Everybody talked about it and all of us wrote about it: Click Frenzy. But what was supposed to be the sale that stops a nation soon turned into a frenzy of would-be consumers clicking the refresh button on their internet browsers the moment the website went live. Millions of people logged on for Australia’s version of Cyber Monday but the 24-hour online sale site could not cope with the huge volume of buyer traffic and crashed almost immediately.
As we were following happenings on Twitter, #ClickFrenzy almost immediately became #ClickFail. The more creative ones immediately turned to Facebook and other social forums where they vented their anger at not being able to spend their dollar.
A professor in marketing from Melbourne University, had the following to say about this chaotic event:
It is never good to create an expectation and then not meet it. And not only not meet it, but to completely disappoint customers in this regard. I think it sets companies back to a significant extent. These businesses will have to do a fair bit of work to, in a sense, recover what we call service failure.
But who should be held accountable for this monstrous failure? UltraServe hosted the Click Frenzy website. Before the sale, they reassured both retailers and consumers alike that they were geared to handle the volume of traffic for the full duration of the sale. Now, after the fact, they claim that the system was geared to deal with one million visitors over 24 hours, but it got nearly double that all at once. Have they never seen consumers flocking to the door of a retailer hours before it even opens to grab the best sale items? Did they honestly think it was not going to be the same and worse with an online sale?
UtraServe official, Samuel Yates, had the following to say:
Maybe a tenth of all Australians trying to hit the site, and Click Frenzy had accounted for a million users over the 24 hours. The site experienced performance issues for the first couple of hours. Our team worked to assist in provisioning additional capacity which stabilised the site.
The attempt by some of Australia's major retailers to make a dent in the online market had backfired in a major way.
Kate Morris, the founder of adorebeauty.com.au, was a retailer in the sale and had the following to say:
From our perspective it's been really disappointing. While our website stayed online, I am worried Click Frenzy's failure will be a big setback for Australia's entire online retailing industry. We all got tarred with the same brush last night. You know, I was there watching the Facebook page and pretty much as soon as anybody posted anything about any of the retailers, regardless of whether they were online or bricks and mortar, dozens of people would jump in and started kicking the boot in of having a go. Regardless, I mean, it was worse for the sites that did actually fail. Ours didn't, ours worked perfectly fine, but the ones that failed copped the worst of it. We all did get lumped in a bit together last night which was the worst part of it for us. Some of the retailers committed more than $30,000. As a retailer we paid to be part of the promotions, so Click Frenzy obviously did do a lot of PR and got quite a lot of publicity for the sale and that was something we were obviously keen to be part of. I think the idea is a really great idea. I think unfortunately everyone's experience with Click Frenzy and the incredibly vicious social media backlash around it is not something I'd really be keen to be part of again.
To top it all off, consumers have been alerted to a security failure by Click Frenzy but we have not been able to verify it before publishing this article. But if it did happen, it means that the username, password, and IP address for the website's back-end database were all exposed for several hours.
Australian consumers are being accused of not being loyal to local retailers. Can you blame them? Australians have ordered online from overseas retailers for years. And now Australian business may have blown its best chance at raising its online shopping profile. The bad experience with Click Frenzy will definitely not encourage trust in the local retailers when consumers are looking for deals online. While consumers would love to do business with Australian retailers, the reality is that if Australian retailers aren’t living up to the expectation of these consumers, they will go elsewhere. One thing is sure, the market for online shopping in Australia is huge. But it remains to be seen if it can recover from this event.
Were there any winners in this debacle? And who got the worst end of the stick? Consumers or retailers?
Harvey Norman was relieved that it opted out of Click Frenzy in time. The company held its own online sale. It was called Santa Day and despite experiencing a 15-minute website crash early on, it got an overall good report card from consumers.
the Click Frenzy website had been fixed and apparently all the bad press had done wonders for them. Their spokesman said that traffic to the site had not tapered off, and had, in fact, increased as the sale rolled on. He said that the customer response and traffic to the website got even better due to the failure at the beginning of the event.
Advertisers who have collectively spent millions on advertising for this event will no doubt be questioning their decision to be a part of it.
Based on advertising rates and the number of retailers that took part in the deal, Click Frenzy is estimated to have taken at least more than $1 million for the campaign. Some companies have spent up to $100,000 to be able to have their advertisements in the best spots on the Click Frenzy website.
The parent company of Click Frenzy, Power Retail, is calling it a giant success and the fact their website couldn’t stay up just meant it was “overwhelmingly popular”. Yes, it was a giant success for Power Retail. They made thousands, if not millions from the retailers who jumped on board, gathered a huge database of consumer information which by itself has significant value.
So at this point we can say: Power Retail – 1 ; Consumers – 0. (But onl
y until Australians hit the overseas websites and see those bargains again!)