Online Shopping In Australia Sucks – Bring On Amazon

Online Shopping In Australia Sucks – Bring On Amazon

It’s hard to feel sorry for Australian retailers threatened by Amazon when you’re stuck in a queue experiencing the contempt they have for their online customers. If the Nintendo Mini NES console taught us anything, it’s that we need a local shopping service that cares enough to deal with peak demand.

Australia’s last pre-Christmas batch of Nintendo Mini NES consoles went on sale on Monday. After 90 minutes it was difficult to say whether anyone had actually managed to purchase one after Target’s website collapsed under the load.

Even if you managed to place the console in your shopping cart, the website would let you get tantalisingly close to paying for it and then spit out an error or present a “busy” page promised to tell you your place in the queue – leaving you wondering whether it was worth persevering considering that you seemed to have one in your hand but were getting no-where.

Target’s Twitter feed insisted that some sales had gone through and units were still in stock but it was experiencing “a really high volume of traffic”.

The website kept promising to update you on your place in the queue after 30 seconds yet it never got there. Occasionally you’d get back into the site only to see the “busy” page again. Other times the site would spit out an error and you needed to reload – hoping the console was still in your basket.

While the Nintendo Mini NES sale led to many disappointed shoppers, few will be surprised – the same thing happened when EB Games offered the Mini NES for sale online last month. (Clearly, our advice to other retailers in the wake of the EB Games debacle was not taken on board.)

The reason both sales were a disaster is simple: Australian retailers take a “she’ll be right” approach to online services expecting to experience heavy load. This is a mistake the first few Click Frenzy sales made despite assurances that everything would run like clockwork. Even the government-backed ABS census was a total disaster.

What’s perhaps more surprising is that the looming threat of Amazon’s arrival isn’t enough to convince local retailers to throw more resources at their online sales to avoid leaving customers in the lurch.

The king of online retail is expected to officially announce its Australian plans any day now, shaking local retail to its core. Yet local retailers will put more effort into complaining about Amazon then they will into ensuring that their websites can cope with peak demand.

Once Amazon brings the pain, Australian retailers might finally realise that they can’t take their customers for granted.

Related: Nintendo Classic Mini NES: Online Buying Tips

This article originally appeared in Digital Life, The Sydney Morning Herald’s home for everything technology. Follow Digital Life on Facebook and Twitter.


  • If it were only that simple Adam. My job has me focussing on customer outcomes all the time and I concentrate on making sure my front line staff have the best weapons available in that fight. What I don’t have (and I work for a very profitable Australian company) is the seemingly limitless access to money the likes of Amazon has.

    Australian Online retailers have generally (in my opinion) focussed on cost to attract customers. To trim as much cost from the bottom line as you can means other areas of the business, regrettably, suffer. With margins so slim, many companies simply can’t afford to throw wads of cash at their web platforms. Yes, Target should know better and should have been able to get support from their owner but I’d go as far as suggesting that Target will be lucky to survive the next few years in Australia.

    Unless the ACCC genuinely start to focus on real competition and a level playing field for all players (ie a Duopoly doesn’t equal competition), I wouldn’t be surprised that Amazon pulls out of the Australian market in a decade or so… when there’s not enough customers left who are making enough money in this country to buy their wares…

  • This has nothing to do with Amazon, and everything to do with IT and the choices that companies make when building websites. Ecommerce sites can be built in such a way that certain processes are “protected” from such overloads. The “she’ll be right attitude” is basically an assumption that it will never happen in this country to warrant the cost of building such a system, and for the most part this is true.

    I fear the general lack of repercussion from Click Frenzy saga and now this, is unlikely to persuade any IT decision makers in future to do things any differently. And Amazon entering the market will unlikely change the economics of that any time soon.

  • I briefly flirted with a company that had year-after-year terrible Xmas sales experiences with their website. Despite the money they were losing, and the terrible customer feedback, they refused to pay ANYONE more on their team more than their casual shop assistants because “it’s just computers”. Xmas disasters continue.

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