Click Frenzy was aiming to be Australia’s largest online rush sale. Meant to bring in a revolution on how local Australians shop online and encouraging them that they don’t need to look at international retailers for good deals.

Backed by Power Retails, an online retail solutions company; they hoped to take on the popular online sale ‘Cyber Monday’ hosted by various American online retailers during the Thanksgiving holidays.

The concept for Click Frenzy can be explained in few simple steps. Power Retails tags multiple retailers and gets them to showcase ‘deals’ for the 24hour sale event. Retailers have to rent advertising spots within Click Frenzy’s webpage. In turn, Click Frenzy will take care of PR and bring in millions of traffic. Millions of people who want to purchase + good discounted items + dead line of 24 hours for the sale period = awesome business for everyone, right? Unfortunately that was not the case.

Power Retails did a brilliant PR job and created a huge hype about ‘The Sale that stops a nation’ through mass media. They implemented a pre-sale registration for users to update them about the sales. The dice was cast and the battle plans in place.

Come 20th November, Click Frenzy was supposed to launch at 7pm AEDT and continue for 24 hours. But 7pm started a chain reaction of utter PR, Project Planning and Marketing failure for Click Frenzy. Their website crashed couple of minutes before the sale went live. Even the webpages of most of their partnered retailers could not cope with the traffic and broke down.

I had a chat with a fellow Swinburne MEI thinker and retail solutions expert; Jase Goldsmith about what went wrong with Click Frenzy from a marketer’s point of view.

Here is a transcript of our conversation:

Sidds (Me):

Jase Goldsmith, your thoughts on Click Frenzy? 🙂

Jase:

I think it’s a win, no matter what. Compared with people getting killed (UK ’11) in shopping stampedes, this is a much safer option. Whilst I don’t empathise with the behaviour of this type of shopping, I can understand the temptation for marketers.

Response: 

Grant Arnott, Publisher at Power Retail and Director at Click Frenzy, possibly got his vendors through existing Customer / Advertiser relationships.They probably won’t give back any money, it wasn’t that much in the scheme of things and it would just be credited to the next clickfrenzy event. Considering that this one coincides with black Monday (thanks giving) in the US, we will probably see the same thing happen here with Easter, End of Financial Year, Clearance Sales etc., long before Christmas.Just wait for the “Bigger, Better, Stronger” announcements coming up for the nest sale season.Xbox ’07-’08, and PlayStation 04/’11 recovered from their outages in YouTube and Tumblr aren’t remembered for Oct ’12.

Technical: 

The tech glitch is not such a big deal compared with the media coverage that has been received. A bit of humble pie, blame the technology and over popularity and they are the ‘could-a-beens’ without having to prove themselves.From an eCommerce perspective, it’s fascinating. 2nd Gen sites, held together by flimsy API’s are bound to fold under pressure. Trying to integrate multiple sites, platforms etc. into a single market place is certainly very fashionable right now, but fraught with difficulties as sites are still judged by aesthetic appeal instead of robust capabilities.The big guys in town keep messing eCom up, so everyone expects it to fail.The offering would be an easy choice for Marketing Managers who can easily defend their decision.No one is going to lose their jobs. Well, maybe the hosting company, but then, who in Australia has experience, other than the AFL Grand Final at ticketing time for this type of traffic?

Social: 

Compared with the LIKEs on their Facebook Page, the number of Haters was not that high, considering that everyone was online at the time.Click Frenzy Facebook page has 20,596 likes • 5,945 talking aboutthis – up from 14k last night at 7pm whereas the negatives, such as Click Frenzy Fail and others only have a total of 3,830. Some inventive entrepreneurs (selling the online equivalent of cash registers – 2nd Gen eCom shopping carts) were putting out offers, such as the guys from ZOOP Creative (I notice their site was coming soon) as though they were immune from traffic and technical issues.

To Conclude: 

It no big deal. Great PR opportunity, no major financial challenge if structured right and no victims. All in all, a win. Just wait till next time!

Sidds (Me):

A good analysis Jase 🙂 Here are some of my pointers.

