Avoid losing customers during critical web promotions

Today a friend Tweeted about a new promotion for FabFind.com. This site’s business model seems very similar to TeamSave or Groupon. A business puts on a promotion and if x number of people buy it, it’s a go.

There deal today… an iPad for $10! Yes that’s a pretty sweet deal.

They’re promoting it on Twitter, on there website and other promotional avenues. Problem is, the promotion seems too popular for the web server. I constantly get “Service unavailable” messages.

It’s always good with a promotion goes well, but if you can’t handle the traffic, it can go bad VERY quickly. Obviously, the promotion is to get site recognition and drive traffic to the site. This in turn will attract customers to buy and businesses to use the site. But what kind of message does this send to potential customers and businesses?

I think it could end up to be a turning point for a company that amounts to the “beginning of the end”. Here’s my breakdown: A lot of money spent on the iPads. Money spent on promotion it via multiple channels. Money spent on “emergency” bandwidth and server resources to cope with the demand. All this could be avoided.

Possible solutions:
Here’s some possible fixes to avoid the issue, and cope if it’s unavoidable.

  • Have a lot of additional band width and resources. Use the cloud (Amazon S3 etc) if necessary.
  • Test the system for a load about 3 times as expected and see how it behaves. See how quick new resources can be brought online.
  • Make sure you can error messages that inform visitors what’s happening

Conclusion
I think it’s great FabFind got such a great response to a promotion. It’s disappointing that it seems they didn’t completely test or think think of worst case scenarios.

UPDATE: 12:04PM EST

They have updated their error message to:

“$10 iPads … whoah. We were expecting crazy, but not this crazy. Due to the unprecedented level of traffic, George is taking a few mintues out to build a few more servers before we start putting the iPads up for sale. We’ll be announcing on Twitter and Facebook when they’re ready.
Yes, we really are going to sell $10 iPads today.
Thanks for all the interest! We’re stunned.
Stay Fab,
Your Friendly FabFinders”

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