South Africa’s largest online retailer, the Naspers-controlled Takealot, is working hard to ensure its website stays up on the Black Friday sales day, which happens this year on 23 November.
The e-retailer suffered serious downtime last year (and the year before last) when its systems couldn’t handle the volumes thrown at them.
But Julie-Anne Walsh, Takealot’s chief marketing officer, said on Thursday that the company has invested significantly in its systems and processes to ensure there are no repeat of the “cardiac arrest” that befell the site in 2017.
Speaking to TechCentral, Walsh said Takealot has hired “some of the best engineers and developers in the country to ensure we spent this year on scaling projects”. Beyond IT systems, it is also bulking up on its logistics teams in its warehouses and on its delivery routes to ensure customer orders don’t pile up.
But she added: “Every year is a different challenge and there are a lot of moving parts… It’s never the same thing that goes wrong. Every year, we are floored by something new.”
Last Black Friday, the enormous amount of website traffic exposed bugs that weren’t revealed in prior testing. “That hindered us in routing network traffic to the right parts of our system. So, obviously we have spent time making sure that won’t happen again. We are making sure we test as much as we can, every component of the system, but Black Friday comes with its own set of challenges every year. It’s like studying for an exam, and Black Friday is our exam day.”
Even Amazon.com and Flipkart have experienced downtime this year on their big sales days, so anything could happen — even with extensive testing, Walsh said. “The metal in our measure will be how quickly we can come up again if we do go down, and how elegant that solution will be.”
Takealot expects website traffic to be 75% higher on Black Friday this year than in 2017. Gross merchandising volume is expected to rise 2.2 times compared to 2017’s figure of R87-million. “We have already ramped our delivery teams for Black Friday.”
Takealot’s Blue Dot Sale will run for five days, from Black Friday until the day after Cyber Monday.
TechCentral previously reported that Takealot is planning to build a customer distribution centre on the bridge over the N1 in Midrand, north of Johannesburg. Walsh said this facility won’t be ready in time for Black Friday and hinted that the company will make a detailed announcement about its plans in this regard early in the new year.
Walsh said the bulk of Takealot orders come from Gauteng, with about 45% of overall volume, followed by the Western Cape at 25% and KwaZulu-Natal at 13%. — (c) 2018 NewsCentral Media