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Click Frenzy fail – The top five learnings from the ‘sale that failed a nation’

Click Frenzy FailKey takeaways

  • Australians love a ‘genuine’ sale. Retailers need to recognise that consumer awareness and expectation of the e-commerce experience is becoming increasingly sophisticated and informed
  • If not actively managed social media, especially during a crisis can be your worst enemy
  • In the digital world execution is everything – there is no such thing as a quick fix

Built up as the ‘sale that stops a nation’, with the tantalising promise, of a 24 hour event packed with huge discounts, big brands and the online convenience of shopping from home instead of the struggle for fighting for deals in store.

Click Frenzy was the first of its kind in Australia, a national sale event based on the successful US model, CyberMonday, in which retailers join arms and post huge discounts in a bid to generate sales activity and get a head start in the lead up to Christmas.

The sale went live at 7pm last night, but within minutes it all turned for the worse as the Click Frenzy site crashed due to the volume of visitors. Ironically, Click Frenzy had stopped a nation dead in its tracks, but unfortunately left them with the unfulfilled promise of great products and big deals.

Over the last 12 hours the PR storm has grown with newspapers, blogs, social media and even mainstream TV headlining with the riotous chant of #clickfrenzyfail – leaving many retailers wondering who the real winner is.

So now, with half a day left in the sale what can retailers really learn from this initiative?

1. Australians consumers love a ‘genuine’ sale

One of the key success points for Click Frenzy thus far is the huge amount of market awareness and activity it was able to generate in a relatively short period of time. With hundreds of retailers and brands signed up to the event, Click Frenzy was able to leverage the brand rub and sign up thousands of customers to the site which further supports the widely known belief that Australian consumers love a sale and will search far and wide for a good bargain.

Although no specific metrics have been released, the large volume of traffic that resulted in the site crashing was a promising sign of potential future success for these one off sales events in Australia.

Click Frenzy Fail - Jamie Oliver Offer

Disgruntled consumers pointed out that this deal for a Jamie Oliver cookbook was not competitive and available at other retailers for less.

2. Respect the ‘informed’ consumer

The days of local retailers dictating product ranges, pricing and promotion are gone. With the rise of globalisation and the adoption of online shopping consumers are far better educated and resourceful in finding great products at great prices.

Following the launch of Click Frenzy, consumers immediately began comparing the ‘deals’ to local and international offers, highlighting the lack of value from some of the ClickFrenzy offers via Facebook.

One example (seen below) is Jamie Olivers 15-minute meals book, on sale for $26.95 via the Click Frenzy site. Customers were quick to respond calling out that the same book is available for less elsewhere (~$15 from the UK and under $25 at BigW and K-mart at a non-sale price).

3. If not actively managed, social media can be your worst enemy

Click Frenzy has been extremely successful in utilising social media to generate consumer awareness by tapping into the reach and voice of the social community through Google+, Facebook and Twitter. However, many Australian consumers have since turned and are using social media to attack the brand. The most prominent activity is through the Twitter handle and hashtags ‘#clickfrenzyfail’ and ‘#clickfail’, as well as via a specially set-up Click Frenzy Fail Facebook page, which has amassed over 3,600 fans in its 19 hour history.

One disgruntled customer has taken matters one step further and posted a creative video on YouTube that targets the poor execution and product offers, which received over 7,500 views in less than 12 hours.

4. In the digital world execution is everything

There is no doubt that the Click Frenzy campaign has done a lot of great things over the last few weeks – ultimately the inability to execute on the promise of a ‘user-friendly online marketplace built to withstand enormous concurrent traffic volumes’ was undoubtedly its biggest undoing.

Testing, as arduous as it is, must scale at least in lock step with any claims made to customers. As the claims get more ambitious, so too must testing become more focussed and detailed, in order to ensure expectations are met.

In this instance, the apparent surprise of Click Frenzy’s management on the impact of the ‘tsunami of customers’ on their infrastructure, indicates a less-than-thorough testing program, eerily paralleling the well documented example of the Republican Party’s ‘Orca’ campaign, widely regarded as a failure by the wider technology community.

