While online shoppers looked to splurge on gifts galore throughout the Thanksgiving weekend, even the largest retailers, such as Target and Neiman Marcus, proved unprepared for the deluge of activity on their e-Commerce sites.
Target’s web site was slow for many shoppers throughout Cyber Monday, with periods when it didn’t work at all. When the site was down, it displayed a prompt asking shoppers to “please hold tight” until it would refresh automatically. While Target initially attributed the site delays to high traffic, the retailer claimed the delays were a deliberate “metering” of the online traffic to keep shoppers in line as they waited to shop, according to Retail Dive.
Perhaps contributing to the site’s difficulties, the retailer experienced volume that was “already twice as high as our busiest day ever,” according to a rep from Target.
“As we experience spikes in traffic, our systems place guests in a queue and prompt them to access the site later,” the rep continued. “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.”
Problems Crop Up Throughout The Long Weekend
Online retail traffic issues weren’t limited to Cyber Monday. At 8 am Eastern Time on Black Friday, Nov. 27, the Neiman Marcus e-Commerce site went down. The retailer acknowledged the site outage in a tweet at 1:21 pm, and announced more than an hour later that it would extend its 33% Black Friday sale until 7 pm on Saturday, Nov. 28. The Neiman Marcus site remained out for an additional 12 hours on Friday.
Although Neiman Marcus announced that the site was restored on Saturday morning, more consumers indicated that they couldn’t access the site. The second outage, which was finally cleared up at approximately 4 pm, convinced the retailer to begin offering its Cyber Monday deals early.
Walmart also experienced web site slowness to begin the weekend, with the retailer starting its Black Friday sales as early as 3:01 am on Thanksgiving Day. The site did not crash, however.
In an E-Commerce Performance Report, Catchpoint Systems revealed that Newegg, HP and Jet.com all had site issues of their own going into Black Friday. While all sites experienced slower than usual load times, Newegg had a brief outage at 1:30 am Eastern Time on Friday.
The outages and site slowdowns these retailers experienced — while concerning from a preparation standpoint — reflect the significant shift consumers are making toward online shopping. While Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday have traditionally been days when large groups of shoppers visit their favorite brick-and-mortar stores, e-Commerce became a primary focus throughout the entire weekend in 2015. In fact, 103 million people say they shopped online during the two-day stretch — one million more than the 102 million people that shopped in physical stores, according to the NRF.
PayPal Experiences Outages
Retailers weren’t the only businesses hampered by the holiday rush; PayPal reported interruptions in its services on both Sunday, Nov. 29, and Cyber Monday. Hundreds of users reported problems with the payment processing service, including logging into accounts, making transactions and withdrawing funds.
A live outage map on DownDetector.com indicated the majority of the problems occurred in North America and Europe, with problems beginning at approximately 8:30 am Eastern Time on Sunday.
PayPal has not attributed the issues to any particular problem, but issued a statement saying: “Earlier today, PayPal experienced a brief, intermittent interruption in our service. We have resolved the issue and customers can pay with PayPal on Cyber Monday.”
PayPal’s merchant notification page confirmed that there were two events on Sunday, Nov. 29 and Cyber Monday, Nov. 30, that caused a “Major Impact to PayPal APIs and the PayPal Web Site.”