In the unlikely event anyone needed further proof of the embarrassingly quaint view of online shopping held by Australian retailers, then the public relations disaster that was Click Frenzy has confirmed all fears.

Hey, why can't I afford to stock the shelves anymore?

Despite predicting more than one million shoppers would visit the host site during the much-hyped 24-hour event, Click Frenzy fell victim to technological woes within minutes of launching on Tuesday night.

And while it took nearly three hours for would-be buyers to finally access the promised sale, problems were not confined to the host site with the online services of several participating stores also buckling under the strain. So much for assurances from organisers that they were prepared to cope with heavy traffic and that local retailers were finally ready to give their international rivals some serious competition. 

For frustrated consumers keen to support the homegrown industry while snaring themselves a bargain in the process, it was a fizzer that almost certainly redirected more than a few impatient credit cards in the direction of offshore outlets.

And, jokes on Twitter about the backfire shielding spendthrifts from buyer’s remorse notwithstanding, it was affirmation of the astonishingly old-fashioned approach to online shopping in this country.

Even worse was the response from organisers, who in lieu of an apology offered only the pithy excuse that “just like the Boxing Day sales, crowds are to be expected.”

That’s akin to administrators of a public swimming pool telling a guest who has contracted a violent stomach bug that it’s nothing worse than what they might have caught during a holiday to Bali. How about taking a little responsibility for the standard of service – or lack thereof – that you provide?

Is an admission that you messed up and a subsequent assurance that it won’t happen again really too much to ask?

When compared to its American counterpart, which local organisers were seeking to emulate, the inability of Click Frenzy to keep up with demand is even more damning.

Cyber Monday, first launched in the US in 2005, offers online sales from more than 700 retailers and now lures 10 million customers to their keyboards each year. Daunting figures and yet somehow shoppers are spared the sort of server meltdown now known as Click Frenzy.

Prepared for a stampede, participating retailers take necessary measures to ensure their sites can withstand the pressure.

In a country that proudly counts plenty of geeks among our population, it’s not a lack of IT know-how that was responsible for Tuesday’s debacle.

The real culprit is the refusal of local retailers to acknowledge what most of their customers figured out a long time ago: online shopping is not only very real, it’s here to stay.

That the industry has resisted that simple fact for so long defies belief. And yet, rather than put up a fight to the affordable prices and speedy delivery offered by overseas stores, our major brands opted for a head-in-the-sand approach.

It’s an arrogant and out-of-touch mentality that has clearly put them at a disadvantage as they now belatedly scramble to catch up with their offshore rivals.

Most Australians have a genuine desire to support our local industry; to protect jobs and preserve the bricks-and-mortar chains that have helped generations of shopaholics happily part ways with their money.

But the retail sector is not a charity and consumers can’t be expected to indefinitely tolerate inflated prices and substandard service out of the goodness of their hearts.

That demand far outweighed supply during Click Frenzy should have come as a surprise to no-one, with a recent survey revealing 37 per cent of people plan to tackle their Christmas shopping online.

You want a frenzy? We’re ready when you are. Do a little research, invest in some decent technology and the shoppers of Australia look forward to you joining us in 2012 very soon.

Comments on this post close at 8pm AEST.

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38 comments

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    • acotrel says:

      06:03am | 22/11/12

      ‘Despite predicting more than one million shoppers would visit the host site during the much-hyped 24-hour event, Click Frenzy fell victim to technological woes within minutes of launching on Tuesday night.’

      Perhaps we should have waited until the National Broadband Network has been rolled out ? Are we trying t o run before we can walk ?

    • L. says:

      07:54am | 22/11/12

      “Perhaps we should have waited until the National Broadband Network has been rolled out ?”

      Why?

      Any organistaion that wants ‘NBN’ levels of bandwidth already has access to it via a host of existing technologies.

    • Super D says:

      07:56am | 22/11/12

      The NBN would have made it worse (marginally) and certainly not better. It’s the slowest point in the chain that slows everything down. In this case the retailers servers weren’t big enough. The NBN would only have delivered the traffic the servers couldn’t handle a little bit faster.

    • andye says:

      08:55am | 22/11/12

      @Super D - Speculating somewhat, but with the NBN we may see cheaper and more varied hosting options by making the bandwidth component cheaper. In fact it may also open up the option for some to host themselves - especially smaller low traffic websites. The NBN will affect the general market in a number of areas, I am sure. This means that making judgements using todays assumptions could be misleading.

