Click Frenzy: Was it really a bomb? Or just a sympton of Australia's fear of failure? - Anthill Online

Click Frenzy: Was it really a bomb? Or just a sympton of Australia’s fear of failure?

November 23, 2012
By Cat Matson
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There is so much to say about the Click Frenzy ‘story’. I’m tempted to say ‘debacle’, but that’s not accurate. And honestly, I don’t have the time to write everything there is to be said. Likewise, I doubt you have the interest to read it.

But, what I do want to address is this notion that the inaugural Click Frenzy event was a disaster.

Far from it.

I had not heard of Click Frenzy until it failed on Tuesday. And I am massive user of social media.

Actually, I lie. I heard about it a few hours before it started when I saw someone post on Facebook that they were looking forward to the event. It was only when I watched the fallout about it failing that I started paying attention.

From what I can tell in my anecdotal research conducted on Facebook on the night of the ‘failure’, I wasn’t alone. Fifty percent of the respondents to my Facebook post said they’d never heard of Click Frenzy.

But now, due to the ‘failure’, we had.

The statistics don’t lie

The stats for the Click Frenzy Facebook page tell a similar story in terms of positive awareness. When I started tracking the brand and event, the number of likes sat at about 18,000. That was four hours after the event had started, and well and truly after the site crashed.

But 24 hours later, amidst the overwhelming negative sentiment of the ‘failed’ site, and ‘failed’ event, that number of ‘likers’ had increased to almost 21,000. Considering the number of people who would have ‘unliked’ the page during the ‘failure’, that’s a pretty good increase in brand awareness for a ‘failed’ event.

And, then, looking at the engagement stats, it’s about 28%, at time of writing. Lorna Jane, often touted as one of Australia’s darlings of social media with its record number of Facebook fan ‘followers’ and record engagement, is currently sitting at 5.8%.

We’re all well aware of the saying that there’s no such thing as bad PR. While I don’t entirely agree, in this event, it appears to be that the ‘bad’ PR for Click Frenzy has actually resulted in increased brand awareness and, a bigger community to promote to next time.

In terms of the customer backlash about the infrastructure failure, sure, it would have been much better if the site hadn’t crashed. But, eager shoppers went direct to the participating retailer sites and still picked up their bargains. Michael Dykes, the head of multi-channel traffic at Dick Smith, said the site received 175,000 visitors.

eWAY, the payment system used by many of the retailers involved, reported a 240 per cent increase in transactions during Click Frenzy compared to the previous week. In fact, shoppers purchased almost $1.5 million worth of goods via eWAY during the 24 hour Click Frenzy shopping period.

That’s got to be a success, no matter which way you measure it.

The almost inevitable site crash

Unexpected traffic crashing sites isn’t new or ‘new. Gabby Leibovich, Founder of Catch of the Day, has been known to say that his sites and other daily deal sites like Scoopon “regularly crash” (his words) when traffic just flat-out exceeds expectations. And these sites are geared for large volumes of traffic, but sometimes, that’s still not enough.

In fact, Click Frenzy was aware it might hit problems. On the day of the event the following statement was on the site:

“We have taken every precaution to ensure our servers will not go down, and we have advised our retailers of the traffic volumes they should expect.”

So, we consider the site crash a failure. But, in an industry that is struggling as much as it is, creating that kind of demand surely cannot be considered a failure.

Remember, bargain-hungry shoppers endure far worse at the Boxing Day sales than having to wait a couple of hours before they can click-through to pick up a bargain from the comfort of their own couch while watching The X-Factor Grand Final.

The ‘traffic’ at local shopping centres on Boxing Day is far more dissipated than the traffic that was being driven through one site. Really. Have we become so impatient as a nation that we can’t wait in a virtual line for a couple of hours?

The ‘poor’ response?

There’s also been commentary about how poor the response was from Click Frenzy during the ‘failure’. From a marketing perspective, I really liked their approach. Reading their Facebook Page for the time-frame the event was on, you can see a handful of ‘apology’ and ‘what’s going on, we’re fixing it’ messages, but then it got back to a single-minded focus of what the business and the event was about.

Startup PR genius Paul Naphtali agrees. “The ‘downfall’ was actually its success; there was too much consumer demand for the site. From a PR perspective the response was appropriate. In these situations, you apologise, explain the situation and win back the hearts and minds of the customers. I would expect, and hope, to see it back again next year, bigger and hopefully, much better,” he says.

Click Frenzy used social media channels to promote various specials and direct visitors straight to the retailer’s site. It didn’t engage in the volumes of negative sentiment, it just got on with the business of their business.

And now, on the site, the landing page acknowledges the rocky start, but has already starting building anticipation for the next event.

Plus, it reminds visitors to keep supporting Australian retailers.

#Fail or #Flearning?

The Australian culture is unforgiving to start-ups, unless it all goes ‘perfectly’.

What I love about the approach from Click Frenzy is its refusal to accept the proposition that the event was a failure.

The company did an incredible job of marketing the event, with 500,000 registered customers and an expectation of 1.5 million shoppers on the day.

Its infrastructure let them down, sure, and it scrambled on the night to fix this. And then the company just got on with business.

It’s really easy to look at the event as a failure because it wasn’t perfect but if we only launched new products with the certainty of ‘perfection’ then we wouldn’t see much innovation.

If you learn from the failure, then, in Anthill speak, it’s a flearning.

Microsoft have been using their customers do their beta testing for years, releasing products before all bugs have been eliminated. And, we’ve been ok with it. But when one of our own Aussie companies do the same, well, the backlash was sharp.

I don’t know what the metrics are for Click Frenzy are, what it would consider a ‘success’. I’m sure it didn’t go as planned for them the other night, but I’m quietly confident when they roll out the next sales event it will be an even bigger ‘success’.

Cat Matson is a partner of the Two Cents Group.

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1 comments
Phoebe Goh
Phoebe Goh

Your article definitely provided some food for thought. "Have we become so impatient as a nation that we can't wait in a virtual line for a couple of hours?" One of the major drawcards of shopping online is to reduce time spent wasted in a line. Shop from the comfort of your home, without having to deal with queues! As a consumer, I don't just want to translate my bricks-and-mortar shopping experience onto the internet. I want the internet version to be faster, have more variety, and have better bargains. Having said that, getting retailers online or aware of the value of online shopping is definitely a good thing, and that's one of the successes of Click Frenzy. The other being that it may have encouraged previously internet-shopping-averse consumers to their computers for a few hours. "What I love about the approach from Click Frenzy is its refusal to accept the proposition that the event was a failure." Accepting and embracing failure is the cornerstone to great startups. Fail fast, fail often, and pick yourself up and try again - isn't that the mantra of a startup culture? I agree the Australian culture is not comfortable with the concept of failure and that makes us critical and cynical of those who do not succeed in a blaze of glory first go, but we definitely can appreciate the honesty and humility of a business that says "yep, we stuffed up - sorry - we will try harder next time". Seeing one of the biggest publically discussed sites refusing to admit failure emphasises the immature Australian startup environment. I'd like to think that Click Frenzy encourages more retail focused startups to flourish in the next year, and if it does repeat itself (which I doubt) I hope they have learnt from the lessons of this year.