Get ready. Black Friday is coming.
Of course, there will be tons of people at every mall and shopping center huddled outside the doors at 5 a.m., early bird coupons in one hand and steaming coffee in the other. But those aren’t the ones you need to watch out for.
No, the true race will be run online the day after Thanksgiving. No need to get up at 4 a.m., just roll out of bed and stumble across the hall to go shopping. Bathrobe and slippers are optional.
E-commerce sites are bracing themselves for what has truly become an extravaganza. Last year’s online shopping traffic was up a reported 98% from the year before. To slow down the one-day deluge that could bring website efficiency to its knees (or perhaps just drum up more business), many giants like Amazon, Sears and Kmart and have started their online shopping sales early. While they may be hoping to draw on the sales frenzy and pick up business in what promises to be a lean shopping year for many, it may simply be a matter of self-preservation.
Without a reliable web host, a tidal wave of online shoppers can paralyze online stores, causing error messages instead of sales and sending customers elsewhere. Just ask the folks at Sears about that one. They lost about 2 hours of traffic during last year’s Black Friday sales event, and they weren‘t the only one. Even Wal-Mart was up and down throughout the day, showing potential customers the dreaded “temporarily unavailable while we make important upgrades to our site” message.
The solution for avoiding e-commerce downtime on Black Friday? Be prepared.
No doubt the IT gurus for every major online store have been very busy lately. By now, they’ve applied all of the software updates and upgraded the hardware. They’ve set up network monitoring tools to send out alerts the moment there is a problem. They’ve designated a task force to stand by, ready for action in case there’s a glitch. They’ve even crossed their fingers.
Meanwhile, consumers are gearing up for a busy morning of shopping, whether on foot or by keyboard. Depending on which statistics you read and believe, shoppers will either spend more money online this year, or spend less on shopping altogether.
Either way, there will be many, many people waking on Friday morning, ready for action. When it’s all over, we will know who won the battles: the consumers, the retailers, e-commerce or wait – yes, even the IT gurus.
Oh, and Cyber Monday, too.
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