The Hype

Building up hype is a good strategy for launching something new. I have done that with many products. But it also has a negative impact if I can’t manage to live up to the expectations created through the hype. Sure enough I will get publicity, both positive and negative. But if the negative outweighs the positive; specially in the age of social media, I will have a big problem of transforming the negative image back to being a positive response. The strength of viral marketing in this case was immense.

Damage Control

Their initial responses towards their customers’ complaints were far from ‘damage control’. Failure to show empathy is a big no-no when your businesses’ face is on the spotlight of good old social media glory.

People still talk about Xbox 360’s RROD issue and Playstation Network outages. Yes they don’t search for it as much as they did when the outage was on. Even couple of years back (5 years after its launch) people were reluctant and searched throughout online forums about feedback before purchasing a 360 because of the RROD issues. Microsoft has come a long way since the 360’s launch to try and rectify the problem. They also issued a ‘no questions asked’ replacement for anyone who had a RROD fault.

Sony Playstation network is a free service unlike Microsoft Live and Sony’s dedicated customers treasure that fact. Yes customers were pissed with the outage, but Sony came back with a massive compensation package. Free premium services for a month from a range of providers, 4 free game titles, and a year’s free identity theft protection for all users.

They acknowledged their mistakes, took into account the negative publicity their products/brands got and worked out brilliant damage control plans. I couldn’t see any of that from Click Frenzy organizers.

The Technical blunder:

They were advertising/talking about this event for a long time. They had pre-registration pages open. Online traffic to their webpage pre-sales when the announcements were made + registration numbers should have given them a good idea about the expected traffic during their sales. Promising of a stable solution and not living up to it has no excuse. I would like to know if they had conducted extensive stress tests of their servers before the launch.

Their Target Market:

They appealed not only to the B&M shoppers but a wide number of online shoppers. From my experience, customers who strictly shop from B&M outlets would still not be influenced to go online and make a purchase. They have their principles which will hold them back. Net savvy and existing online shoppers were the main group who were keen about this sale. Add comparison with well-known international sale events like Black Friday, and you will attract the ‘online bargain hunter’ group straight away. Stampedes on Boxing Day sales are known. And Boxing Day has built up a reputation of good bargain hunting. I however feel Click Frenzy was aimed at capturing those online shoppers and competing against online Black Friday sales. If this sale was on a Boxing Day and even had the online prices discounted at say 30% instead of the 40% you would get by lining up in front of a B&M store you could justify the safety from stampede advantage.

The actual ‘Sale’:

I think most of their prices were not great either. I can walk to a B&M store now and pick up similar items cheaper. Ordering from international online shops would give me even more discounts. When you are talking about a ‘Sale that would stop a nation’; you have to talk to your retail partners and work out on exclusive deals. Comparing discount rates with RRP doesn’t work either. I don’t remember paying RRP for any item I have bought from a B&M outlet here in Australia. End of the day, it should have been Power Retail’s responsibility to ensure that there was actually a lucrative sale for the customers.

I realize that some of the businesses could not afford a lower price. But when an event is created to compete head on against the Cyber Monday sales, you need to ensure that your event can at least match their offerings if not better them.

The Impact:

The sale came into effect amidst the debate about removing the $1000 GST limit and buying local. Not sure if the timing of this sale was pre-planned to counter that or just to compete against Black Friday sales, but success of this event would have contributed towards establishing a trust amongst customers on Australian online retail shopping. Instead they were greeted by technical errors, and non-existent bargains. This in turn justified the typical online shopper’s statement, “its way better to shop from international sellers online”.

The True Victims:

I do feel bad for the small business owners. For a small new start up, every penny counts. I am sure they had to pay a good amount to be showcased in this sale event. If they are not refunded their money and given credit for future events instead, I think the business owners will lose out. Looking at the negative brand image Click Frenzy has right now, without any damage control plans, I can’t see their next Sale to make a huge comeback.

To Conclude:

As I have often adviced to numerous small business owners. Spend some time on working out how to market your product/services. You do not need to start investing huge money on it straight away, but brain storm some marketing ideas with people. There are 101 other ways apart from ‘Massive Sales’ to attract and retain customers in today’s online retail era.

All Click Frenzy has managed to do right now is harvest data from thousands of users and they might as well start selling them to a third party company looking for consumer data leads and get some money back to repay their partners.

No point of talking about the next big thing, when the next big thing is already here. 🙂

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