Click Frenzy, an online sales event aimed at reinvigorating the Australian retail sector, has transpired as a major fail in the public sphere, and some observers fear that it will turn Australians off the local online retailing scene for good.
Retailers banded together to participate in Click Frenzy, a 24-hour event where shoppers can snag one-off deals on items ranging from perfume to cameras through the aggregate website. But in what has now been dubbed as "Click Frenzy fail," the website was down for several hours as soon as it was launched last night, as online shoppers fervently logged on to nab a bargain.
On top of that, ZDNet has been alerted to a security slip by Click Frenzy, which meant that the username, password, and IP address for the website's back-end database were all exposed for several hours.
Compuware Solution sales director for Application Performance Management Rafi Katanasho told ZDNet that although it is too early to tell, Australia may have blown its chances at raising its e-retail profile, and that the bad experience may lead Australian customers to only purchase online from overseas.
"I'm sure that they would much rather do the business with Australian retailers, but the reality is, is that if Australian retailers aren't living up to the expectation of these consumers, they will go elsewhere," he said. "Whether that's the deal type, the discount level, whether it's their experience with their employment, they'll go elsewhere."
Katanasho said that retailers need to quickly pick themselves up, or else miss the boat — if it even sails again.
"If there's one thing they could learn from last night, their appetite for doing, for buying stuff online, is very high in Australia," Katanasho said.
According to UltraServe, the event organisers expected just 1 million users to visit the site over the 24-hour period. Traffic peaked at 2 million simultaneous hits at 7 p.m. AEDST last night, when the sale was launched. Around one third of traffic came through from mobile devices.
"But we were getting millions of requests in the first few minutes," UltraServe CEO Samuel Yates told ZDNet. Traffic was four times greater than the expected volume.
Click Frenzy has been receiving a wave of negative press coverage due to the outage. Harvey Norman was relieved that it opted out of Click Frenzy.
The company held its own competing online sale, called Santa Day, and despite experiencing a 15-minute website crash early on, it has been smooth sailing since.
"Of course we're glad we weren't part of it," Harvey Norman executive director David Ackery told ZDNet. "The press has not been good, and the reports have been quite scathing."
Akamai Australia country manager Ian Teague was more optimistic. His company is familiar with web traffic woes, since it delivers content for major online retailers in the US during Cyber Monday, a sale event similar to Click Frenzy.
"It was a great idea, and there was just a little issue with execution," Teague told ZDNet. "I think events like Click Frenzy will continue, and I think it's great for e-retailers.
"Hopefully people will learn the lessons of what happened yesterday and prepare themselves to meet these very large crowds."
But apparently all the bad press has done wonders for Click Frenzy. Yates said that traffic to the site has not tapered off, and has, in fact, increased as the sale rolls on.
"Today, we have seen even more traffic come through, most likely from the coverage the failure has been getting," he said. "We never intended to impact customers, but the response now is better due to the failure at the beginning of the event.
"I got up at 5 a.m. [AEDST] this morning, and there were 20,000 concurrent users transacting on the site."
The Click Frenzy website has since been fixed, although some sites of participating retailers were still down as of this morning.
UltraServe responded to the Click Frenzy outage swiftly, scaling out capacity and utilising the team of engineers on standby, according to Yates. Additional capacity was put in place just after 9:30 p.m. AEDST last night.
Retailers involved with Click Frenzy don't seem to be too upset with the online snafu.
"Overall, we're pleased with the amount of traffic we received as a result of the Click Frenzy sale," Dick Smith head of multi-channel Michael Dykes said in a statement. "Over the course of the night, we received 175,000 visitors to the website, with most clicks coming through from Google."
Dick Smith said it may consider running similar activity in the future.
Michael Lee contributed to this article.