2010 Holiday Shopping Results

We’ve wrapped up the final analysis of our e-commerce results for the 2010 holiday season, which we started prior to the unofficial “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” kickoffs.

Looking at the rest of the holiday season, we see a few key items. First, the major online retailers, such as Amazon, Target, Zappos and Walmart performed flawlessly throughout the season – for these and a number of others every one of our more than 60,000 checks was successful, which means that their customers were able to reach the site with no problems. Another 75 of the 130 sites we monitored had similar results.

Our initial monitoring found several sites that had major problems during the first week of the holiday season, including The North Face (86 outages, 446 minutes of downtime), Express (52 outages, 348 minutes of downtime) and JCPenney (53 outages, 248 minutes of downtime). Fortunately for all of these sites, the rest of the holiday season went much better. After Cyber Monday, The North Face and JCPenney both had no outages and a perfect 100% availability, while Express had a single four minute outage. These are big improvements from their first week, and suggest that while their IT teams might have underestimated the demands that would be put on their sites, they were able to react and bring in sufficient resources to handle the load.

Other sites were not as fortunate. Levenger and Frys both had serious problems in the first week (508 and 313 minutes of downtime, respectively) that continued through the week of Christmas. Fortunately for both, things have improved since Christmas and they’re both nearing 100% availability for the past three weeks.

Finally, there were a few sites that had solid performance during the initial crunch after Thanksgiving that later stumbled. In particular, OfficeDepot had multiple outages of more than an hour in the two weeks leading up to Christmas and Guess’s site experienced 46 separate outages for a total 0f 310 minutes of downtime.

Given the growing shift of consumers to online purchases and the extreme importance of end-of-year sales to the bottom line of retailers, it’s clear that the availability and performance of their websites during the holiday season is of critical importance. The growing complexity of websites combined with the uncertainty of of predicting traffic levels and demand makes it all the more impressive that so many sites performed as well as they did during this holiday season. And for those that ran into trouble, they’ve hopefully learned from their pain and will be better equipped for next year.