Now your shop can flop on the street AND on the net!
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.
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.
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