The real deal with Click Frenzy

The 'sale that failed the nation' saw retailers take yet another hit to their online reputations. But for Click Frenzy, it was actually a great success.

They billed it as the sale that stops the nation. But it turned out to be the sale that fails the nation. Click Frenzy’s claims to have taken every precaution to ensure their servers would not go down strike me as eerily familiar with claims by the White Star Line over one hundred years ago that they had built the unsinkable ship. You could say Click Frenzy was, for Australian retailers, a failure of titanic proportions.

Though not for the people behind Click Frenzy. I’m sure they have already cashed their cheques from the 150 or so retailers they signed up to participate in the promotion – some of whom according to Smart Company may have paid $30,000 or more to be involved. You would want to hope that there was a robust SLA in place that the retailers can now claim against.

But more than the upfront costs, there’s the issue of the lucrative affiliate traffic or the gift that keeps on giving to Click Frenzy.

While I am not apprised of the actual details of the affiliate traffic deal, I would imagine that every consumer who signed up to the Click Frenzy site is cookied with a piece of code that indicates they are owned by Click Frenzy.

So when they visit a participating retailer’s website and decide to buy something, this piece of code tells the retailer that they owe Click Frenzy a percentage of the sale. Ka-ching. Ka-ching. Ka-ching.

No wonder David Jones decided to go it alone. Indeed I thought David Jones’ stance to challenge Click Frenzy head on was not so much a brave decision but a sound business move.

With the blanket media coverage Click Frenzy had generated, David Jones, simply slipstreamed into the publicity, created an event of its own, and opened its "Christmas Frenzy” a day before Click Frenzy clicks off.

In theory, it’s a beautiful move. In practice however, what I experienced on the website on Tuesday was a woeful fail.

I know it sounds pernickety but the discounts on offer were hardly sensational. Indeed they were run of the mill. These days, 10 per cent, 15 per cent or 20 per cent off retail is par for the course. But what made this worse from a user experience perspective was that as far I as could see many of these discounts weren’t highlighted on the prices displayed on the website.

As a user, you weren’t entirely sure if the discount applied to that particular item. For example, David Jones was heavily promoting 15 per cent off all fragrances, yet none of the prices displayed on the site showed the discounted price. So to find out, you had to click through to see whether you chosen perfume was actually on sale, and there, for me the website started to stutter. This was at about 1030 AEDT and I never got any further down the path to purchase. Some of my colleagues tried and experienced similar frustrations.

Even as late as 3:30pm, the site was still displaying an error message:

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So, alas David Jones’ move to go it alone may have been a sound business decision, but was so poorly executed that the only thing I think they achieved was to
publicly demonstrate how their brand new website infrastructure is not up to the task.

So are there any winners here besides Click Frenzy? Sources in the industry tell me that the majority of the retailers’ websites in the Click Frenzy promotion suffered a similar fate as David Jones’ website. They were simply not up to the task. Westfield and Target websites were two notable exceptions and handled the traffic spike with aplomb.

While I totally understand the driver behind giving our retailers a push start into the holiday season, wouldn’t it be more beneficial to replicate the Black Friday foot traffic push into bricks and mortar stores with a Super Saturday promotion which is backed up with a Super Sunday online? Surely there’s a strong business case for retailers to invest in their own business and web infrastructure.

As technology drives new shopping patterns, without adequate investment in their own online infrastructure to support desktop and mobile uses, a retailer might as well shut up shop.

As we mop up the damage from our synthetic Super Tuesday, all the signs from the US are that the upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday are going to be big this year. Perhaps Australian retailers should take a leaf out of their book and get serious about supporting online infrastructure for web and mobile users.

Simon van Wyk is the founder of digital agency HotHouse.

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