In the middle of Cyber Monday, Costco.com melted down, with its time for a full transaction soaring to 200 seconds, from a typical Costco average of about 18 seconds, according to Matt Poepsel, performance strategies vice president for Web traffic tracking firm Gomez.
Although Costco fared far worse, Gomez also saw sharply slower performances from CompUSA, Toys R Us and TigerDirect, Poepsel said.
"A couple of retailers kind of fell apart today," Poepsel said in an interview Nov 26.
Addressing the unanswerable e-commerce question—when does a slowdown get considered a crash or at least that the site is frozen?—Poepsel said the exact mark in the Web sand is unclear, but that Costco had clearly crossed it. "Very few consumers are willing to tolerate that egregious of a performance," he said.
Although many sites are experiencing problems when they hand off transactions to partners—for either shipments or payment—Poepsel said the sites that had problems Nov. 26 seemed to be the victim of their own internal issues. With Costco, for example, the problems involved activities on a secure part of its site.
For the most part, though, Gomez saw results similar to what rival Web tracking firm Keynote reported this weekend: Almost all of the major e-commerce players are delivering fast and consistent homepage refreshes. By being able to handle the traffic spikes of major holidays on their homepages, the e-tailers have mastered the core issue.
Its now a matter of getting the more complicated parts of those sites to just as effortlessly and to then get all partners and suppliers to do the same. As things stand currently, many e-tailers "have no idea what their partners are doing," Poepsel said.
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Keynotes Cyber Monday tracking also reported the Costco and Toys R Us slowdowns, but added that it saw slowdowns at Buy.com, Eddie Bauer, J Crew and Lowes. On the plus side, Keynote noted that Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, Dell and Overstock.com were "performing very well despite the high holiday traffic."
The two companies examine a somewhat different list of major retailers, so the fact that a retailer may appear in only one list doesnt necessarily mean anything. TigerDirect, for example, isnt even tracked by Keynote.
By moving the slowdowns further away from the homepage, some e-tailers have argued, the number of consumers who will grin and bear those delays gets larger. The theory is that they will then have spent time finding the items they want and will be more invested in the transaction.
"If youve gone through all that trouble, youll be less likely to ditch your product and walk out," Poepsel said, adding that its still a very unwise strategy. Those customers may stick it out for todays transaction, but theyll likely be unhappy about it and will look elsewhere for their next purchase.
Retail Center Editor Evan Schuman can be reached at Evan.Schuman@ziffdavisenterprise.com.
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