It’s always important for retailers to offer optimal web site performance, but it’s absolutely critical when the merchandise being offered is a limited release or a collector’s item. That’s when a site is likely to attract much higher traffic than usual, concentrated in a short period of time. The last thing any merchant wants is to experience the wrath of a frustrated customer during these high-profile events. Remember when Target’s web site crashed when the company launched its Lilly Pulitzer designer collaboration in 2015?
For Jako Enterprises, the holding company for online retailers KicksUSA, an urban fashion retailer, and UBIQ, a footwear and accessories store — both of which sell limited release and collectors’ apparel — having a solution that managed large spikes in web site visits was a necessity.
Jako turned to Queue-it, which offers a virtual waiting room solution, to help manage the rush of customers during popular sneaker releases from Nike, Jordan, Adidas and other exclusive footwear brands. On the day of a limited edition sneaker release, the company’s online stores tend to attract approximately 100,000 sneaker enthusiasts.
“Since we are in the footwear business, which often has a high demand for new sneaker releases, our web site was constantly overloaded with tens of thousands of people,” said Virgil Ghic, Director of Digital at Jako Enterprises in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Of course, we had servers and intelligent systems in place, but in order to support those peak moments, you need a completely different infrastructure — one that would cost upwards of $2,000-$3,000 for just a couple of hours’ worth of service. Since we have such low stock during these sales, it’s really not worth the investment, so we had to look to other solutions.”
The Queue-it virtual waiting room is designed to give retailers control over web site traffic, by offloading end users into an online queue where they can wait until they are redirected back to the web site to make their purchase. This allows retailers to deliver a customer experience that is both seamless and fair.
“We’re using the queue system in two ways, said Ghic. “The first is for sales that we know will draw a major traffic increase to our site, and the second is for an added safety net in case a sale draws more attention than predicted.”
For sales that the company predicts will draw major traffic, such as when a new pair of Adidas or Jordans hits stores, the web site is shut down for about 30 minutes prior to launch. All customers can see is a countdown page, according to Ghic.
When the web site experiences an unexpected rush of customers, the company puts up a “’soft queue’ that still lets customers enter the web site,” he said.
“Once it passes a certain threshold that we set (for example, a limit of 1,000 customers on the web site at once), it’ll begin placing additional customers into the virtual line through Queue-it,” said Ghic. “We typically set thresholds between 500 and 1,000 customers, as anything above this can damage a web site and cause server issues.”
Virtual Waiting Room Promotes Online Fairness
Sales of high-demand goods can be quite profitable for retailers, but when the number of customers is many multiples of the number of items available, there’s always a danger that consumers will feel cheated. The success of the Jako virtual waiting room revolves around the customer experience and ensuring every shopper is taken care of on a first-come, first-serve basis.
“Our sale days revolve around items that are very limited in stock,” said Ghic. “There are days when we see upwards of 100,000 customers waiting to purchase a sneaker that we only have 100 pairs of. Online fairness is a huge aspect here. We have a bunch of security systems to prevent bots, but Queue-it helps us with that too, and develops a ’first-in, first-out‘ system that ensures all of our customers are being served in the order they enter the queue.”
In addition to providing a fair shopping experience, Ghic emphasized that the virtual waiting room also delivered improved customer feedback on social media.
“Queue-it made everything more pleasant for the customer experience and the social media complaints disappeared,” said Ghic. “Additionally, having only one person to set up the technology together with the Queue-it team saved us a lot of time, human resources and money.”