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Online overload strikes retailers on Black Friday

November 27, 2015 12:53 PM
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Shoppers standing outside stores weren’t the only ones waiting to make purchases on Black Friday. Several online retailers experienced site problems.

Luxury retailer Neiman Marcus, No. 43 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500 Guide, became mostly unavailable about 8 a.m. Eastern and was still experiencing problems four hours later, representing the first significant outage of the day, according to web performance measuring firm Catchpoint Systems. The Neiman Marcus site “has only been up intermittently, or showing an error message on the home page,” a Catchpoint spokeswoman says. That error message states, “We’ll be back soon. We’re currently making improvements to your shopping experience. For immediate assistance, simple call 1.888.888.4757.” Neiman Marcus could not be reached for comment but did tweet midmorning that its site was down.

Early Friday afternoon, Neiman Marcus said via Twitter, "We're sorry for the inconvenience. Due to our site issues, we will be extending our extra 33% off sale. Stay tuned for more details!" The site loaded at 3:30 Central and included the message that its online sale would be extended until 9 a.m. Central on Saturday.

Online electronics retailer Newegg Inc.’s desktop e-commerce site slowed in the early hours of Black Friday, experiencing an outage at 1:30 a.m. Eastern, because of an embedded website object with a high wait time, according to Catchpoint. Newegg, No. 17 in the Top 500, said early Friday afternoon that the problem was resolved. "We did see quite a burst of activity which caused customers to experience a slowdown, but we opened up additional servers and everything is working well now. Our sales are trending higher even than last year with extra-wide monitors being our hottest category," a spokesman tells Intnernet Retailer.

About a month ago, Newegg’s site was down for about five hours after hackers took it down and demanded bitcoin digital currency in exchange for ending the denial of service attack. Newegg said then that its technicians fixed the problem and the company did not give in to the extortion attempt.

Hewlett-Packard Co. (No. 42) experienced hiccups on its desktop site on Black Friday, as did online marketplace Jet.com, which also had slowdowns on its mobile e-commerce site, Catchpoint says.

But throughout Thanksgiving Day, Catchpoint’s Top 50 retail web and mobile sites, which are based on Internet Retailer’s Top 50 sites, performed well with speed at fast or acceptable levels, a spokeswoman says. The five e-commerce sites with the fastest median webpage load time as of 3 p.m. Eastern were:

  • Target Inc. (No. 16 in the Top 500), 0.99 seconds
  • Walgreen Co. (No. 44), 1.44 
  • Amway (No. 29), 1.51 
  • Apple Inc. (No. 2), 1.54
  • Best Buy Co. Inc. (No. 14), 1.61

As of noon Friday, the average response time for retailers’ home pages was 5.1 seconds, and the slowest site took over 13 seconds to download, David Jones, director of sales engineering at performance measurement firm Dynatrace, wrote in a blog post.

And consumers seem to know what they want. The average product order transaction, which is how long it takes from the moment a consumer lands on the home page to when that shopper reviews the order, takes 30.8 seconds, and the slowest is more than 70 seconds, Dynatrace data shows.

Dynatrace had the following rankings for Black Friday average response time:

  • Apple, 1.359 seconds
  • Amway, 1.901
  • Staples, 1.927
  • Costco Wholesale Corp. (No. 11), 2.252
  • Walgreen, 2.419
  • PC Connection Inc. (No. 53), 2.483
  • Estee Lauder (No. 73), 2.845
  • Urban Outfitters Inc. (No. 49), 2.938
  • Tiger Direct, 3.188
  • Crate and Barrel (No. 81), 3.422


Having eight of the top 10 retail sites load in under 3 seconds amid big Black Friday traffic spikes is "a huge improvement over 2014 when we would have seen one or two retailers at most make the grade," a Dynatrace spokesman says. For mobile performance, Costco, Tiger Direct and Target finished in the top spots, according to Dynatrace.

Catchpoint also broke down the five fastest mobile commerce sites. As of 3 p.m. Eastern, they were:

  • Amway, 1.00 seconds
  • W.W. Grainger Inc. (No. 13), 1.01
  • Gap Inc. (No. 18), 1.18
  • Amazon.com Inc. (No. 1), 1.23
  • Systemax. (No. 32), 1.28

And the five fastest native mobile apps for conducting a search and producing results, according to Catchpoint, are:

  • Foot Locker Inc. (No. 54), 0.133 seconds
  • Walgreen, 0.156
  • J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (No. 37), 0.191
  • Gap,  0.204
  • Nordstrom Inc., (No. 19), 0.208
 

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