A Brief History of Major Ecommerce Platform Crashes

By Tinuiti Team

Your ecommerce platform is like your car. Some people have the Ferrari and the more bootstrapped have the ’96 Corolla with a different-colored door (hey, that’s ole dependable right?).

But getting stuck on the side of the road during Winter on your way to a flight that you’re probably already late for will make you hate any car. The Q4 holiday shopping season IS that flight that you may already be late for, and for many, it’s a first-class ticket to Cabo or The Bahamas.

OK that’s enough with that poor metaphor, you get the point. Here are the 3 ecommerce platforms that have been unreliable for merchants during traffic-heavy shopping periods:

Disclaimer: Just because these crashes happened, it does not mean these platforms will crash this Q4 because they have most likely upped their game (hopefully) since then.

3. Amazon Webstores

If at one point you had Target, Toys “R” Us, and Borders as your customers and you lost them all, you were probably not doing something right. After having been on Amazon’s platform for over a decade, Target had a widely-publicized break up with Amazon Webstores, mainly because of inconsistent site performance and the occasional crash (including the infamous Lady Gaga cloud crash) from huge influxes of traffic.

Aside from crashing, Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) is a program that has gone under a lot of fire by third-party sellers (particularly the smaller guys), and this is just one of many horror stories (this one happened in October 2012).

You can check out the Amazon Webstores ecommerce platform review here.

2. Volusion

Particularly during traffic-heavy shopping periods, like Cyber Monday, Black Friday, Christmas shopping season, etc., Volusion users have to be wary of bandwidth overage fees. These are pretty much out of your control if shoppers flood your store during big sale days.

On December 22, 2011, Volusion‘s payment gateway crashed, disabling some stores from processing credit card payments. This problem persisted until December 26th (check reviews for December 2011). A multiple-day payment gateway crash (even if it’s just one of many offered payment solutions) during Christmas week is a HUGE deal and pretty much equivalent to ecommerce retailer Hell.

The issue of payment gateway crashes continued again in late February into early March. The sites remained live but checkout was disabled for many, causing mass shopping cart abandonment cases. Checkout was offline from February 24th -around March 5th. Not cool.

Volusion crashed again on October 11th, 2012, but this time entire sites went down instead of checkout. Yup, this happened this time last year. Could you imagine if that was you?

You can check out the Volusion ecommerce platform review here.

1. Yahoo Stores

Crashing just once, even for a couple of hours, is “social suicide” for an ecommerce platform. Yahoo Stores, a.k.a. Yahoo Merchant Solutions, not only has 2 huge crashes in its history, but those crashes came at some of the worst times of the year.

Yahoo Stores crashed on Cyber Monday of 2007, a day that brought in over $700 million of sales (pretty good for 6 years ago). None of the +10,000 ecommerce users that used Yahoo Stores for ecommerce were able to cash in on the lucrative traffic influx. The stores remained live but customers were unable to checkout from Yahoo merchant stores. From 8:31 AM to 6:51 PM (PST), no sales were made on Yahoo ecommerce sites. Tragic. Yahoo ultimately apologized and waived 1 month’s service fees.

Another crash occurred December 6, 2010 for “upwards of three hours”. This time, over 35,000 ecommerce merchants were affected from 12:59 -4:02 PM (PST), not exactly off-hours for shoppers. Apparently Yahoo did not notify merchants in this instance.

You can check out the Yahoo Stores ecommerce platform review here.

Bottom Line

Crashes suck. They can happen to literally any retailer and any platform. So while these platforms have their history of crashes, this does NOT mean that these platforms will absolutely break down this Q4. Besides, it’s pretty much way too late in the year to transfer stores at this point.

There are other platforms out there that have crashed before that are not on this list, but the fact that these guys are big names and they power tens of thousands of online stores makes it a big deal. You can be sure that these big ecommerce platforms have taken precautions so that crashes are much less likely to occur in the future.

For a comprehensive look at 14 ecommerce platforms compared side by side, check out our Ecommerce Platform Comparison resource.

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