Click Frenzy launched yesterday evening but, as the mainstream press seem to be eager to make noises about, the first few hours were hit by technical difficulties, which many consumers found to be a frustrating experience. 

But, what many people are generally overlooking is that there was an unprecedented demand for the event, with reportedly 5% of the Australian population (some 2m users) landing on the Click Frenzy site in the first few minutes – something that seems to have been genuinely unexpected and underestimated. 

We caught up with some industry experts on the frontline of e-commerce in Australia, to get their take on the turn of events… 

Do you think the general concept/context of Click Frenzy is a good idea? 

Justus Wilde, Online Strategy Director, Amblique

It’s a good idea to promote e-commerce, but only if the systems are up to the challenge. This sort of event has the potential to get people online and transacting for the first time and to reconnect the overseas shopper… but that being said, the experience needs to be smooth and seamless.  

In general though, I would be advising that retailers who are multichannel do it in a multichannel way, for example, those who offer deals across all channels; if it is just for online, it may be better to run an event like this, at a time when stores/most stores are closed, such as boxing day. 

Luke Goldsworthy, MD, Playhouse 

The concept of Click Frenzy is great for Australian retail, in that it is designed to bring attention to the bricks and mortar retailers who are starting to invest more effort into online and multichannel retailing.

Let’s not forget that when Cyber Monday was originally introduced, it bought a lot of attention to the growing channel in the US, so I hope that Click Frenzy creates a lot of awareness among consumers about multichannel shopping options in Australia. 

Peter Noble, MD, Citrus 

Overall, I think the concept of a centralised approach to an online sale is a good idea, however, I don’t really believe that channelling through the Click Frenzy site was necessary. I think retailers would be better served co-ordinating a sale day themselves, save their money that was wasted on the advertising and pump it into hosting infrastructure!  

Graham Jackson, MD, Hybris Australia

Yes, I do – and I am very much a supporter of the initiative. Cyber Monday in the US is huge and click frenzy is a great idea to bring new online shoppers into the game… 

Tim Haynes, Client Partner, Bazaarvoice 

Click Frenzy is a great idea as it connects directly with the behaviours of Australian shoppers and their desire to get great deals online and locally: It highlights the desire of Australian shoppers to have a great online shopping experience locally. 

This is why it will only get bigger and better: Obviously, next year, platforms are going to be more prepared and the shopping experience, on the back of that, is going to be vastly improved. 

Given the tech issues (this) evening, do you think this affects consumer perception of online retailing? 

Graham Jackson

There is a danger of that yes, but it is really up to the industry to rally and put out the very positive side of this story. 

At the end of the day there is a big sale on, and anyone who has ever been to a boxing day sale, or a sample sale, or tried to buy tickets for a big concert will know that there are always far too many people chasing too few bargains and inevitably some people miss out. It’s usually those further back in the queue, and with a physical store you can see that queue – online you cannot and that adds to the frustration when things don’t work. 

Consumers will still come back if they are offered great products at great prices. Let’s take the learning from this and move forward. 

Tim Haynes

 I think it is unfortunate that demand wasn’t met initially but it also speaks volumes for the demand that exists here. 

Peter Noble

 Yes, it does. I think we can all forgive some slight downtime, but the gross underestimation of infrastructure required to handle this sale has unfortunately made Australian retailers look like amateurs again compared with their overseas counterparts. 

Justus Wilde

Yes, this just disappoints and adds to the feeling that Australian retailers are old fashioned and not offering Australian customer the best retail experience. 

Australian customers are already cynical about brands and this further compounds this adding to the ever decreasing Australian brand loyalty. This sort of failure will just help to push people to overseas retailers, whose sites are fast and available (despite the traffic) and where they are often getting better deals anyway. 

How do you think the issues Click Frenzy experienced could have been avoided? 

Peter Noble

The biggest issue was the sheer volume of traffic coming in at launch time. If this load was spread evenly across the 24 hours, we wouldn’t have seen the problem. So, based on that, there just needed to be a more effective investment made in infrastructure to cope with those loads. 

