A year ago this Black Friday weekend, Bridget Collins and Chris Moss got great deals on gifts for their children at BestBuy.com. The products never showed up.
A UPS employee delivers packages in Palo Alto, Calif. (Photo: Paul Sakuma, AP)
Best Buy said it was a software problem, but critics said it was also a major communication mishap and yet another black eye for the beleaguered electronics retailer.
The next few days can be make or break for all the online retailers. More than 500 major retail website clients tracked by IBM SmarterCommerce saw a more than 17% surge in online sales Thanksgiving Day as of 6 p.m. ET.
They will likely see an even bigger day Monday, known as Cyber Monday for the online promotions. To make sure things go smoothly, they have been busy for months trying to prevent possible site slowdowns and crashes, which can cost millions in sales.
But making sure they don't take orders they can't fill by Christmas -- Best Buy's mistake last Black Friday weekend -- is a huge priority. Disappointing kids -- and their parents -- at Christmas is a public relations disaster.
With more customers choosing to shop online, the need for a seamless experience has become imperative.
Smartphones and tablets mean people are in "shopping mode whether in-store or at home or anywhere in between," says Vikram Sharma, CEO of ShopLocal, a marketing services company that digitizes the newspaper circulars for more than 100 top retailers, including Target and Macy's. "This has really changed the dynamics of shopping and eliminated the difference between online and offline."
This year retailers are preparing for better deals and more shoppers seeking them. ShopLocal found the amount of shopping research -- "pre-shopping" -- on retailer sites was up 43% for the weekend before Black Friday vs. the same weekend last year.
Retailers are responding to this increasingly early interest: The number of deals for stores and websites on Thanksgiving Day were up 28% over last year, says ShopLocal.
But if things go wrong when shoppers are done researching and ready to buy, it can mean both lost sales and lost customers during a time when both are highly coveted.
Source: USA Today | Hadley Malcolm and Jayne O'Donnell