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Holiday Brand Horror Stories: 3 Bone-Chilling Tales to Learn From

Stephanie Abe

Community Marketing Manager @ AdRoll

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From witches and black cats to costumes and candy, Halloween is here, and it’s the spookiest time of the year. When the clock strikes tonight’s witching hour and All Hallow’s Eve lays to rest, November will come creeping out from under the bed. Soon, a madness will take hold of shoppers everywhere as they begin their hunt for the best Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM) long weekend deals. 

Last year, BFCM spending reached $10.7 billion, according to TechCrunch. While the thought of the biggest revenue day of the year sounds holly and jolly, online shoppers scream with horror when their favorite brand’s site goes down.

Blood-suckers and flesh-eaters beware, these three holiday scary stories might just be more frightful than you are: 

The Tell-Tale Cart: J.Crew’s Broken Ecommerce Shopping Cart

If you ask any website manager who works at an online retailer what part of the site links most closely to business revenue, they’ll very likely say the shopping cart. After all, if people can’t successfully place their orders, retailers can’t make a profit. 

A broken online shopping cart on the biggest online shopping day of the year is the equivalent of a deadly potion. Unfortunately for J. Crew, they took a poisonous gulp in 2018 — the five-hour downtime cost the company over $700k.

Can’t log in, then the shopping bag purges itself,” said one customer. 

For online retailers, website quality and functionality tie directly to business success. After all, every extra second it takes for an ecommerce site to load, shopping cart abandonment increases by 7%. That’s enough potential lost revenue to give any online retailer goosebumps. 

Cyber Monday prep tip: If your company has to prioritize one key feature of your online store to load test over the next three weeks, choose the shopping cart. Be sure it’s ready to handle increased site traffic and checkout volume for both Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and any other holidays you’re participating in. If you need to prioritize one marketing and ads campaign, choose Abandoned Cart Recovery

Here Lies Lululemon’s Site: RIP

Don’t worry, it wasn’t forever.

From completely see-through leggings to leadership controversies, Lululemon has given athleisure wear customers quite a few reasons to shop elsewhere. Yet, their cult-like following is stronger than ever due to their stylish product designs and innovative marketing campaigns.

At well over a hundred bucks a pop for a pair of exercise leggings, it’s no wonder that Lululemon fans were eagerly anticipating Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2018. When it came time for the big day, and customers found they couldn’t complete their orders, they expressed their displeasure on social media

The @lululemon Black Friday crashed, and I’m heartbroken," exclaimed one customer.

From Instagram to Twitter, to email and beyond, consumers expect their favorite brands to communicate every step of the way. Your social channels are critical for relationship management with your customers. Being responsive and helpful can make or break your customer relationships. 

Cyber Monday prep tip: Have all hands on deck to support customers if any issues crop up on the big day. Be ready to respond in real-time across your social channels, and help by escalating any website issues to engineering. 

The Nightmare Before Thanksgiving: Walmart’s Site 

Having your site crash can certainly cost online retailers money at any time of the year. However, certain times of the year are just more critical than others. 

Shoppers aren’t waiting until Cyber Weekend to begin online shopping anymore — they’re looking for deals starting before Thanksgiving Day and through the weekend and Monday after. That’s why when Walmart’s online store crashed the day before Thanksgiving in 2018, the company lost an estimated $9 million in sales.

In 2021, like a recurring bad dream, Black Friday shoppers found they were unable to put items in their cart or even saw every item marked as Out of Stock on the Walmart website again.

Don’t let your customers (and your company) down by prepping poorly for the weeks leading up to the holidays. Shoppers are eager and ready to begin their online shopping earlier every year, especially if it means delivery guarantees, exclusive deals, and more inventory options. 

Cyber Monday prep tip: Start early. Get ready for increased site traffic and order processing starting even before Thanksgiving Day. Use your previous years’ analytics to plan for the days with the most visits and interactions with your website. Learn how to use AdRoll to holistically view your data. 

Don’t Let a Holiday Horror Happen to You

The merriest time of the year for online retailers shouldn’t turn into a revenue loss or website nightmare. Over the next three weeks, set your company up for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or any other holiday, success.

Make sure your customers can get their promised deals and that your company’s site is prepared to handle the increased load. Prioritize and test the features of the site that tie most closely to revenue outcomes. 

Learn more about holiday campaign planning, inspo, and goals in our guides and resources below.

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