20 November 2012 will go down in history as a major and memorable day in the online retailing space in Australia. Click Frenzy which launched this day, is modelled on the US concept of Cyber Monday, the Monday following Black Friday.
For the uninitiated Black Friday is generally the first day after thanksgiving that retailers start to go into black as consumers return to work and start spending for the holiday season.
The term “Cyber Monday” was coined in 2005 by Shop.org, a division of the National Retail Federation. However, the trend of Cyber Monday was initially recognized a number of years ago, when many retailers saw spikes in sales and traffic as consumers went back to work after the Thanksgiving Day holiday. Though Shop.org gave the Monday after Thanksgiving a name, it hardly created the trend. (ref1) Click Frenzy is closely modelled on this.
In the prelude to Click Frenzy a well organised media campaign ensured that Click Frenzy became a topic mentioned in many newspapers, TV and publications, always hungry for fresh news and stories. A few days prior to the site’s go live date, its organisers suggested that they had around 180 household name retailers on board. There would no doubt be a substantial database of subscribers that registered on the Click Frenzy website. A smart way to build a database, although I was somewhat disappointed that I never received any communication from Click Frenzy prior to the launch, so why the need to register? The Click Frenzy site has been hosted by Ultraserve, a company with great experience in high traffic server loading. Ultraserve has hosted some of Australia’s top online retailers that are experienced in high traffic demand.
So from 7pm to 10:59pm while typing this article and trawling through Twitter hashtag comments (Click Frenzy was trending at the top of the list) and reading all the damning articles on my Google search page I managed to get onto the Click Frenzy site, but sadly some of the initial deals I clicked on brought up a “Server too busy” message. A while later the site seems to have stabilised, and I clicked on a few deals. Nice prices but nothing that I would call groundbreaking. Saying this I only skimmed through a few deals as my bed was starting to beckon.
To add to the grist of the day, David Jones had their own "Christmas Frenzy", only to be fried by extreme server demand and the pricey Websphere Commerce site falling over, what a day it has been.
Back to the topic, so what went wrong that let the (Click Frenzy) site down? It’s obvious that the server infrastructure that was set up didn’t have adequate capacity. Was this a technical or financial problem? Was too little budget allocated to server grunt? Perhaps the site should have been hosted by one of the massive US infrastructure houses that have capacity and scalability for this kind of traffic! Hindsight is always a wonderful thing, and to be fair to the organisers, what appears to have happened is that the demand far exceeded the wildest expectations of the organisers, period. These scenarios were regularly played out at Catch of The Day, the event was no different.
Gloating that servers go down because of massive traffic spikes doesn't help put food on the table, and it was our thought that this may occur (ed note: It didn't, Grant Arnott was upfront and transparent after the event)
The site is also built on Magento.This one had us scratching our heads? Magento is a successful open source platform for small to mid tier businesses. Why would you choose such a cumbersome platform for this task? Magento is a transactional system, and a lot of the 'weight' in the Magento architecture is for the cart/purchase/order/customer management process. Clickfrenzy is effectively a static catalogue site. No sales, no customer login, no cart, no checkout. So all of that excess bloat in Magento back end in theory would never be necessary. As the site is static, they would be using some cached front end (as there is no dynamic content), which negates Magento. Why not build the site in something else that was lightweight, more easily scalable etc?
Click HERE to see some stats of the Click Frenzy site's performance.
It’s obvious that without prior experience the organizers of this event did not receive the correct advice on website infrastructure and architecture. They also didn’t expect the level of hype and interest that the day has stirred and will possibly be far better prepared next year if retailers will have the courage to risk their funds again on this event.
More readings and learnings about Click Frenzy:
More thoughts from Nathan Huppatz, eCommerce expert
Jim Stewart's Advice - SEO and Site Optimisation Expert
What exactly happened, info by Jeff Waugh posted by Paul Warren
Anthill Overview - Was it a bomb or just a symptom of Australia's fear of failure
Ref 1 - http://www.shop.org/Cybermonday/FAQ