Billed as “the sale to stop a nation”, Australia’s Click Frenzy crashed and burned in a spectacular #ClickFail example of how not to do eCommerce.

The Idea

Click Frenzy was an initiative to get the Australian public more involved with eCommerce enticing them on-line with “massive” discounts from leading retail stores over a 24 hour period.

The idea was great and marketing started about 6 weeks before the event with heavy radio and TV advertising.

The Reality

When the event opened at 6pm AEST on 21st November the site struggled under the number of visitors and was quickly over-loaded remaining down for over 3 hours.

When the service was restored, visitors were still complaining that it took minutes to refresh a page and that the site was largely unusable until about 12 hours after the event had started.

The technical failure quickly started a #ClickFail trending hashtag on Twitter with furious visitors venting their anger.

According the the company, the site was built to handle 1 million visitors but claim that 1.5 million visitors hit the site taking it over capacity.

The Click Frenzy website, essentially a large landing page, threw customers out to links on the subsequent on-line retail sites causing the likes of Myer and Toys ‘R’ Us to also crash in the opening few hours.

Some of the large multinational retailer’s sites that were part of the event faired well with the large influx of visitors leading some industry experts to question the infrastructure and technical competence of Australian on-line retailers.

MelbourneIT had bots monitoring availability and response times for 153 websites that participated in Click Frenzy.

Between 6pm and midnight “about two thirds of the participating sites had issues, which is not good”, Melbourne IT CTO Glenn Gore said.

The error rates (failed to load percentages) for the 10 worst sites, the aggregate of all 153 measured, and the 10 best sites. Photo: MelbourneIT

In response to claims by event organisers that they were prepared for 1 million users, Gore said “the evidence says they weren’t”.

Such is the sad state of Australian eCommerce.

After the Event

Disgruntled visitors were quick to point out that even a day after the event had concluded, the Click Frenzy site was still showing a “count-down” of  minus hours to the “launch”.

Clearly planning was lacking from start to end.

Massive Discounts. Where?

But the server issues weren’t the only things people were complaining about.

Visitors to the site quickly realised that the “massive” discounts weren’t so substantial and people tweeted that they could find similar or better deals on large internet retailers such as Amazon and eBay.

For example Bookworld offered Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s 15 minute meals for $26.59 compared to its $49.99 recommended retail price, while the Book Depository’s regular price was $29.79.

Myer was offering Urbanears in-ear headphones for $34.97, down from $59.95, while Amazon had the same from $28.94.

The Sex and the City 2 DVD was offered via EzyDVD for $5.58, plus $2 for shipping, while it was $4.99 on Amazon, with an offer for free shipping.

Visitors were not impressed.

Information Collection

Another bizarre twist in this fiasco that has many people angered is the collection of personal information.

Prior to the event, visitors were asked to register with the site having to provide personal information such as name, email and post code, even though there was nothing to buy on the actual Click Frenzy website itself.

Why did the company need this information and what is it going to do with it?  Some are wondering if it will be sold on to third-party marketing companies.

In a press release Grant Arnold, director of Click Frenzy, said “..rumours have arisen that Click Frenzy will be using the information gathered from participants for third party marketing purposes.  We categorically state that this is untrue..”, however, the company have still to disclose what they will do with the information they collected.

Grant also made these comments:

“We don’t see it as a failure. We see it as a dramatic starting point and something that we will nail in the future.”

“With now 12 months to plan for the event and for us to prepare even further ahead, Click Frenzy 2013 should be just be simply amazing.”

We will wait and see.

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