A cautious strategy on the highstreet has vanquished the Asda stampedes of last year to a distant memory, in what’s been considered a slow start for bricks and mortar retailers on Black Friday.

Online, however, it’s a different story.

Experian and IMRG have predicted e-commerce transactions could surpass the £1 billion mark today – a record for UK retail.

While the weight of it is online, however, a combination of offline and e-commerce is still forecasted to overtake last year in net sales today (November 27).

With the burden placed firmly on e-retailers, traffic management specialist TrafficDefender is externally monitoring how the 115 top UK retail websites perform today on mobile and desktop.

Results will be fed back into a live leaderboard throughout the day, updated on the hour, available here.

Progress so far

Last year a smaller scale analysis of 20 companies by TrafficDefender saw some 70% of retailers suffer availability issues online. According to Jeremy Gidlow, CEO of the company’s parent brand Intechnica, certain retailers have already felt the strain from this morning.

“Some retailers saw a lot of unavailability in the early hours today, such as Tesco, Pretty Little Thing and Schuh, but have since recovered, which points to a wave of traffic pre-office hours.

“Things seem to have settled down and most sites are levelling out, but around lunchtime peaks are expected again and this could affect websites that don’t have queuing systems or effective performance management software in place,” adds Gidlow.

Pressure piled on

Online retailers are under a huge amount of pressure to maintain the technical running of sites in order to capitalise on a record day for UK e-commerce.

However, Gidlow points to research showing that 86% of consumers would rather queue to buy a product on a website than have the site crash completely.

Sports-fashion merchant JD Sports ironed out some earlier website issues as a result of heavy traffic, implementing a queuing system which helped them recover in time for a lunch time peak. 

Gidlow reports that Toys R Us has also been able to stay online and trading thanks to the use of a similar system. 

With the day yet to play out, success relies on how prepared sites are for peaks throughout the day. While strategies may have been planned well in advance, Gidlow observes a lot of “tactical action” still being made today.

Argos checks out

One website which has not coped well so far is Argos, which doesn’t seem to have learned lessons from last year when its site “buckled” under high demand, observes Terry Hunter, VP of e-commerce and client strategy at Astound Commerce.

The retailer has attempted to follow Amazon’s lead by offering deals over a longer period than just 24 hours, but its systems are not optimised to deal with the elevated traffic volumes, especially at checkout.

“You can manage resources by pushing consumers to specific deals at specific times, but ultimately, they all end up at the same checkout,” says Hunter.  

“Integration of this with back-end systems can make or break the success of key shopping periods for any retailer and at the minute, Argos’s set up clearly isn’t up to scratch.”

Keep your eye on the leaderboard for updates throughout the day.