In this day an age, you would think companies, particularly tech companies would learn. But apparently, as Ebuyer's rather spectacular fail on Monday the 28th Nov, 2011, proved, they don't.
Ebuyer spent a week promoting a £1 clearance sale. They sent out e-mails, conducted a viral facebook campaign - in fact, it seems that their marketing team knew what they were doing. The same apparently could not be said for their technical team.
For customers who 'liked' ebuyer on facebook, they received access to the promotion 1/2 hour earlier - a great idea. The problem with great marketing campaigns though, is when they are let down - or suffer from over success. I remember watching a documentary about a company that promoted a free holiday to America for customers who bought a certain product. It was a headline grabber - and the guys in the back-room had assumed that not many people would bother to fill out the form, and cash in - but as is retrospectively obvious, everyone did, and the company duely went bust.
Ebuyer's website was almost completely inaccessible from 10:30, and an hour later - still appears the same. One would have assumed that somewhere along the line, the technical director would have been asked 'how many visitors can our site deal with simultaneously, all doing the same thing?' One would hope that he would have taken the question seriously, and asked 'how many are you expecting?', then multiplied it by 10 or 20, and made appropriate preparation.
The old adage, 'No publicity is bad publicity' is a bit of a silly one in this case. Ebuyer already had a loyal customer base of technical users; many of which were technical professionals, and have a certain higher expectation of them. Ebuyer's facebook pages were flooded with upset customers, mockery, links to other suppliers, and general discontent. Building brand is about banking emotional goodwill - and this sort of messup is about the worst sort of emotional linkage that can be built.
Facebook users were posting questions, asking did other people succeed - and moaning that when they finally saw the site, anything any good had already gone. No-one likes to think they missed out - particularly when it wasn't their fault. Negative emotions.
Amazon conducted a highly successful 'black-friday' campaign, only a few days before - great run-up campaign. Lots of social marketing (twitter, facebook, etc.). Hopefully, Ebuyer will learn. I've heard it said that, "The only thing history teaches us, is that history teaches us nothing." We will see.