- Black Friday sales are starting earlier than ever, with shoppers spending billions of dollars on Wednesday and Thanksgiving Day.
- The online shopping boost created issues for some retailers unprepared for the traffic, as companies such as Walmart, Lululemon, and Ulta all dealt with technical difficulties.
- Customers took to social media to vent their frustrations over crashing websites.
Black Friday sales are starting earlier than ever. And that is creating some technical difficulties for retailers.
The website crashes began before Thanksgiving. Shoppers on Walmart’s website dealt with technical difficulties on Wednesday evening. GameStop shoppers complained about similar tech issues on social media.
According to Bob Buffone, chief technology officer at web-optimization software company Yottaa, companies’ problems were likely rooted in not having the infrastructure to handle the increased traffic.
“If you have not load tested your site at five times normal traffic volumes, your site will probably fail,” Buffone told Business Insider on Thursday.
And Wednesday's online shopping traffic was hitting record highs. Shoppers spent $2.4 billion online on Wednesday, a whopping 31.8% increase from 2017, according to Adobe Analytics data.
The increase in online sales - and websites' technical difficulties - continued into Thanksgiving Day.
By 10 a.m. on Thursday, shoppers had spent another $406 million online. By 5 p.m., they'd spent $1.75 billion, representing 28.6% growth compared with last year.
Lululemon's website crashed soon after the company kicked off its Black Friday sales on Thursday morning. Later in the day, makeup-seller Ulta's website crashed because of high traffic. UK-based brands were not immune to technical difficulties, with JD Sports and Game crashing on Thursday evening and Debenhams encountering problems on Friday morning.
"Despite Black Friday not being a new phenomenon to the UK anymore, some retailers still haven't taken the necessary steps to prepare for it," Sam Rutley, managing director at e-commerce agency PushON, said in an email to Business Insider. "Both GAME and Debenhams suffered the same fate last year, showing that little has been done in anticipation of the Black Friday surge."
Not being properly prepared for Black Friday can have even worse consequences for retailers than having a website crash on any other shopping day.
"It's easy to go to a different site and spend their holiday money elsewhere," Buffone said. "Depending on how long the site is down, it can cost retailers a lot of money and also result in damage to the brand as shoppers take to social media to express their frustration."
Here is just a small sampling of that frustration:
— DrZ® (@doctorz007) November 22, 2018
I have been online for 3 hours now trying to make my purchases. Things keep getting removed from my cart, and other items that were available are now sold out. NOT HAPPY!! #blackfridayfail
— CT (@crt981) November 22, 2018
Had an ipad in my cart but of course @walmart’s website is down. 🤬
— 𝔼𝕞𝕚𝕝𝕪 🌻 (@emuh7ee) November 22, 2018
Walmart: Knows traffic on website will spike when Black Friday Sales go live
Walmart: Does nothing to stop site from crashing prior to sales
*Sales go live and site crashes*
— Sam Kuhne (@SamKuhne) November 22, 2018
Why does Ulta have an online Black Friday sale if their website can’t support it 🙃🙃🙃🙃
— gabbi. (@gibbi2) November 22, 2018
ULTA FIX YOUR DAMN WEBSITE SO I CAN SPEND THE MONEY I DONT HAVE #ultabeauty
— monica (@monicadsan) November 22, 2018
Technical difficulties weren't the only outcome of Black Friday sales shifting earlier.
With massive spending, some of the biggest deals of the holiday season sold out before Thanksgiving Day had ended. By Thursday evening, the Nintendo Switch sold out at Target and GameStop, according to BlackFriday.com. Walmart, Target, and GameStop quickly sold out of the PlayStation 4. And, Instant Pot sold out from Walmart and Target.
More on Black Friday 2018:
- Thanksgiving is killing Black Friday by replacing it
- Black Friday deals sold out at stores like Walmart and Target before Friday even began - and people are furious
- Macy's, Best Buy, Kohl's, and JCPenney are being slammed for being open on Thanksgiving - and some people are threatening not to shop with them this holiday season
- Walmart says it's offering thousands more deals than last year on Cyber Monday in a direct shot at Amazon's most valuable day
- Walmart shoppers are complaining that stores are running out of iPhones as Black Friday sales begin