Black Friday & Cyber Monday 2021 will crash your website – unless you follow these 4 tips

by Ned Hallett
Published on November 2021

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…for ecommerce sites.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday (the full five-day period known as the Cyber Five) are fast approaching.

And so, unfortunately, are a number of very costly website crashes and outages…

What is Black Friday?

Black Friday is an online (and offline) shopping event in which retailers apply massive discounts.

Technically, Black Friday will fall on the 26th of November in 2021, but many retailers will start the Black Friday deals earlier.

What is Cyber Monday?

Same deal (pardon the pun) except Cyber Monday, which will fall on the 29th of November this year, focusses on online bargains and savings. 

Why do Black Friday and Cyber Monday cause website crashes?

Quite simply, it’s  the sheer amount of traffic.

In 2020, Cyber Monday garnered an astonishing 10.8 billion dollars, making it the largest e-commerce event in US history.

And although the pandemic doubtless played a part, the trend seems to be toward online shopping, with one study showing footfall to brick and mortar stores falling 49% between 2019 and 2020.

However,  this sudden leap in users can be more than some sites are built to handle, with 50 global brands experiencing downtime during Black Friday 2020 alone.

What’s the impact of website crashes over the Cyber Five?

With the average cost of downtime sitting around $5600 a minute, and that number rising to as high as $83,000 for many enterprises, we wouldn’t want to calculate what 5, 10 or even 15 minutes of downtime could mean at the busiest time of year.

Suffice it to say some retailers’ losses over the Black Friday period have been estimated in the millions.

The question is, what can you do to avoid being just another Cyber Five statistic?

How to stop your website crashing on Black Friday and Cyber Monday?

CDN (Content delivery network)

A CDN (Content Delivery Network) is a network of servers placed across the globe. They serve static content like images from whichever node is closest to the user, cutting down on latency and taking the pressure off elsewhere.

CDNs are used by the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Facebook to improve user experience and guard against crashes in the event of a traffic surge.

Scalable infrastructure 

While most online retailers will be using some form of cloud infrastructure, saying all are equally scalable would be a bit of a stretch…

Serverless computing is an increasingly popular way of gaining extra scalability, but there are many other solution architecture decisions that can add up to a more robustly scalable site.  

Other cloud-native practices can be equally useful, and refactoring your application to a cloud-native design could make scaling issues a thing of the past.

Stress testing

We’re big fans of stress testing here at Just After Midnight, as it’s one of the best ways to sure yourself up against nasty surprises.

A stress test means simulating traffic to your website until it either fails, or until the performance drops below an acceptable level. 

This is important not only so you can test your site against predicted conditions, but because you can see how it will react when it fails, which means better disaster recovery.

Host service level agreement (SLA)

An SLA basically details how long your hosting provider has to respond in the event that your site goes down.

It might be worth having a chat with your provider to see if you can improve your SLA over busy periods like the Cyber Five. Click here to see our SLA packages.

24/7 full-stack support 

A full-stack support provider – like yours truly – can cover your entire stack, from the e-commerce application layer to the infra and any third-party integrations.

And you can sleep a lot more soundly covered by an SLA from a dedicated support partner than your average host – for obvious reasons.

Find out more about how our pioneering full-stack support can prevent website crashes.

Brands hit hard by website crashes on Black Friday and Cyber Monday 

John Lewis

The major UK retailer and department store was overwhelmed by demand during Black Friday 2018, displaying the message “Sorry about the wait, please try again soon.” 

Allegedly, they were a few technical tests short of an exam, and shoppers took to social media to vent their disappointment.

J. Crew

Shoppers on global fashion merchandiser J. Crew’s website were left fuming by the poor performance which left them unable to purchase anything at all. 

Virtual baskets emptied themselves and checkouts simply refused to sales. Business Insider estimates these errors cost J. Crew $775,000 in sales during a five hour period on Black Friday.

This issue carried on into Cyber Monday, with J. Crew reaching a wince-inducing 84.75% availability.

Saks Fifth Avenue

In 2019, Saks Fifth Avenue’s site issues were so bad on Cyber Monday that they extended their deals to Tuesday. One way to recoup potential losses – but a clear 2nd to taking the required steps before hand.

Notable mentions 

Other major brands to hit snags over the Cyber Five 2020 were:

  • Adidas
  • H&M
  • Playstation
  • HP
  • Apple
  • JD Sports
  • Lego
  • Toys R Us
  • Carhartt

Among many, many others.

How we can help 2021

As a cloud-native MSP specialising in 24/7 full-stack support – and with a focus on mission-critical apps – we really can say we’re the go-to partner when it comes to crunch-time events like the Cyber Five. Plus, our managed services for eCommerce can be a great way to get ahead of the competition.

To find out how we can get you shipshape for November 26th  – or for anything else– just get in touch.