    • TheRealDave says:

      09:13am | 22/11/12

      L is correct in that data centres - where websites are actually hosted, already have multi-gigabites of bandwith hooked up to them. The NBN is merely the transport medium. Overloaded websites are a sympton of badly provisioned server infrastructure not being able to handle the load - on the whole.

      This is not an NBN ‘issue’

    • martinX says:

      11:08am | 22/11/12

      The NBN wouldn’t have helped anything. The problem was the hosting servers couldn’t handle it the number of connections. They hadn’t set up sufficient load-balancing servers. These things are already located in Tier 1 massively-fibre-connected locations. I suspect that retailers didn’t pay for decent hosting because they didn’t realise that this web shopfront thing isn’t free (or nearly so).

      Andye: a retailer who self-hosts is as dumb as a defendant who self-defends. Some things need to be left to someone who has a clue.

    • andye says:

      12:38pm | 22/11/12

      @martinX - “Andye: a retailer who self-hosts is as dumb as a defendant who self-defends. Some things need to be left to someone who has a clue.”

      I am not denying you have a solid point there, but I am still predicting it will happen.

    • Mahhrat says:

      06:35am | 22/11/12

      I wonder if the NBN would have helped with this?  Probably not, because the problem wasn’t bandwidth but server load, but it shows how uninformed people can be about technology.

      “Is an admission that you messed up and a subsequent assurance that it won’t happen again really too much to ask?”

      This is a great question in a good article.  I think however that it goes far beyond retailers and is an Australian cultural problem.  Our politicians dodge the blame (on both sides of the house, shut up).  Our sporting heroes dodge the blame.  Our senior corporate and public servants dodge the blame.

      Nobody is at fault for anything - except some poor IT shrub who is probably lining up at Centrelink as we speak.

      I think the thing to fix this country isn’t in the tools or knowledge, but simply in accepting responsibility for the impact we have on our environment.  That goes for businesses as well as people.

    • andye says:

      08:57am | 22/11/12

      @Mahhrat - “Nobody is at fault for anything - except some poor IT shrub who is probably lining up at Centrelink as we speak.”

      That IT shlub was probably the only one that saw the problem coming, told management about it - and was ignored.

    • Jarrod says:

      09:23am | 22/11/12

      Sure of that are you Maharat?  When the site came back up it was on a different IP address (54 subnet instead of 111 subnet).  That looks like bandwidth rather than just server load to me, as if the server crashes you can repair it in its existing location.  The delay in it coming back up is because they changed the DNS record to a different hosting location to bring the site back up, and that takes time to propagate when you change it.

      That said, the NBN wouldn’t have helped with this since one would assume that the site was hosted in a data centre with fibre connections already.  The failure was due to the refusal to embrace modern networking and e-commerce methods.  My company could have done a better job for them and I suspect we’re far from the only one.

    • Tubesteak says:

      07:05am | 22/11/12

      The ability to adapt to changing conditions is what determines survival. Maybe it’ll be a good thing if these dinosaurs go under and they stop sucking resources away from those that can compete

    • tiger says:

      09:23am | 22/11/12

      maybe click frenzy should look at updating its commodore64 server

      aussie retailers have missed the boat by a couple of years with online sales. we got sick of being ripped off by whining “locals”. stop using the buy aussie guilt trip. doesn’t every consumer want value for their hard earned dollar? no fear for canny global shoppers with the huge cyber weekend sales imminent. click frenzy who? pfffft !!!

    • Tork says:

      07:45am | 22/11/12

      My dad jokes book is still up and running.. but I wish I had that sort of problem hehehehe

    • Elphaba says:

      08:26am | 22/11/12

      I’m not sure why people are so enraged.  Anyone who has tried to buy tickets on Ticketek when an in-demand act is coming knows this story all too well.

      I just don’t think they can predict how popular something like this is until it happens.  Everyone’s outrage about it is… weird.

    • steve says:

      11:17am | 22/11/12

      Because these companies been affected server capacity issues for years, and the only reason is because they are too cheap to throw enough hardware at the problem.

    • iansand says:

      08:29am | 22/11/12

      The good news is that, if they do it again, this fiasco means most people won’t bother so next time the servers will be adequate.

      That’s what I call forward planning!!

    • DragonLass says:

      08:48am | 22/11/12

      The most annoying thing about this whole debacle wasn’t even the server issues.  No the main problem was that when finally getting to the discounts, they weren’t even that good.  Most of them were very similar discounts to what you’d find in that retailer’s usual catalogues.  I was expecting more over and above discounts.
      It nowhere NEAR approached the kind of discounting that happens for the US’ cyber monday.

