This September, a mere 30 customers waited online outside London’s flagship Apple store for the iPhone launch. Meanwhile, across the world, the Chinese Apple website crashed because of the sheer number of online shoppers. There’s no doubt about it: The days of consumers waiting outside stores and fighting over products are numbered. Retail is moving online.
Last holiday season, in fact, Queue-it tracked 1.57 billion online visitors across 95 global retail clients, and saw a 207 percent increase in traffic from 2019. E-commerce grew 32 percent year-over-year during the 2020 holiday season, and is forecast to grow another 11 percent to 15 percent in 2021.
Website Crashes: The Enemy of E-Commerce Success
The e-commerce boom isn’t as simple as retailers just selling more products, however. The shift to online brings with it new challenges. This holiday season, 70 percent of retail marketers reported that they were concerned about technical issues — and with good reason.
The next few months are the most important time of the year for retailers. But it’s also when they’re most vulnerable to traffic-related website and app crashes. A massive 88 percent of enterprises reported downtime costs exceeding $300,000 per hour. What’s more, 65 percent of consumers trust a brand less when they experience problems with its website or app.
Old Tactics, New Solutions
A new retail landscape requires new retail solutions. However, the secret to keeping your website online has actually been around for decades. It’s been a part of sales since before the internet even existed. It’s the humble line.
Let me explain.
Imagine it’s Black Friday. You open your doors and 100,000 customers rush into your store at once. Now imagine almost half of these customers are robots designed to be faster than your human customers. You look around and the shelves are already empty. Your staff are trying to serve 2,000 customers every minute and can’t keep up. New customers keep flooding in.
And then suddenly — the building collapses.
It may sound dramatic, but this is what happens online to retailers every holiday season.
Websites, just like physical stores, don’t scale infinitely. Payment gateways, just like cashiers, have limits on concurrent transactions. Shopping bots have huge advantages over real e-commerce shoppers. And when all of this gets too much for a website, it crashes.
For brick-and-mortar stores, lines have always been the answer to the problem of shopping chaos. Lines create order, put retailers in control, build excitement, and ensure consumers get a fair chance at buying their products. But for many retailers, online shopping remains a free-for-all.
That’s why the digital line — the virtual waiting room — is fast becoming an essential part of every major retailer’s holiday season arsenal.
What's a Virtual Waiting Room?
A virtual waiting room gives businesses control during high-demand sales periods like Black Friday and limited-supply releases like sneaker drops and makeup launches. When online visitors exceed capacity, they’re redirected to a customizable waiting room and then throttled back to the website or app in a controlled first-come, first-served order.
Virtual waiting rooms work behind the scenes to keep the lights on for some of the biggest websites in the world. Each year, more major retailers are using virtual waiting rooms to do the following:
- Take back control by selling at max capacity without crashing.
- Improve customer experience and protect brand reputation by preventing website crashes and slowdowns.
- Tap into social proof by showing customers retail products are in high demand.
- Create online fairness by fairly allocating limited-inventory products and blocking online shopping bots.
The holiday shopping season is moving online fast. Is your business prepared? Find out with the free Black Friday guide from Queue-it.
Niels Henrik Sodemann is the CEO and co-founder of Queue-it, the world’s leading provider of virtual waiting rooms.
Niels Henrik Sodemann has been CEO and co-founder of Queue-it since its inception in 2010. Prior to Queue-it, he had a track record of growing software companies from a small team to 100+ employee exit. Before his entry into the IT and website performance fields, Niels was a professional yachtsman, holding several championship titles. In his spare time, Niels is still a sportsman at heart and enjoys yachting, skiing, ice hockey and running.