Digital snafus plague retailers on Black Friday weekend

Technical difficulties at J. Crew and Lowe’s Companies kept IT and marketing teams busy on one of the most important shopping weekends of the year, especially as frustrated shoppers took to social media to complain about their experiences.

Lowe’s announced Friday afternoon via social media that its website was “down for maintenance.” These outages continued throughout the weekend, including on Cyber Monday, Nov. 26, according to the company’s Twitter feed.

Lowe’s tweeted at 1:58 pm on Nov. 23, “We apologize our website is down for maintenance. It will be available soon. If you need assistance with an order, please contact Lowe’s Customer Care at 1-800-445-6937 (Monday – Saturday, 7:00 a.m. – 2:00 a.m. Sunday 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.)”

Once the site was restored, the company followed up with a tweet that blamed increased customer traffic due to “our great Black Friday deals” for causing intermittent outages. It also said teams were “working diligently to restore the website to full functionality.”

When Cyber Monday shoppers didn’t fare much better, Lowe’s sent out a similar tweet, this time blaming outages on the high volume of customer traffic taking advantage “of our great Cyber Monday deals.”

Despite the updates, unhappy holiday shoppers fired back on Twitter.

For example, @nycjokerUS tweeted “@Lowes When do you expect to resolve Internal Server Error (500) on your website? Unable to access purchase history and track orders. Looks like the main page and placing orders issues were resolved on Black Friday. #outage”

J. Crew also suffered a technical snafu on Friday, one that kept shoppers from signing into the site and completing orders, according to CNBC. The specialty retailer also kept shoppers abreast via Twitter, posting “Happy Black Friday! Due to high demand, we’re experiencing some technical difficulties with our site right now. Apologies to anyone having a problem…we’re working to fix it ASAP!

The glitch continued well into the evening, according to a Facebook post at 9:40 pm, that said, “ Hi everyone -- we're working as quickly as possible to resolve any glitches that have arisen from the overwhelming response to our Black Friday sale -- which will continue tomorrow. We'll share updates here! Hope everyone is having a great Thanksgiving weekend.”

Frustrated J. Crew shoppers, including Bong Concepcion, called out the retailer, posting, “The website has been acting up in the past four weeks and is sputtering on the most important shopping day of the year! Time to make some changes in the IT Department.”

Lauren Parker concurred, posting, “Eventually my order submitted late afternoon. Shameful to address at 9:40 pm when issues commenced in the morning. In the time they randomly replied to comments they would have better served their clients by being proactive and transparent with the issues with their website and server.”

Jim Small reminded J. Crew that “This also happened in 2017, time to upgrade your website please!”

The company took the outage in stride, sharing the following Facebook post on Nov. 24, at 10:02 am: “We are so humbled (and obviously somewhat overwhelmed) that our site traffic for this year’s Black Friday sale was far beyond anything we could have anticipated. Our team spent the day doing its best to keep the site accessible for as many of you as possible, but we know that some of you are experiencing technical issues due to the unprecedented response this year. We’re determined to make it right: You're invited to shop our Black Friday sale at 50% off here: all the way through Sunday! Thank you for your continued support and happy shopping. #jcrewalways “

“Avoiding unplanned downtime should always be top of mind for any business, but it’s especially important for retailers as they approach the high-pressure holiday shopping season,” said Rob Strechay, senior VP product, Zerto, a provider of disaster recovery and business continuity software.

"Every minute of downtime can equate to tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue on a normal day. We all know this is much higher during the holiday shopping season,” he said. “These kinds of numbers can make or break a quarter, if not an entire brand. Many retailers are overlooking that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.”

Amazon suffered its own technical snafu on Wednesday that exposed some customers’ names and emails.
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