Furious shoppers faced off against crashing websites on Thanksgiving Day - and it reveals a massive evolution of Black Friday shopping

Furious shoppers faced off against crashing websites on Thanksgiving Day - and it reveals a massive evolution of Black Friday shopping

Black Friday

Getty/Stephanie Keith

Black Friday sales are starting earlier than ever - and that's creating some problems.

Black Friday sales are starting earlier than ever. And, that is creating some technical difficulties for retailers. 

The website crashes began before Thanksgiving. Shoppers on Walmart's website dealt with technical difficulties on Wednesday evening. GameStop shoppers complained about similar tech issues on social media.

According to Bob Buffone, chief technology officer at web optimization software company Yottaa, companies' problems were likely rooted in not having the infrastructure to handle the increased traffic. 

"If you have not load tested your site at five times normal traffic volumes, your site will probably fail," Buffone told Business Insider on Thursday.


And, Wednesday's online shopping traffic was hitting record highs. Shoppers spent $2.4 billion online on Wednesday, a whopping 31.8% increase from 2017, according to Adobe Analytics data.

Read more: Shoppers using smartphones under the dinner table have made Thanksgiving one of the biggest days for online shopping

The increase in online sales - and websites' technical difficulties - continued into Thanksgiving Day. 

By 10 a.m. Thursday morning, shoppers had spent another $406 million online. By 5 p.m., they'd spent $1.75 billion, representing 28.6% growth compared to last year.

Lululemon's website crashed soon after the company kicked off its Black Friday sales on Thursday morning. Later in the day, makeup seller Ulta's website crashed, due to high traffic. UK-based brands were not immune to technical difficulties, with JD Sports and GAME crashing on Thursday evening and Debenhams encountering problems on Friday morning. 


"Despite Black Friday not being a new phenomenon to the UK anymore, some retailers still haven't taken the necessary steps to prepare for it," Sam Rutley, managing director at e-commerce agency PushON, said in an email to Business Insider. "Both GAME and Debenhams suffered the same fate last year, showing that little has been done in anticipation of the Black Friday surge."

Not being properly prepared for Black Friday can have even worse consequences for retailers than having a website crash on any other shopping day.

"It's easy to go to a different site and spend their holiday money elsewhere," Buffone said. "Depending on how long the site is down, it can cost retailers a lot of money and also result in damage to the brand as shoppers take to social media to express their frustration."

Here is just a small sampling of that frustration: 

Technical difficulties weren't the only outcome of Black Friday sales shifting earlier. 

With massive spending, some of the biggest deals of the holiday season sold out before Thanksgiving Day had ended.  By Thursday evening, the Nintendo Switch sold out at Target and GameStop, according to BlackFriday.com. Walmart, Target, and GameStop quickly sold out of the PlayStation 4. And, Instant Pot sold out from Walmart and Target.


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