Execution is everything online and unfortunately for Click Frenzy, as with many retailers the last mile is where they have failed and copped the most criticism, potentially beyond repair.

5. There is no such thing as a quick fix

The final key learning from this campaign is that there is no such thing as a quick fix when it comes to online retailing. A flashy sales event may drive traffic and awareness, but it is not sustainable and does provide true value to the consumer on its own. In order for retailers to compete on a global scale a transformational approach is required to deliver a competitive pricing and product offer through improved supply chain, operational structures and a razor-sharp focus on bringing value to the customer.

What are your thoughts? Will Click Frenzy be back next year better than ever or is this a one-time PR bonanza?

*Thanks to Lichan Cheah (@poojou) for his support and insights on this topic.

11 Comments

  1. avatar
    John Riccio says:

    Though ClickFrenzy was a success and a failure at different levels it was no more than a targeted marketing campaign focused on online shopping. Wouldn’t it have been great if you could shop across retailers with the convenience of one checkout and one delivery. Now that would have been value.

    Given the success retailers have experienced with an uplift in sales the clear message I took away is that there is a pent up demand from consumers to shop online which needs to be met by the local retailers otherwise they will continue to shop offshore.

  2. avatar
    David Light says:

    Why are you calling this a fail? From the retailers perspective, it seems to be a massive success – sales and exposure that they otherwise would not have had. From a consumer perspective, yes there was a major issue, which appears to have been resolved later in the evening. From Click Frenzy’s perspective, demand greatly exceeded expectations, so it’s the basis of something really good. And they made a lot of advertising dollars, have a great mailing list, established an annual event, …

    Speaking to a number of shoppers who successfully bought, they were not unduly hassled by the experience. Yes, there are many who make a very loud noise – I’d suggest they are the (very) noisy minority.

    The media always over hypes the actual situation. I’m surprised that PWC have joined the media frenzy and have been blinded by media hype rather than what the event represents. Really puzzling response from PWC.

    • avatar
      Simon Doukas says:

      Thanks for the response David. I agree there has been some significant success from the Click Frenzy campaign and I wouldn’t be surprised if next year is even better. However, I thought it was worth highlighting the key lessons that can be learned from some of the failures that had occurred and hopefully this provides some clarity and value to our readers.

  3. avatar
    Dan says:

    Well written Simon. As an online retailer, we had some serious discussions about whether to register as a merchant and we are thankful that we didn’t get involved. I wrote a blog post (can be found here: https://www.bmanager.com.au/click-frenzy/ ) with some of my concerns and predicted that there would be a lack of true value for consumers. I wont bother commenting on the server issues because I think it has been done to death.

    All in all, we will see Click Frenzy back next year and most likely with better servers. Whilst the concept is successful in the US, it might struggle to take off here in Australia because the companies taking part are not aggressive enough with their selling price.

  4. avatar
    Amanda Row says:

    I recently purchased two items online from a high profile domestic retailer three weeks ago, who is trying to break the online market. The items are yet to be despatched from the warehouse and I only just received an update from customer “service” after two weeks of chasing and follow up. As someone who just personally had a terrible online shopping experience, I would have been interested to see whether many of these participating retailers could have supported a successful sale with product and service delivery anyway.

  5. avatar

    As an Australian selling into the global IT marketplace, this is a terrible embarrassment. My company ToolTwist builds high transaction load eCommerce sites primarily for the US market, and are highly dependant of the reputation of Australia as a country of clever people.

    These clowns have done terrible damage – they shouldn’t have show ponied around if they didn’t have the ability to deliver, and the failure of so many retail websites on the same day reflects badly on the entire Australian IT industry. The big retailers are still feeling their way, so maybe have some excuse, but for Click Frenzy there can be none.

    In world terms, the transaction loads weren’t particularly high, and there are people and technologies who know how to do the job right, but for some reason Click Frenzy didn’t consult them. Did someone mention the word hubris?