    • Phillb says:

      09:08am | 22/11/12

      This was my experience as well.  Very underwhelming.

    • Kika says:

      09:28am | 22/11/12

      Exactly… what they call a ‘sale’ here is not a sale. I haven’t seen a ‘sale’ from Australian retailers in a long, long time.

    • Ally says:

      09:34am | 22/11/12

      Yeah, the discounts offered by the big retailers were a joke. Hardly anything off crap no one wants. I found the better discounts were to be had with the brands themselves, with a lot of them having storewide discounts of 20-30% plus free shipping.

      But you’re right, in comparison to Cyber Monday it was laughable.

    • St. Michael says:

      11:21am | 22/11/12

      Protip: whenever a retailer in Australia says it’s offering “up to 90% off”, it’s the “up to” part that’s most important, and does not apply to 90% of their stock.

    • patsy says:

      11:36am | 22/11/12

      I went on the Click Frenzy site before the sale to see what shops were participating. Seeing I’m starting to rebuild my music collection I went to WOW HD and they were offering 3 CDs for $40 (none of which I wanted)and 15% off everything else. It seems like a cheap site to buy from anyway so I bought 12 CDs for $79 (if you spend over $60 it’s free shipping). In my OCD alphabetical order I’ve just finished with Alice Cooper and can look forward to the postie comimg every day. And I didn’t go through Click Frenzy I knew they were down. I just went straight to WOW HD.

    • Dennis says:

      08:53am | 22/11/12

      I find quickflix here the same.They were good going back 9 months ago and now hopelessly not up to the task
      Not uncommon to have 400 people ahead in a queue.Really bad if its a new release your after.Better to go to the local video shop instead of waiting weeks or months.Everything in my queue is LONG WAIT or Hi Demand.They used to take off my returned discs the next day.Now its 2 days.They are getting the flick soon.A classic example of not being prepared for hi volume in staff and stock

    • scott says:

      08:54am | 22/11/12

      Why has every journalist not reported on the fact the the operators of Click Frenzy have no scruples.

      I had a look at the site, and my firewall and anti-virus software alerted me of multiple trackers built into the site.  Also, you need to submit personal information when you register for the site which is likely to be sold to third parties.

      Click Frenzy is a data mining exercise.  The deals are no better than what you could have found from equivalent UK/UK imports.

    • Colin says:

      09:42am | 22/11/12

      @ Scott

      Your words will fall on deaf ears, Scott; rampant consumerist greed will never miss out on a ‘bargain’, even if it does mean one more nail in the coffin of personal privacy…

    • Hmmmm says:

      09:49am | 22/11/12

      You forgot about the forged security cert on one of the smaller stores via the Facebook page link.
      Ho Ho Ho.

      Any anyone even suggesting the NBN would have made this better or worse should never talk about the NBN again. Not even remotely applicable to this scenario. They just underscoped the infratructure required to be cheap, thats it.

    • Seano says:

      09:03am | 22/11/12

      The NBN whilst a necessary piece of infrastructure wasn’t the problem. A lack of appropriate infrastructure planning/ performance testing at click frenzy and retailer websites and as the article suggests a disregard for the desire of people to shop online caused the problem. I’m willing to bet from my time in IT though that there was some tech at click frenzy who was saying “I did warn you”.

      My issue with Australian retailers is the way people like Jerry Harvey have pissed and moaned about the online explosion even demanding governments legislate. The people who gouged us for years and are the very first to say “let the market” decide are the first to demand a fixed game when it decides against them.

    • AdamC says:

      09:24am | 22/11/12

      Click Frenzy was a stunt. Going online alone will not save Australian retail. However, I totally agree that participating retailers should sack the people they hired to set up the event and run its PR. Incompetence on all levels. Clearly, the Frenzy organisers would be ideal for ALP preselection.

      Retailers need to set up effective omni-channel models, with stores as showrooms rather than mere product delivery mechanisms (see Nespresso, Louis Vuitton and Apple). Retailers that are not vertically integrated (that is, do not themselves make the products they sell) need to start bringing their cost base down to better compete with online. This means bigger stores, more sales per square metre and more sales per staff member. The alternative is slow decline. 

      Ticket-clipping deals like exclusive distribution and import arrangements are not sustainable in most industries. Direct importation from the source is the future. On the other hand, there is no magic about online sellers. They need warehouses and distribition and sales channels, just like retailers do. And, if prices are competitive, most people will be happy to go to the store and make their purchase there and then, rather than waiting for delivery.

