Target Website Crashes During Cyber Monday

Screen shot of Target Cyber Monday website

Screen shot of Target's main website, which crashed on Monday.

Target Website Crashes During
Cyber Monday

| published November 30, 2015 |

By Keith Roberts, Thursday Review contributor


If you need any further evidence that Americans are shifting their shopping preferences to the internet, look no further than Monday’s crash of the Target website. fell victim to its own success on so-called Cyber Monday, crashing under the extreme weight of millions of customers all shopping its online goodies.

Most web viewers, upon arriving to the Target website, were greeted this message: “So sorry, but high traffic is causing delays! If you wouldn’t mind holding on, we’ll refresh automatically and get things going ASAP.” The message remained there for the vast majority of the day.

In addition, for those who were able to enter the Target site and actually do some browsing and shopping, many items would not load into shopping carts, whereas other items would not pull up a description. Among the crucial items many customers reported being unable to purchase: big screen TVs, game consoles, cameras, printers, audio equipment, and electronic toys.

According to some customers and several independent groups which monitor website activity, Target’s primary shopping website crashed at about 10:00 a.m. Monday morning. Company spokespersons tried to put the best spin on the situation, telling the media that enthusiastic Cyber Monday shoppers and discount seekers had exceeded all company expectations. The company said it was working feverishly to get the website back to normal before evening, when many shoppers may arrive home from work, and at which time traffic may again spike as consumers attempt to make purchases before some deals expire at midnight.

Though some were reporting that the site was still not fully functional by about 2:00 p.m. Monday afternoon, a check by Thursday Review at 2:15 p.m. showed the main site appeared to be working normally. A random check of certain items—Vizio and Samsung TVs, headphones, Blu-ray players, Apple TV devices—produced products and prices. But when Thursday Review staff tested this at 2:30 p.m., several items (small kitchen appliances, DVD and Blu-ray players, game consoles) produced a message which said “there is a line for this item; so sorry, but you can save your place in line by staying on this page & trying again later to add the item.”

Online shopping this year is expected to double that of last year, part of a five year rapid increase in the number of people doing their gift-buying online. Target, like many major retailers, is also facing the realities of a sea change toward web-based buying as companies like Amazon make it easier and cheaper for people to buy products without leaving their home, or by simply using their smartphone or handheld device. To battle back against Amazon and others, many of the major retailers are offering free shipping on some items—a way to attract more buyers, especially for the remaining weeks between now and Christmas

Wal-Mart, JC Penney, Target and several other brick-and-mortar retailers have lowered expectations for the fourth quarter, suggesting that online buying through Amazon may take a significant bite out of revenue which normally spikes during the holidays.

Target’s Cyber Monday problems can be seen as a glass half full, or as half empty. While it may be interpreted as good news for Target that traffic and demand exceeded the capacity of its website to keep up with shoppers and orders, the crash of its website also spells trouble for the retailer as thousands of shoppers, out of frustration, move on to make their Cyber Monday purchases elsewhere. Either way, Americans are expected to spend some $4 billion or more this holiday season on online purchases, roughly twice what was spent last year during the same period.  According to Adobe, Americans spent $3 billion during the five day period from Thanksgiving Eve through Monday night, a 12% increase over the same period in 2014. 

Related Thursday Review articles:

A Grey Area: Black Friday’s Pricing Truths; Keith H. Roberts; Thursday Review; November 28, 2015.

A 1936 Book Explains Why Wal-Mart Will Have a Bad Year; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; October 28, 2015.