Black Friday isn’t the best day for your website to crash

Posted by on December 5, 2014 11:12am

It was a Black-out Friday for Best Buy

There is never a good time for your website to crash. But the busiest shopping day of the year? Not a good day.

Consumer electronics retailer Best Buy saw its website crash and stay down for more than two hours last Friday, sending scores of eager customers to go elsewhere in search of doorbuster deals.
Maximum Web TrafficIt would be easy to say, We told you so because, well, we have been talking a lot here at Nouvola about the importance of testing ahead of time to see how well your site can handle a surge in traffic. In the case of Best Buy, a retail chain with an extensive brick and mortar presence, there’s another important point to be made: Even if you think of yourself as a physical retail business, if you operate a website, chances are that is the source of a very large and growing part of your business. If there ever was a time when a business could treat its website as a side show, that time is long gone. Shoppers have a ton of options and if your site is slow they can just leave and shop somewhere else.

Clearly Best Buy thought it was prepared for Black Friday. It had advertised the sales. It had probably added extra staff on its retail floor to ensure things ran smoothly. But it did not adequately prepare its website for the crush in traffic it was hoping to get.

It could have been an unanticipated change in the blend of traffic, or it could have been a last minute change in the software that had unexpected consequences. There are probably thousands of items that could affect performance in modern day applications, and a huge amount of complexity to deal with.

A business needs to test often, test early and test always to guarantee success. The ability to model real-life scenarios within your testing, and measure true end-to-end key performance indicators (KPIs) affecting the user experience is a critical capability that Nouvola offers to its retail customers.

And it wasn’t just Best Buy. This report notes that Neiman Marcus was down for a couple of hours on Friday and J. Crew’s website was slow to load. Speaking of speed, a website slowdown can also be highly damaging. If your pages take too long to load, that’s often enough for shoppers to abandon their virtual shopping carts and head elsewhere. One group that studied online retail performance on Black Friday notes that Walmart’s and Staples’ sites were among the slowest.

Time to start preparing for a better Black Friday 2015.

Don’t hesitate to contact me directly with your comments and inputs via You can find me on Twitter at @paolamoretto3 or @nouvolatech.

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