Justus Wilde

If the USA online retailers can deal with a population of 300m, then Australian online retailers should be able to deal with 22m. Hosting, infrastructure and demand management are poorly understood and mostly substandard in Australia, as is the general build of many e-commerce sites. 

More thought processes behind the scenes needs to happen – from the technology platforms through to the overall infrastructure. Cloud based, scalable SaaS models will start to dominate in the future and carrier grade uptimes 99.98 should be the standard, although this will only happen when Australian retailers start to take online seriously and understand that technology requires resources and investment. 

Australian retailers need to get serious about e-commerce and understand the brand damage subpar systems can cause. Quality, available, honest multichannel service is what is required to stem the march of the Australian consumers dollar overseas. Hospitality has already started to learn from the US and its focus on customer service, with significant improvements that have seen Australia feature amongst the best on a world stage, seems like it’s about time retail followed this lead. 

Tim Haynes

Measuring success through capacity forecasting is sometimes not an exact science – and at times hard to model – certainly with some art involved. I think lessons have been learnt and Click Frenzy next year will be better prepared and even a bigger event. 

Graham Jackson

I think that the greatest gift that Click Frenzy has given the retail industry is a real wake-up as to the consumer demand in Australia for shopping via their computers and digital devices. 

There is always an investment decision to be made in consideration of the capacity of your various web stores, and if the majority or retailers are now appreciating that it is vital to invest in both an enterprise class ecommerce platform, as well as infrastructure underneath capable of handling really very large volumes, then Click Frenzy will have done an important job. 

Many sites went down last night and underestimated the demand spike. But, many more got it right. Let’s take this as a big message from consumers as to their demand for online retail and target our efforts towards creating great online experiences with robust ecommerce platforms and infrastructure that scales, and go out and meet this demand head on – because if we don’t, others overseas certainly will (and are).

Do you think retailers were under-prepared or over-confident? 

Graham Jackson

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I don’t think any of us should engage in bashing those many retail web stores that did crash last night.

It shows if anything that retailers were not confident that consumer demand for this would blow out their capacity. Those who did well last night can pat themselves on the back smugly, but let’s not get into a negative spin on this, and instead focus on how to set up systems to handle this obvious consumer demand and give the Australian consumer what they really want – the ability to shop anywhere, anytime, with their device of choice and an expectation that their favourite brands and shops will be there giving them a great (web)store experience, and great products at great prices. 

Tim Haynes

It is hard to prepare for an event that has no historical data, this was day one for Click Frenzy.

The success of this event probably took a few by surprise – and I strongly suspect retailers will be more prepared and will be rock steady ready for next year. 

Justus Wilde

Definitely a bit of both. There is still a poor understanding of the importance of scalability in Australia by both retailers and some e-commerce system providers. 

Additionally, retailers often err on the arrogant side, believing customers will persevere to buy their brand… this may be true in the short term, but not offering world-class online experiences to loyal customers only serves to encourage them to look elsewhere. That being said this also true offline: Customers unhappy with poor or non-existent services are the ones most likely to move to online and to move to international online. 

Peter Noble 

The bottom line is that retailers do not understand hosting and because of this, they are under-investing in suitable supporting technologies. Very few are actually prepared for large traffic spikes and most are happy to ‘chance it’ and hope that all will be fine. Those who have been burnt before understand the implications and so perhaps last night will have provided some great learnings for Australian retailers that hosting is critical to keep the doors open. 

Luke Goldsworthy

 Any retailing experience should be learnt from.  Whether it is opening up a new store concept in a shopping centre, or rolling out other innovative ways for the consumer to shop – any new way to promote and deliver retail to the consumer should be learnt from and grow.  Click Frenzy is endeavouring to bring the attention of new ways to shop in Australia for consumers.  Australian retail has lacked a distinctive ‘signpost’ to kick off Christmas trade period like the US has with Black Friday & Cyber Monday.  With an event like Click Frenzy, I believe this will assist retail in Australia help have that starting point, leading into Christmas trade.