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E-commerce sites run stress tests to prevent Black Friday downtime

Read time 4min 20sec

Local e-commerce retailers have put intensive system readiness measures in place to prevent any downtime woes this Black Friday / Cyber Monday.

With scores of local shoppers expected to avoid malls and opt for online shopping due to COVID-19 fears, this year’s Black Friday season is expected to be the biggest yet.

SA’s e-commerce sector has been reporting a dramatic uptick in sales since government lifted the lockdown restrictions on online shopping in May.

While consumer sentiment and spending patterns continue to reflect the economic downturn due to the effects of the COVID-19crisis, with spending shifting to more essential items, industry pundits believe e-commerce players and retailers with a strong online presence will be the big winners during the Black Friday period, which starts on Friday, 27 November.

However, the Black Friday surge in shopping demand often puts pressure on online retailers’ infrastructure, with big brands such as Amazon and Makro having suffered reputational damage when their Web sites had technical glitches in the past.

Local retailersBidorbuy, Loot, Game, Makro and Puma say in anticipation of a larger than usual Black Friday, they have been conducting intensive stress test simulation processes on their infrastructure to avoid any unforeseen disasters this Black Friday.

Brian Leroni, senior VP for group corporate affairs at Massmart, which owns Game and Makro, among other retailers, says the two retailers expect a continuation of the current surge in online shopping trends.

“We continue to invest in Black Friday online development and support, and have continuously improved the stability and accessibility of our online offering. This includes establishing a war room to ensure 24-hour real-time monitoring of online traffic and performance,” he explains.

Makro and Game have extended their Black Friday promotions, which run from now until 28 November, and introduce new deals each week over a four-week period, notes Leroni.

In terms of the types of goods consumers will be buying most, the companies say they expect good momentum on electronics and large appliances.

New habit

As the lockdown leads to major shifts in consumer shopping, industry pundits say this is expected to drive a permanent uptick in SA’s online shopping trends, expected to witness a growth rate of 41%.

Loot.co.za, which introduced its Black Friday campaign today, says over the last few months, it has seen an uptick in the number of new shoppers on the site. As a result, it is “ready” for a surge in demand.

“During the 2019 Black Friday period, Loot experienced double-digit growth over the previous period and therefore we are predicting a bumper season this year,” says Greg Le Roux, CEO of Loot.co.za.

“Our developers have built a stable Web site and have done threshold testing to ensure we will be able to cope with the increase in traffic. Right now we do not foresee technical glitches.”

Most of the new customers who shopped on the e-tailer’s platform will not return to their traditional methods of shopping, “certainly not during the crazy period of Black Friday and festive, with overcrowded shops during a global medical pandemic,” Le Roux adds.

Bidorbuy CEO Craig Lubbe says the online auction and marketplace’s deals will be introduced on 23 November and will continue for the week until 29 November.

Ongoing consumer wariness about being in public spaces, plus the perceived safety of online shopping, has been a major growth driver for e-commerce sites.

“It has also led to increased familiarity – shopping online has become normalised behaviour for many more consumers. This shift in purchasing habits is likely to endure beyond the lifting of lockdown restrictions,” notes Lubbe.

“Our e-commerce applications and infrastructure have been designed to cope with dramatic spikes in traffic and demand. To date, we have not experienced downtime during these exceptionally busy shopping days but it is incredible to see the number of shoppers and businesses trading with each other.”

Athletic and casual footwear apparel retailer PUMA, which introduced its e-commerce store in December 2019, says since the onset of SA’s COVID-19 lockdown period, it has seen online sales achieving 80% growth – an achievement expected to be sustained over the PUMA Black Week Campaign period, from 23 November to 29 November.

“There is less spending power in the marketplace since COVID, but at the same time, more shoppers have shifted to online due to COVID lockdowns and for safety or comfort reasons,” notes Charles Patterson, PUMA senior team head for retail.

“Our development team has scheduled a stress test simulation in line with global PUMA standards, which will test average site traffic tenfold to ensure we are prepared for a surge.”

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