Learn from Click Frenzy’s Technical Failure

Scott Morris

Scott Morris

Head of Team Augmentation

The sale that was supposed to stop the nation, but was itself ground to a halt due to sheer demand, shows that planning and anticipating demand for online services is vital to a campaign’s successful execution. What can you learn from Click Frenzy’s failure and that of some of the participating retailers?

Plan and anticipate

Campaigns can easily go viral within a matter or minutes or hours, particularly if what you have on offer has mass market appeal. With Christmas only around a month away from Click Frenzy’s campaign, plenty of people were in buying mode, hoping to score a bargain.

To their credit, they were collecting email addresses via their website from users who wanted to be notified and reminded about the sale. Facebook, Twitter and Google+ accounts were actively collecting likes and followers.

For Click Frenzy and all participating retailers, as word of the forth-coming campaign spread amongst the media, website traffic statistics would have given an indication of public interest. Click Frenzy were anticipating one million people to walk through the “virtual doors” of their website within the 24 hours from launch and this is what they prepared for. It is not clear exactly how they determined this number. In reality though, they experienced 1.5 million to 2 million access requests within the opening moments and couldn’t ramp up fast enough to handle the traffic. Understandably this lead to massive melt-down and their website became unavailable. It is not clear what, if any contingency plan they had.

Suggestions on ways to prepare for a campaign and try to anticipate demand:

  • Monitor social networks for general chatter about your brand and if applicable any specific campaign name. Users may not ‘like’ or follow your account, but that doesn’t mean they are not interested
  • Ask questions through short surveys or questionnaires on your website(s) in the run-up to the event. For example: how likely are you to come back for this campaign when it starts? how many people have you told about this campaign? which retailers are you most likely to visit? will you be visiting via your phone, tablet or regular computer?
  • Monitor email shares. One request for a reminder email could result in the email being shared to tens of friends
  • Evaluate which media outlets are talking about your campaign. High traffic sites such as mainstream newspapers and blogs have the potential to refer huge amounts of traffic
  • Review your website impressions and statistics
  • Prepare your web service supplier and hosting company by giving them a full briefing about your intentions and what demand you have anticipated along with the evidence

4mation can facilitate in planning and preparing for large campaigns, so please contact us to discuss further if you need professional advice and assistance.

Prepare and have a back-up plan

Even the best laid plans cannot guarantee a smooth outcome, although they will help immensely. That said, have a backup plan to fall back on just in case.

For many visitors to the Click Frenzy website, they were greeted with connection time-outs. This was possibly the worst case scenario for Click Frenzy as a brand, as it made them look unprepared and amateurish.

Preparations and back-up options to fall back onto for times of high traffic include:

  • Using a farm of servers to absorb masses of simultaneous requests, relying on a single server is like asking one fireman to fight the fire in a burning multi-storey building, a server farm spreads the load
  • Using a content distribution network (CDN) so that images and other page assets don’t all have to be served from the same location that can cause a bottle-neck
  • Preparing a very lightweight (minimal imagery and styles), static (no database dependence) splash page that can be served if the full website struggles with demand
  • Heading to social media to update users if things do start to go wrong. Click Frenzy resorted to tweeting links to some of their associated retailers. Social networks are generally very well geared up for millions of concurrent users
  • Depending on the duration of the campaign, consider having a pre-prepared email ready to send out via an independent network to keep users informed and with material they will find useful as an alternative to the website. Click Frenzy could have collected subscribers’ categories of interest in the lead up to the campaign and then emailed out retailer links at the start of the campaign, rather than rely on the website only

If you need any assistance in preparing for your own campaign, even if you do not anticipate demand being as high as that discussed here, drop us a line at your earliest convenience to ensure you make the most of the time available before launch.

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