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Cyber Monday brings site slowdowns, but no calamities

November 30, 2016 01:14 PM
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Heavy online shopping sparked website performance issues for a few retailers on Cyber Monday, but those problems were less severe than those experienced on Black Friday.

"The 2013 to 2015 Black Friday-Cyber Monday weekends saw a few lengthy site outages by big-name retailers. But 2016 has proven to be the year of mini outages and slowdowns, some of which are being resolved quickly; others more slowly,” Mehdi Daoudi, CEO and co-founder of digital performance analytics company Catchpoint Systems Inc., said Wednesday.

Consumer products retailer Amway Global (ranked No. 43 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide) on Monday showed intermittent “500 error” messages—a problem that first surfaced Nov. 23, according to Catchpoint. A 500 error is an internal server error that requires fixes to web server software.

Catchpoint says several retailers experienced slower median web page response times due to third-party tags. Such tags are snippets of code provided by vendors or other parties, such as social media networks, which generate ads or connections on a website via browser calls to external servers. Lenovo Group Ltd. (No. 16 in the Top 500) had a median web page response time of 18.1 seconds for six hours on Monday, Newegg Inc. (No. 17) was at 9.4 seconds and QVC Inc. (No. 10) at 9.5 seconds, according to Catchpoint.

“It is notable that many of the problems are being caused by third-party technologies used by these sites. When a third-party element stalls or is unavailable, the host site can suffer," Daoudi says.

OldNavy.com (part of Gap Inc., No. 20) had intermittent outages Monday due to in-house technology issues, Catchpoint says, but those appear to have been resolved.

Some of the largest e-retailers, including Macy’s Inc. (No. 6), Victoria’s Secret (part of L Brands Inc.) and Williams-Sonoma Inc. (No. 21) experienced a range of problems on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, Catchpoint says.

Macy’s Inc. shoppers were met with a “temporary shopping jam” screen on its home page starting Friday morning and throughout a good chunk of the day. The screen, whether on desktop or mobile, would count down to 1 from 10 and then retry to load the site and allow consumers to enter. The site was under heavy load and put visitors in a queue to manage traffic. Macy’s could not be reached for comment. 

A Macy's spokeswoman says the delays on Friday were entirely traffic-related and that the site was operational all day. "Overall, we had an incredibly strong Black Friday performance and Cyber Monday was our biggest online day ever," the spokeswoman said.

Ticket site Fandango.com also directed consumers to a virtual “waiting room” over the weekend, says Jose Santa Ana, senior director, product marketing for Clustrix, an e-commerce database provider. Fandango experienced heavy traffic for advance tickets for "Rogue One," which went on sale just after midnight Sunday, he says. Clustrix also noted significant slowdowns at Victoria’s Secret, Express Inc. (No. 99) and Pier 1 Imports Inc. (124).

“Black Friday inevitably dings a couple of retailers,” says David Jones, director of sales engineering for digital performance management software company Dynatrace. Performance issues and slowness dogged some retailers on Cyber Monday, but those problems were less severe than on Friday. That’s because retailers inevitably fix their Black Friday-related problems in the days before Cyber Monday, he says.

In a blog post, Jones praised Apple for doing a good job of anticipating holiday shopping traffic and creating a website that could handle it.

“What makes the delivery of this page (Apple.com’s mobile web landing page) so compelling from a performance point of view is its simplicity,” Jones says. “There are only a handful of connections being made to 3-4 domains all controlled by Apple (there are no external third party calls). We see that many of the object requests are being loaded in parallel.”

Neiman Marcus (No. 36), Dell Inc. (No. 3) and Apple Inc. (No. 2) were the top three fastest-loading websites on Cyber Monday, according to Dynatrace. The average total page load time as of 8 a.m. Monday were 1.291 seconds for Neiman Marcus, 1.899 seconds for Dell and 2.193 seconds for Apple. The fastest retailers for mobile web are Apple, Amway and Dell, according to Dynatrace. Load times were 2.336 seconds, 3.128 seconds and 3.257 seconds, respectively. 

 

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