The Outnet Party Foul

April 16, 2010

Today on the Internet

I’m not surprised that I wasn’t able to get anything from the Outnet’s $1 sale today, but I AM surprised that I didn’t even get “in”. Uncharacteristically awake and checking email at 7am PST I noticed that at 3:47am the Outnet announced the start of their sale. I immediately logged in (even though I was supposed to be getting ready for work) only to see this:

I assumed that this was the Outnet’s coping mechanism to handle the server load and to mitigate the demand that would obviously be exponentially greater than supply. I thought it really sucked for them to freeze out their West Coast customers, but I forgot that the Outnet is actually based in the UK; and thus the sale started at a reasonable time for those shoppers and even East Coast fans were left out in the cold. But in fact, even the UK shoppers experienced a server crash.

So, not a great user experience for anyone. Given that the Outnet made you RSVP weeks ahead of time here are two ways they should have leveraged their guest list for a more inclusive experience:

1. Predict heavy traffic. You had a list of RSVPs, and so could estimate how many people would be logging in. Ready your servers so they can handle the load, or rent a few extra for the day.

2. Stagger the sale. Again, with the list of RSVPs you no doubt have IP data. You also encouraged users to update their shipping and billing addresses in advance of the sale, so you knew exactly where people would be buying from. You could use that information in one of two ways:

  • Allow a proportional number of sales per region/timezone
  • Release more items as more timezones come online

Of course missing this amazing $1 sale isn’t the end of the world, but so many people were left out it has made a lot of people feel sour about the Outnet. The event had a lot of potential, but was handled pretty poorly – especially for customers in the United States.

Outnet sale outrage as website crashes (The Guardian)
Outrage at the Outnet (The “It” Guide)
The $1 sale at the Outnet was too good to be true (Cutblog)
The Outnet $1 sale support group: who scored, who didn’t, and who’s pissed (Refinery29)
How to make it through the Outnet’s $1 sale without passing out (Refinery29)

Updated: Response from the Outnet

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6 Responses to “The Outnet Party Foul”

  1. Esther Brown Says:

    I totally agree – they definitely should have added servers!


  2. Mlle. L Says:

    I mentioned you blog and blog post on mine. Totally agree on both your ideas, particularly the first one. It seems a too large number of invites was sent and RSVPs allowed.


  3. Chandra (@ShiftC) Says:

    Hi! I totally agree with you! Another idea would be to limit RSVPs to the 1st 500 users; this would have ensured that those who registered/RSVPd would have been served! tsk tsk @ The Outnet. I also recommended the sale to my mom/sis, and they have been bombarded with emails from The Outnet. sigh.

    Thanks for your comment and the Twitter follow!


  4. Jane Says:

    Ok WTF but i agree they should of had that



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