    Philip Callender
    ToolTwist Ltd.

  6. avatar

    I suspect that Click Frenzy was an absolute outright success for the organisers.

    Personally, I don’t believe that their business model was to provide the actual product (sale), as much as it was to generate hype around the event in order to harvest millions of registered users for a later purpose – after all, now that the sale is on there is no need to be registered, nor is there anywhere to “sign in”… so what was the registration about? It clearly wasn’t about capacity planning.

    The core assumption in building a national 24 hour sales event that stops a nation would have to be scalability, and the ability to handle peak load. Their ambition was to stop a nation, so surely they should have expected 10 million concurrent users at a peak – that’s “stopping a nation”.

    The key lessons are right. I’m not convinced that Global Marketplace Pty Ltd will be able to convince retailers to come back after the post-event scrutiny, but it has demonstrated consumer appetite for such an event, so long as it’s planned and orchestrated correctly.

  7. avatar
    ANIRBAN SARKAR says:

    There is one general thumb rule which says – Do vigourous Stress and Performance testing before launching a portal. Click frenzy site went down in 5 minutes due to heavy server traffic.
    This would not have happened had proper Performance testing would have been done , and a decision to no-go taken.
    Also , most prices were similar too those in the store. For example the prices of perfumes etc offered in Chemist Warehouse site were exactly the same as in the stores.
    Ímitation is the best form of Flattery’ but then copies generally do not work.

  8. avatar
    Ben Forsyth says:

    Nice wrap up. As a digital professional, I watched last night’s events unfold with, I admit, a bit of a sick fascination. While it was a gallant attempt to spark some interest in a struggling domestic retail environment – a failure to execute at a number of critical points has not yielded the results that had it could have.

    1. Simon, in agreement with your point number 1, the comparison of Click Frenzy with Cyber Monday, as with most retail in Australia, is ridiculous. Offers in the sales in the US typically start at 50-60% off and go up from there. When Australian consumers can typically buy items at 40-50% domestic prices in non sale times – you’re limiting your target audience to the consumer that hasn’t yet realised he/she is living in a global market. This proportion of the internet population is decreasing by the day. 10-20% off retail isn’t compelling enough to get people to dip into their wallets for stuff that goes into the discretionary “probably don’t need it but I’ll buy it because it’s cheap” category.

    2. I read a tweet from someone involved in the tech side of the hosting of the site that reported that they were seeing a demand 2gbps of non-image content> yeah – that’s pretty big, but not unachievable. Assuming that they weren’t using it, Amazon Web Services operate out of Sydney now – and probably could of scaled to deal with the demand better than whatever their solution did. There should have been international contingencies in place and serving light weight, static content would have made a difference.

    Given that there was such an emphasis on registration – they would have known how many people they would have had to handle (pre-register + XX% ‘walk-ins’) which would have given them a guiding number to load test with.

    The question then would be “Would it have made any difference anyway?” – most likely, even if the Click Frenzy site had been available, it would have simply pushed the problem downstream to the retailer sites. We saw both the Myer and DJ sites get taken out.

    3. The response to the failure, particularly in Social Media, was far too slow. It was well over an hour after the DOS that they started distributing their partners offers through FB / Twitter.

    I can’t help but disagree with your second point Richard – most of the commentary I have seen about the event is negative and points toward people unlikely to participate further.

  9. avatar

    When the media dust has settled and Twitter has moved on, I think that many of the retailers may regard Click Frenzy as somewhat of a success.

    1. It proves there is demand – Believe it or not, with many of our traditional retailers, there is a still a debate about how much to invest in online capability and (of relevance here) capacity. Yesterday’s events will at least give retailers what could be their first set of data about how much traffic they need to be able to cope with. That will give the digital advocates the data they need to win their investment

    2. It sets expectations for next year – Even bad publicity is good. Most Australian consumers now know that when the event is next held, unless they get online quickly and fight for access they will miss out.

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