Black Friday Shoppers Take Down Retailer Websites

Black Friday shoppers who decided to avoid the crowds and shop from home were inadvertently a part of a massive tidal wave of web traffic that took down the sites of the several large retailers today.

Best Buy, Footlocker, HP and Cabelas were some of the retailers that were hit hard by a massive influx of holiday shoppers who decided to eschew the traditional brick and mortar stores in favor of shopping from the comfort of home. While the IT teams (who I hope are getting holiday pay) have managed to restore services to these sites, it is still surprising to see such large retailers encountering web traffic issues like this.

Ordinarily outages like this would be an ‘oops’ for many retailers, however, this unexpected Black Friday site crash was a rather embarrassing blow for electronics giant HP. HP is currently in the midst of splitting and separating their hardware and printers business from their services and servers portion. Due to this split, HP has been working hard to promote their cloud based systems and rebrand themselves as a major cloud services provider. Unfortunately, it appears that HP’s site issues were caused by their own internal cloud systems.

So, did Best Buy also have issues with internal cloud systems? No, instead it seems that it was actually the large influx of Black Friday shoppers using their mobile devices like smartphones and tablets that felled their site. The demands for mobile sites differ from those of desktop sites and it is clear that the mobile device shoppers are putting companies’ mobile best practices and back end systems to the test.

In fact, in a recent holiday shopping survey, it was determined that 42% people will rely more on their smartphones and tablets to complete their holiday shopping. This should hardly come as surprise as mobile sites and shopping have been streamlined and made more widely available with the proliferation of mobile devices in recent years.

Perhaps other large retailers will learn from Best Buy and HP this year and ensure that their sites can handle the new and changing demographics of online shoppers. Do you prefer doing your Black Friday on mobile devices? Or do you prefer using your laptop or desktop to shop?