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Are retailers doomed for more outages this holiday season?

Are retailers doomed for more outages this holiday season?

Author: Caroline Jansen 

Source: Retail Dive 

In June, Target experienced two unrelated tech issues, which caused customers to experience trouble checking out for nearly two hours on a Saturday and unable to make payments for about 90 minutes the following day. The outages that weekend reportedly could have cost the retailer $100 million in sales.

According to a recent LogicMonitor study, 96% of global IT decision makers have experienced at least one outage in the last three years. The same respondents said that over half of outages and brownouts are avoidable. Additionally, 68% of respondents that work in retail said they believe they will experience a brownout or outage "so severe that it would make national media coverage."

"IT availability has become one of the business world's most valuable commodities, but also the most difficult to maintain," Gadi Oren, vice president of technology evangelism at LogicMonitor, said in a statement. "A single IT outage can have huge negative business impacts including lost revenue and compliance failure, as well as decreased customer satisfaction and a tarnished brand reputation." Monitoring the infrastructure is key to identify any warning signs that an outage may occur, he added.

Although Black Friday is just under two months away, implementing a contingency plan for a potential outage may help prevent a company from losing major sales opportunities. Last Black Friday, J. Crew, Walmart, Lowe's, Ulta and Lululemon all experienced glitches or crashes of some sort.

The discussion forum on RetailWire asked its BrainTrust panel of retail experts the following questions:

  • What do you see as the most common reasons for IT outages and brownouts within retail and consumer-direct brand organizations? 

  • How can these incidents be avoided?

Here are eight of the most insightful comments from the discussion. Comments have been edited by Retail Dive for length and clarity.

1. Capacity issues may hinder some retailers come Black Friday

Neil Saunders, Managing Director, GlobalData Retail: One of the issues for some retailers is the fact that systems are, in fact, a patchwork of different technologies and functions added over time. As the demand put on them increases they occasionally fall over. For others, it can be about capacity – which is why a lot of retailers have failures at peak times such as Black Friday.

2. Lack of quality control is the culprit

Paula Rosenblum, Managing Partner, RSR Research: All the reasons listed are the symptoms, but the cause is definitely lack of quality control. It's rare that I find a CIO who understands the nuts and bolts of "keeping the lights on" because everyone has become enamored with the need for speed, failing fast, and other ways to race to keep up with the business.

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