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Heavy Cyber Monday traffic takes down Target.com and slows PayPal

November 30, 2015 02:05 PM
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Target Corp.’s website appeared to be functioning by noon after earlier Cyber Monday traffic overwhelmed the retailer’s system, although mobile load times were slow. While the site was unavailable, a notice in large type greeted shoppers, urging them to hold tight while Target worked out the issues.

Target.com first went down at about 9 a.m. Central on Monday, expected to be the busiest online shopping day of the year.

“We are seeing a tremendous response to today’s 15% off sitewide offer,” Target said. “The volume is already twice as high as our busiest day ever, which occurred this past Thursday. We continue to receive and process thousands of orders from guests who are shopping the entire site and taking advantage of the discount coupled with free shipping.

“As we experience spikes in traffic, our systems place guests in a queue and prompt them to access the site later,” Target’s statement continues. Target appeared to be diverting some customer traffic Monday to prevent overload, allowing the diverted shoppers onto the site once it could handle the load.

“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,” the spokesman said.

PayPal also experienced delays, as customers experienced problems logging in, according to a PayPal spokeswoman.

“Earlier today, PayPal experienced a brief, intermittent interruption in our service,” the payment services company said Monday at 11 a.m. Central. “We have resolved the issue and customers can pay with PayPal on Cyber Monday.”

Top500Guide.com data shows that 202 of the Top 1000 online retailers in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 and Second 500 Guides use PayPal as their payment systems vendor. PayPal, which also had an outage in late October, did not disclose what caused delays Monday.

As for Target, the retailer last week announced a website-wide discount of 15% on Cyber Monday and trumpeted free shipping and free returns on every order. Its website promoted deals on items ranging from bicycles to cameras to clothing to home decor.

While Target’s website was down, shoppers saw this on their screens: “Hold tight. So sorry, but high traffic’s causing delays. If you wouldn’t mind holding, we’ll refresh automatically and get things going ASAP. Thank you for your patience.”

Target.com had been performing well over the weekend. In fact, on Sunday afternoon it was the fastest-loading site of the e-retail sites Catchpoint was tracking, posting a median load time of only .99 seconds. Yet at 1:50 p.m. Central Time on Monday, Catchpoint described Target.com’s mobile load times as “still through the roof, as high as 21 seconds in our most recent measurements.”

Target’s decision to manage access to its site in order to prevent a site outage is in line with advice a website performance expert offered recently on the InternetRetailer.com blog. “Only allow as many customers into your web store as you can safely accommodate,” Sven Hammar, CEO of website monitoring and optimization firm Apica, wrote. “If not, all users will get poor response times and the site might cease to function for everyone. It is better to serve the customers who are already in the virtual store and let the others receive a polite error message or wait a little longer.

Target wasn’t the first retailer to suffer online traffic woes during the holiday weekend.  Neiman Marcus, Newegg, HP, Jet.com, Saks, Victoria’s Secret, Shutterfly, Foot Locker and Groupon experienced glitches, according to Catchpoint Systems, which tracks e-commerce sites’ performance.

Groupon experienced outages of about two hours Sunday night and 45 minutes Monday afternoon.

Newegg had a brief outage early Sunday morning and then was down for 45 minutes starting at 11:30 a.m. Eastern, Catchpoint reported. There were intermittent problems on Foot Locker’s mobile commerce site caused by a third-party technology provider, Catchpoint said.

Like Newegg.com, NeimanMarcus.com was unavailable for a period on Friday. On Sunday, the Neiman Marcus site again experienced problems for much of the day.

A Neiman Marcus spokeswoman on Monday said, "Our site outages caused an inconsistent shopping experience over the weekend. We have seen no reason to suspect outside interference or sabotage; however, the exact cause of the outage has yet to be determined."

David Jones, a director of sales engineering at Dynatrace, a digital performance management firm, says he is not surprised by e-retailer outages because user visits to retailer websites as of mid-afternoon on Cyber Monday are easily 10%-15% higher than the highest peak experienced on Black Friday. Black Friday's peak, from 12:01 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday, saw three times the amount of traffic to retailers' websites than on a regular day, Jones says. Dynatrace doesn't give out traffic numbers, but Jones says the shopping traffic surges are colliding with retailers' ever more complicated e-commerce software and applications and shoppers' growing use of mobile devices to shop online.   

 

 

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