WalMart Blows A Big One

While I am a fan of WalMart, I find I must take issue with the retail giant in one area – online shopping.

While the missus and I have both used WalMart.com to purchase a number of items over the past few months, it looks like the company dropped the ball when it came to Black Friday and Cyber Saturday. WalMart's IT folks grossly underestimated the load caused by online shoppers. This, after a major upgrade of their systems. I'm not the only one that noticed. Information Week's Rob Preston had these words about WalMart's stumble.

You could forgive Average Joe Retailer for abiding by that industry-standard practice. But Wal-Mart--by virtue of its size, profile, and reputation for IT excellence--must far exceed industry standards. While the sites of Macy's, Zappos, and Foot Locker also performed poorly during the post-Thanksgiving rush, they aren't in Wal-Mart's league.

Wal-Mart made a name for itself by using information technology not only to run a more efficient operation, but also to anticipate customer buying patterns and demand. Yet with its vast business intelligence gathering, and after promoting the Walmart.com relaunch and various product specials to the hilt, it had no way of knowing that customers would trample its Web infrastructure? It's one thing to run out of T.M.X. Elmo or Tap Dancing Mumble; it's another to hang a "closed for business" sign on a critical sales channel on one of the busiest shopping days of the year, especially when your overall sales already were on pace to be disappointingly flat for the month.

Wal-Mart's Black Friday debacle smacks of the rampant site outages and slowdowns circa 2000. Remember how eBay, Victoria's Secret, Ellis Island, and scores of other sites folded under a crush of unanticipated traffic?

C'mon, guys! It's time to get it right. This isn't something that a business with the kind of money that WalMart has to have its web portal fold like a cheap suitcase in the rain. If they can't get it squared away soon then it will be time to fire some people and get someone in there that can get one of the greatest retailing opportunities up and running like it should be.

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