StorefrontBacktalk.comï¿½, an online retail technology/e-commerce news publication, today announced that it has partnered with half a dozen firms specializing in tracking retail site activity to provide consumers with the most comprehensive view ever of which retail Web sites are functioning normally and which sites they may wish to avoid because of spotty performance. Constant news alerts will be provided, live time, via a special Twitter feed (http://twitter.com/SFBackTalk) through the holiday shopping season.
"Competitive pressure among the largest retailers is intense; this is triply true this year given recession-fueled bargain hunting," said Evan Schuman, StorefrontBacktalk.com's editor. "That will push higher-than-expected traffic, but it may also pressure many merchants to launch features before they're ready. Put it together, and it's an ideal recipe for crashes and other performance problems." Schuman noted that consumers generally learn of these problems only when they unsuccessfully try to make purchases. This year, consumers and retailers can sign up for StorefrontBacktalk's free news alert feed, so they can instantly know which sites are having problems. In this competitive age, some retailers will want to know immediately if a rival is stumbling so they can offer their rival's customers a safe haven.
The crush of online shoppers is expected to grow again this year, from last year's record of 72 million Americans who went online for "Cyber Monday," despite the current economic slowdown. The National Retail Federation estimates that seven percent of all holiday retail sales will take place online, rising almost 17 percent to $204 billion in 2008. Yet the very popularity of retail shopping sites leads to some of them being unable to handle the onslaught of online visitors and crashing, often in the middle of the checkout process when consumers have entered their credit card numbers.
Yahoo's retail shopping service crashed on Cyber Monday last year, affecting 40,000 online merchants and an undetermined number of would-be customers. Even in the off-season, E-Commerce crashes can inconvenience consumers and cost retailers. A British grocery chain lost an estimated $1.5 million per day earlier this year while its online shopping site was down.
The fact that the sites of so many billion-dollar retailers crash, or experience severe slowdowns, each holiday season isn't surprising given the combination of soaring traffic and retailers launching new site capabilities at the same time, according to Schuman. He noted that a critical area of concern this year will be the expanded use of mobile sites and widgets connecting these sites to social networking destinations such as MySpace and Facebook. Both could contribute to significant performance problems, he said.
StorefrontBacktalk.com and many of the top global players tracking retail site traffic, including Gomez, Keynote, Pingdom, Sitemorse, Hitwise and Brulant, will deliver alerts along with full-length stories, columns and analysis on the outages, with an emphasis on why the problems are happening. StorefrontBacktalk.com will also host a series of podcasts, analyzing the outages, discussing trends and offering advice to shoppers.
"Delivering a quality Web experience will be harder this season, since many sites won't be optimized for the variety of browsers and browser technologies that have emerged this year," said Matt Poepsel, vice president of performance strategies at Gomez Inc., a leading provider of Web application experience management services. "We're expecting an increase in browser-related problems, in addition to the more common 'plumbing' issues that have plagued some retailers. We'll be tracking both closely with the attention to detail StorefrontBacktalk's readers and listeners expect."
"Keynote's analytically based approach helps us to not only identify performance glitches, and from what geographies they are occurring with pinpoint accuracy, but to also gain deep insight into what may be causing the performance problems," said Daniel C. Berkowitz, senior director of corporate communications at Keynote. "StorefrontBacktalk takes a similar approach, looking for the connections and the context to what most media see as an isolated site crash. If we thought this would be little more than a tickertape of ï¿½Who crashed today,' we wouldn't be doing it."
StorefrontBacktalk.comï¿½ (www.storefrontbacktalk.com) is an editorial site that tracks retail technology, E-Commerce and security issues for about 50,000 newsletter subscribers who are senior IT execs for the world's largest retail chains and consumer goods manufacturers. StorefrontBacktalk is a registered trademark of The Content Firm LLC.