The #ClickFail Christmas retail meltdown

You would think that retailers would be experts in coping with the Christmas rush. Afterall, it is their busiest time of the year.

In the world of US retail, the mythical aura of the Black Friday sales at the end of November holds an enormous significance. It is meant to herald the date at which retailers break even, after losing money for 11 months of the calendar year.

JC Leyendecker – 1925
One of the earliest images of our modern Santa

Christmas retail marketing has had decades to shape our culture, and instill a level of social obligation.

Consumer focused brands like Coca Cola have even played a large role, shaping the image and mythology behind Santa.

Of course, retailers are now turning to online shopping as a way to ramp up revenue, help customers avoid long queues, and sniff out bargains. The ability to check prices and save time is clearly a very important part of the appeal to customers.

Click Frenzy took a simple retail concept – a short sale event, and turn it into a combined online sale spanning a wide range of retailers.

With servers set up to deal with a million users over the course of 24 hours, it soon became clear that planning wasn’t their strong point. The site crashed in the first few moments of the sale, as users tried to login simultaneously.

And it didn’t stop there. #ClickFail soon became a social media firestorm, which soon engulfed some of the participating retailer websites.

Those that eventually made it through found that many of the “unbelievable deals” were barely worth the effort. Those that couldn’t get through headed to social media to vent their frustration.

What does this say about marketing within Australian online retail?

It shows that despite lagging behind for most of the last decade, many Australian retailers are still only paying lip service to the most rudimentary level of online shopping and marketing.

Although the majority of Australians shop locally online, studies show that international shopping is increasing.

This could be partly due to the Australian dollar increasing in value, but is just as likely to be due to the lack of competitive pricing, and different levels of customer service.

Most retailers are very aware that they need to take into account more than just the advertised price in their physical stores. The entire customer experience is important, and helps establish price points and shopper loyalty.

But in a retail technology environment that has for decades allowed the biggest retailers to drill down into their individual customer spending habits, they still churn out one size fits all marketing campaigns and price promotions.

#ClickFail unfortunately ended up damaging several major Australian retail brands, painting their customer service in a very poor light. The big question is whether any of the retailers will look beyond “business as usual” for their next Christmas season.

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