Retail executives expect about half their overall sales to come from digital during the Black Friday to Cyber Monday weekend, according to a survey of more than 200 U.S. retail executives conducted by The Harris Poll for Google Cloud. Of that traffic, respondents expect 26% to come from websites and 22% from apps.
To prepare for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, 81% of respondents make sure their technology infrastructure is ready for the increased traffic of the season. But 24% of those surveyed reported not having a plan in place if their websites go down during this period, and 40% of executives said they've experienced an outage in the past three years.
Retailers have prepared for the shopping weekend by increasing cloud capacity (66%), offering added fulfillment options (61%), or spacing offers and promotions to balance traffic (53%).
As online shopping has gained popularity, particularly during the holiday season, retailers have struggled to determine how best to prepare their technology to keep up with demand.
Black Friday outages have plagued major retailers over the years: J.Crew experienced technical difficulties last year, and in 2017 Macy's had glitches on Black Friday and H&M's website experienced a full outage on Thanksgiving Day.
Home improvement retailer Lowe's experienced outages in 2017 and in 2018, and CEO Marvin Ellison told analysts last week on an earnings call that the retailer is "working diligently to improve the foundation of Lowe's.com ... This work is critical to improve the stability of our ecosystem and increase our agility."
Nearly half (46%) of the retail executives in the Google Cloud survey anticipate online traffic this Black Friday and Cyber Monday will be "significantly higher" this year compared to last.
"With longer campaigns comes even more uncertainty around when shopping 'peaks' are expected to hit," wrote Carrie Tharp, vice president of retail and consumer for Google Cloud. "Retailers must be ready to scale at any moment, since product popularity and viral success could happen at any time."
Server scalability issues have previously been blamed for Amazon's Prime Day 2018 outage. A report from digital experience monitoring company Catchpoint last year highlighted a few other culprits that can bring down a web experience: slow third-party apps, poor-performing APIs, overweight web pages and retailers failing to monitor regional performance.
Retailers who aren't anticipating online congestion this year could struggle to earn customer loyalty. In a previous survey sponsored by Google, 91% of consumers said they had left a website because it was too slow and 30% said they would "think twice" before shopping with that retailer again.