Calling All Shoppers!
Online shoppers flocked to the Target website when it was announced they would be offering lower prices on a variety of products by designer Missoni. Unfortunately Target was not quite ready for the influx of visitors resulting in a crash of its website, mangled orders and A LOT of unhappy online shoppers.
How unhappy are they?
Well, more than a week later the social media landscape is still awash in comments and complaints from disappointed shoppers…
Does the fact that the web site was so inundated with visitors mean the marketing efforts undertaken by Target were too successful, or is it a sign they were woefully unprepared for the eagerness of online shoppers? Both.
If you own a restaurant with 500 seats and decide to invite people to try a new menu item you should be ready to handle a full dining room–that means having enough inventory to serve 500 meals. But how do you prepare for visits to your web site when it is difficult to gauge just how many visitors that might be: Thousands, millions, billions?
The fact is, no matter what you are doing online you need to be prepared. If you are afraid your site might be overwhelmed, if there is even a hint of a possibility, it might serve you best if you consider ways of handling the burden. Are your servers ready? Is your IT staff ready? Is your phone staff ready? Is your social media manager ready?
There might be little you can do to prepare your web site for BILLIONS of visitors, but there are steps you can take that at least show you were cognizant of the fact your site might be overwhelmed. You might consider being ready to use social media to communicate immediately in the event your site is overwhelmed. And once your site has been besieged by visitors it would definitely be a good idea to make every effort to find anyone who was disappointed in the service they received and try to make amends.
Or, you can be like Target, act like nothing happened and become the next poster child for how NOT to use social media.
“The lessons here are to plan and forecast these events very carefully, and not go for the big bang,” Brian Walker, an analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, said in an e-mail . “The big bang may be great to generate marketing hype and buzz, but can be a nightmare in serving customers, both online and offline.”
Up until the launch, Target’s marketing campaign for the Missoni line was a hugely successful example of how to build a relationship between a discount retailer and high-end design, according to Danica Lo, national editor for Racked.com. “Obviously, they did an amazing job,” Lo said.
Target built the buzz by releasing glimpses of the Missoni collection on Facebook and YouTube, it even concocted a doll blogger, with its own Tumblr page and Twitter account.
But trouble started soon after the wares went on sale.
Target’s new website, designed on an IBM platform and hosted by AT&T, buckled under “unprecedented demand,” the company said in a statement this week. “This demand impacted our Target.com site and affected the shipment and delivery of select guest orders.”
It’s still unclear exactly what went wrong. Three Massachusetts companies that worked with Target on its website — Endeca Technologies Inc., SapientNitro, and Akamai Technologies — would not comment on the failure. Target would not elaborate beyond its statement.
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