November 28, 2011

Can you handle the strain?

One of the big online computer retailers today decided to run a £1 sale, reducing a huge range of products to a bargain price in order to lure in eager shoppers in the run up to Christmas. Or apparently that’s the case anyway, as I’ve not been able to check myself yet.

As is so often the case with these things though, the offer has caused such a strain on the site that most people can’t actually get the site to load and those who can then can’t keep it working long enough to shop. Many of those who weren’t in the market for any of the £1 specials but just the usual items have actually had to go elsewhere in anger, and a customer lost once is potentially a customer lost forever.

The moral of the story? If you’re going to make a lot of hype over a sale, make damn sure you have the infrastructure in place to support it first. Whether this just means having significant extra redundancy, or whether its something more creative like separating off the special sales setup from the rest of your site. A little investment earlier on could save you a lot of lost rep later; indeed I only heard of the sale as a result of the complaints from people who couldn’t get on their site at all, not through any of the ebuyer marketing!

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