Valentine’s Day Online: Heartaches and Delays

Despite claims of readiness for the Valentine’s Day shopping rush by many leading e-tailers, Internet performance monitoring firm Keynote, Inc. has found that many of those sites failed to live up to expectations.

For example, ProFlowers.com told the E-Commerce Times before the holiday that it was “100 percent certain it could meet demand.” However, Keynote found that the company failed to deliver one of three test orders that were placed.

ProFlowers.com at least fared better than rival 1800Flowers.com, which also said it was certain of on-time delivery, but failed to deliver two of its three test orders.

All Fall Down

In all, Keynote found problems with flower stores, greeting cards and chocolate stores. The flower and chocolate stores had problems delivering on time, while the greeting card sites were slowed to a crawl by traffic on the holiday itself, February 14th.

In the study, Keynote said it monitored the performance and availability of 12 major chocolate, flower and greeting card sites, with measurements taken every 15 minutes from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. over the eight days leading up to the holiday.

Keynote added that it ordered three items from each of four top chocolate and flower Web sites on February 9th, requesting delivery to three separate California addresses.

“The greeting card sites could not serve their Web pages effectively on February 14, when everyone wanted to receive their Valentine’s Day cards on that day,” said Keynote Director of Public Services Daniel Todd. Keynote also found that only 16 of the 24 orders were delivered on time.

“Valentine’s Day is a stricter test of performance and fulfillment than were the Christmas holidays because the target delivery date for an electronic greeting card is only a single day,” said Todd.

Cupid Takes a Holiday

On Monday, the day of the holiday, Blue Mountain Arts, Hallmark Cards and Egreetings Network all experienced problems in meeting customer demand, said Keynote. Even the day after the holiday, Keynote said that Hallmark was forced to tell customers to try again later because it was “very busy” filling orders.

According to Nielsen//Net Ratings, Blue Mountain Arts experienced 3.5 million new visitors this year, a four-fold increase over last year.

The San Francisco, California-based Egreetings says it was so overloaded that some Valentines did not arrive until the day after Valentine’s Day.

“We’re not happy about that, and we definitely apologize to our customers,” said Gordon Tucker, chief executive of eGreetings. “But the number of people that came out was much larger than we had expected.”

Long Way To Go?

Many industry analysts point to the upheaval caused by Valentine’s Day traffic as another sign that e-tailers have a long way to go before they are able to accommodate the inevitable peaks and valleys of consumer shopping.

“At the same time you have to be a little forgiving, only because every year it’s uncharted territory,” said Carrie Johnson of Forrester Research. “For some retailers, it was probably the biggest day they’ve had in history.”

For shoppers whose Valentine’s gifts were delayed or lost in the pandemonium, however, Johnson’s words may be cold comfort.

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