Click Frenzy failure maintains the status quo

Before we delve into the Click Frenzy crash, let’s just remember this: The Australian retail industry has been campaigning against international online shopping for several months. In some cases, executives have said it’s un-Australian to buy overseas, and that offshore websites are unfairly targeting Aussie customers.

Are we all on the same wavelength? Good.

Can we just take a step back for a minute and look at how crazy this all is? Nearly 200 retailers spent more than $1 million on a website that was meant to represent a local alternative to Cyber Monday, something that has grown organically among American retailers.

The website crashed.

Copying Cyber Monday isn’t really a problem. Australian retailers have to compete in a global marketplace, and creating an event like this is a fine way to get companies involved.

But the fact the site went down for hours represents what every online shopper in Australia already knows: Australian online retail simply isn’t ready.

Two weeks ago, David Jones relaunched its online store. It’s actually a decent example of online retailing, with plenty of ways to shop and browse, and lots of high-quality photography. But plenty of people have asked the same question: Where was this site several years ago?

I bring this tired point up again only to emphasise that Australian retailers are woefully behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to online retailing. Click Frenzy is only the latest evidence in just how far behind we are.

How do we know this? Behind every crashed retail site is overwhelming demand. Guess what? As it turns out, Australians actually want to spend more money on local retailers. Every study on the subject has found that to be the case. At 7pm on Tuesday, hundreds of thousands, possibly even more than one million, Australians clicked went to the site.

And that doesn’t even count the thousands who went to David Jones’ alternative sale. Which…also crashed.

Getting the picture?

Clearly individual retailers are not to blame in this particular case. In fact, they should be applauded for taking part in a celebration of digital retail. Shops like Appliances Online managed to stay online during the entire debacle, and the dozens of other companies involved had the right idea. They want to offer their products online and provide some competition. It was a good plan.

To be perfectly fair, many retailers say they got a spike in traffic once things started working.

Click Frenzy had a good idea. It spent a considerable amount of time and money pushing that idea as well. Between one and two million shoppers is once again, a sign that Aussies are digital shoppers. It just simply couldn’t live up to the hype – and that’s a big deal. When you’re touting something as the biggest cyber-shopping event in the country, then you better get the basics right.

So let’s consider what happens next. The same forces calling for a GST increase on online sales are going to continue calling for that increase, while at the same time they ignore the key problems – the websites just aren’t ready for it yet.

The individual businesses here may have done a good job, but it doesn’t change the fact that in the eyes of Australians, this further cements the idea that going overseas for shopping is a good idea.

Click Frenzy may have had the right plan, and it may have even done a great job in promoting it. But this technical failure is magnified because of the publicity. And that means Australian online retail has taken a blow to its reputation.

So while the Australian retail industry may continue to complain about shoppers heading overseas, let’s keep this in mind: screw-ups like this don’t help anyone.


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