Click Frenzy: the sale that failed

Australia's answer to "Cyber Monday" fails on all counts as websites buckle and prices fizzle.

Seamus Byrne Editor, Australia & Asia
Seamus Byrne is CNET's Editor for Australia and Asia. At other times he'll be found messing with apps, watching TV, building LEGO, and rolling dice. Preferably all at the same time.
Seamus Byrne
2 min read

commentary Australia's answer to "Cyber Monday" fails on all counts as websites buckle and prices fizzle.

Before the sale began, all we could do was hope for the best. We had our fears, but without more information, we had no sense of what the reality would deliver. Click Frenzy was a marketing concept to draw hordes of Australian shoppers toward Australian online shopping destinations. To keep Australian dollars on Australian shores.

The widespread appetite for bargains in the build-up to the event was, however, quickly replaced with a frenzy of frustration as Click Frenzy and related online stores buckled under the weight of visitors. The main site and many associated online stores were crippled for upwards of four hours, with even experienced online stores such as Kogan showing signs of stress. Click Frenzy had definitely drawn a crowd, but getting customers to turn up isn't the important part. You have to offer them something of value, as well.

While the technological failures are grabbing the headlines, it is the deals themselves that seemed most disappointing. While few details were released prior to launch, exploring participating sites showed little to suggest that we were witness to a sale of unprecedented proportions.

Every day is a sale in the current retail climate. Here we saw generic discounting on big-ticket items, plus deep discounting on cheap products of far lesser interest. Much like business as usual.

The traffic to Click Frenzy shows how eager customers are to track down a great deal. But the best deals we spotted overnight were those on sites like Catch of the Day and Peter's of Kensington; sites that were not participating in Click Frenzy. They were just getting on with being clever online retailers while offering a few sweeteners and special offer codes to maintain their edge over some loud competitors.

How can our major offline retailers fail to beat the typical deals available on specialist retailer websites even for a single day?

What seems to have been missing from all facets of this concept was research. Research to build a scalable solution when the inevitable traffic spike came. Research to understand what online shoppers want from an online sale experience. And the ability for shoppers to research deals before the event in order to seek out marquee bargains in the hope of targeting the greatest deals.

Retailers, do your research. Take a look at how it works this weekend in the US across the real "Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday", then come back next year with some real ammunition. Don't play at being unified in your sales. Offer $2 washing machines or $5 TVs. No one expects to win them all, but shoppers do expect a few killer deals to be up for grabs.

This year, we've only seen a mediocre sale collapse, because shoppers were desperately hoping for something better. Let's hope we all get a better chance next year.