Retailers not up to scratch on Cyber Monday

Analytics specialists at NCC and Borland highlight sluggish site performance, pointing to upgrade and services opportunities around load testing and website management for the channel

Retailers in the UK failed to capitalise on the potential profits from the biggest online shopping day of the year, Cyber Monday, according to research from data and analytics specialists at software house Borland – part of Micro Focus – and information assurances services provider NCC.

The concept of Cyber Monday first reared its head about eight years ago as a marketing initiative designed to keep shoppers spending after the annual retail meltdown known as Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, when off work Americans hit the shopping malls in their millions. It could not be contained within the US.

This year, customers spent £600m on the first Monday in December, but according to Borland’s website performance tool, Silk WebMeter, sheer weight of numbers led to plummeting website response times, a turn-off for many impatient shoppers.

Borland identified a number of large retailers affected by the spike, with loading times going from 4.4 seconds to 14 seconds at peak times. Fashion website Asos saw its site slow from 0.8 seconds to 4.2 seconds.

Research carried out by Equation suggests that 40% of consumers will simply walk away if a site takes over three seconds to load.

Borland product director Archie Roboostoff said that while website performance degradation was to be expected, many retailers had failed to put in place a strategy ahead of time to ensure their websites were optimised to keep running smoothly.

“This includes shutting down non-essential services and increasing capacity so that their networks can handle heavy loads. This strategy can also be used as a back-up plan for any retailers who find their websites under performing in the midst of a sales promotion,” he said.

Pointing to the channel opportunity, Roboostoff added: “Many marketing departments have the right to question why their website wasn’t prepared for the Cyber Monday rush.”

Meanwhile, NCC Group’s website performance division claimed that only 8% of retailers managed an average download speed of three seconds or less on 2 December.

Bob Dowson, director of NCC Group’s website performance division, said: “You could argue that the availability of good load testing solutions makes traffic-induced performance problems unforgivable these days. However, a number of companies performed badly this year, and that might be down to the extra hype we’ve seen around Cyber Monday meaning an even greater surge in visitors.”

However, he continued, the majority also saw little variation in overall performance in the run-up to Cyber Monday, which suggested deeper, underlying problems for many.

“In a sense you could argue the results are encouraging in that for many there wasn’t an obvious dip on the actual day. This suggests that most retailers load tested their sites and planned for this year’s busiest period. That said many of those same retailers are routinely failing to deliver high-performing websites. As a result, they’re losing customers and revenue – an effect that’s magnified at this time of year,” said Dowson.

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