    • Kika says:

      09:56am | 22/11/12

      Again, Australian retailers take us consumers for chumps again.  There were no ‘sales’ and they couldn’t even get their IT together to actually pull it off. What a farce.

    • Me says:

      10:50am | 22/11/12

      I don’t actually want to ‘support’ Aussie retailers anyway.

      The public face for them has always been old money bags Gerry, desperately clutching at the fraying ends of his monopoly and demanding that the Govt step in and make sure no one else is allowed to take my money.

      I don’t even like the people that work in the damn stores. If they’re not too absorbed in a chat amongst themselves, you are often struck by an entirely undeserved messianic complex. Something to do with everyone in this country being just too shit-hot for the job that they’re in or something.

      Being patronised by a guy working a minimum wage job selling vacuum cleaners is pretty bizarre.

    • SAm says:

      11:37am | 22/11/12

      Im feeling the same way these days. A few shops do have some pretty good sales everynow and then, the majority just seem to expect you to walk in, line up and jhand your cash over while they scan and give you something that is overpriced..theres no value gained by someone physically doing this process, and so theres no value in paying more for the ‘convenience’  of the lovely ‘face to face’ contact that quite often does involve rudeness. I find older salespeople worse personally, deadpan looks and arrogant answers. Often you can tell they are the shop owners

    • Esteban says:

      12:38pm | 22/11/12

      Would Harvey norman be even 1% of Australian retail trade?

      There is so much more to Australian retail than harvey Norman. why do so many people fixate on gerry Harvey and portray him as representative of Australian retail.

      I don’t think service is a big problem in smaller owner operated stores but it has been a problem in bigger shops for many years irrespective of online.

      The answer of course is to de regulate the workforce and make sales a more commission based career.

      Why would you expect that there would be good service in Australia if that salesman is going to get the same wage if he patronises you and does not get the sale or if he provides excellent service and gets the sale?

      Commission based renumeration gets you sales professionals who provide excellent service and good value for the store owner.

    • Me says:

      01:34pm | 22/11/12

      Gerry Harvey is the physical personification of all that annoys me about retail.

      The arrogance, the self-righteousness and the wholehearted belief that the contents of my wallet are his monopoly and that I should be prohibited from shopping around.

      It’s a distinctly Australian attitude to customer service. The shopkeepers have it back to front - they seem to be under the impression that they work at the RTA and that we have no choice but to queue for hours.

      Then, when everyone baulks and goes online, they pen a few whinges about how we’re ripping the arse out of ‘Aussie businesses’. From years of being treated poorly by nasty types behind the counter, I am playing for them the world’s smallest violin nowadays.

    • SAm says:

      11:18am | 22/11/12

      Rarely do I throw 100% agreement behind an article, this one I do. Retail hasnt woken up to the internet, and while it continues to percieve the new reality as a threat that can be squashed, they will continue to suffer. Thank you for pointing out that shopping isnt a charity, Im sick of retailers pointing fingers at how we are costing jobs by not shopping in their shops..how many also buy Australian manufactured goods?
      Hyping up a sale (which i didnt even hear about until the next day lol) and not delivering is what we have gotten all too used to, so we take our money where it goes further and is appreciated

    • JamesH says:

      11:38am | 22/11/12

      Aussie retail’s giant “profits” of years past came from downgrading customer service and raising prices.  I quit the industry because even though I was at management level they still cut my hours and pay.  They expect too few staff to do too much and also abandoned all the correct customer service training in favour of solutions like watching 15 minute videos prior to starting your first day, or doing an online exercise.  Standards were sacrificed for profit and now this is coming back to bite them as they whine about being protected and don’t get proactive enough to protect themselves.  The anti-competition, pro-protection stance of many in this country is a huge weight keeping business down.

    • egg says:

      11:44am | 22/11/12

      I feel sorry for the people who registered for this… couldn’t get on the site, when they did the bargains were shite, and now they’re up for years of spamming from all the companies involved.

      The company that set this whole thing up doesn’t care, because they’ve already sold all the email addresses. Someone should sue the buggers.

    • Modern Primitive says:

      12:07pm | 22/11/12

      Every day is click frenzy day on eBay.

    • P. Walker says:

      04:51pm | 22/11/12

      Sales?  If you were after a necessity like Sarah Jessica Parker perfume cut from $89 to $18, then that’s cool. 
      Everyone needs this!
      They must have done a deal with poor Jess to have her 95% royalties voided.

 

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