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Black Friday online rush overloads sites

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Takealot made more than R11.5 million within the first hours of Black Friday this morning, despite technical difficulties.
Takealot made more than R11.5 million within the first hours of Black Friday this morning, despite technical difficulties.

Thousands of South Africans stayed up until midnight last night to be first in the virtual line to score a Black Friday deal. Unfortunately, some sites could not handle the load and experienced downtime and payment difficulties.

It was reported that Makro Online and Superbalist suffered downtime this morning, and Takeloat and Superbalist customers had trouble when they tried to pay using a credit card.

Frustrated customers took to Twitter in the early hours of this morning to find out what was going on with the sites.

Stephanie tweeted at 1am: "@TAKEALOT is your payment portal down? Trying to pay for my Black Friday deal and it keeps giving issues..."

Another user with the handle "ur favourite banker" tweeted: "@TAKEALOT so at midnight I'm guessing your servers were down or something and as a result I made a payment twice for the same order. How do I go about getting a refund? Or should I go to my bank?"

It was not only the payments portal that seemed to be giving trouble, but the site and app too.

Des Moore tweeted: "Um... And the app is down already lol #Takealot."

The problems persisted intermittently. At a more reasonable hour in the morning, when most of South Africa had woken up, Ettienne tweeted: "Does anyone else also experience #TakeAlot site down since just after 08h20 today?"

Kate Mollett, regional manager for Veeam SA, says: "South African e-tailers are once again experiencing downtime during this peak shopping period, leaving shoppers frustrated and disappointed. Hyper-availability has become an absolute necessity. If a site is not available when a customer wants to make a purchase, chances are he or she will simply move on to the next one."

She says this is the third consecutive year Takealot has had issues with its site.

"Takealot assured shoppers earlier this month that there will be no repeat of last year's downtime and outlined the investments it has made in its systems. Shoppers do not care about things such as load-balancing servers or uptime percentages; they care about a seamless experience from browsing and ordering right through to fulfilment. They need the confidence and trust that an online retailer's system will always work as expected."

Mollett says Veeam research shows unplanned downtime costs organisations an average of R270 million annually.

"Downtime and data loss now see enterprises face public scrutiny in ways that cannot be measured by a balance sheet alone. Our research found that almost half of enterprises see a loss of customer confidence, and 40% experience damage to brand integrity, which affects both brand reputation and customer retention."

Takealot says intermittent technical issues with its credit card payment provider resulted in some customers experiencing difficulties with credit card transactions.

It says it will deactivate its credit card payment gateway when necessary until its payment provider has fully restored its service.

"Customers are encouraged to make use of alternative payment methods, including EFT via iPay and Payfast, among others."

Luke Jedeikin, co-CEO of Superbalist, says: "Our scaling preparations across all of our platforms ensured the site remained online and performed well under the extensive initial load. We only experienced partial downtime after midnight, with full site stability returning by 12.40."

However, he says: "It is very unfortunate that our credit card payment provider has let us down badly, causing numerous payment issues for our customers. We are encouraging our customers to make use of alternate payment methods, such as cash on delivery and EFT, among others."

Massive money

Despite difficulties with its payments portal, Takealot saw a record number of visitors to its site this morning. The company generated more than R11.5 million worth of transactions in the first hour alone and surpassed the total value of transactions generated last year by 08:30am (R87 million gross merchandising value).

Search engine giant Google revealed the term Black Friday dominated search terms in the past week.

"'Black Friday 2018 deals' and 'Black Friday specials at Game 2018' generated more than 150 000 search queries on Monday as South Africans searched for bargains ahead of the Christmas holidays," the company says in a statement.

"As Makro's Black Friday specials went online, South Africans broke the Internet, crashing the Makro Web site due to high traffic volumes. 'Makro Online' generated more than 5 000 searches on Wednesday, tying with 'Telkom Black Friday', 'Pick n Pay Black Friday Specials' and 'Makro Black Friday Catalogue 2018'."

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