of more than 30,000 “lightning deals” way back on Nov. 20, likely a nod to the fact that shoppers are looking for deals long before Cyber Monday — or even Black Friday — arrives. Bringing in cyber sales would add to the more than 151 million people who said they shopped either in stores or online over the Black Friday weekend, according to survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics for the National Retail Federation.

Cyber Monday’s traffic and purchasing patterns underscored the extent to which the retail wars are increasingly being fought on the smallest of screens. For many people, Monday was their first day back at work after the long Thanksgiving weekend, so some shopping was presumably being done surreptitiously while at work. Consultancy Kurt Salmon, which works with retailers on supply chain issues, said it has found that some large retailers had trouble filling seasonal jobs in their online distribution centers this holiday season. Some stores such as Macy’s have begun opening their doors on Thanksgiving; Radio Shack said this year it would offer its deals on Wednesday; and Amazon, the world’s largest retailer, began offering some deals as early as 20 November, a week in advance. On Monday, department stores whose share prices had already declined recently, due to low expectations going into the last two months of 2015, fell further.

The strong online sales growth over the holiday weekend, did not appear to give investors confidence that retailers were in for an especially merry Christmas.

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