The New….oops?


New – 09-13-2011

September 13, 2011

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from StorefrontBacktalk, a site tracking retail technology, e-commerce and mobile commerce.

When Target’s development team launched the new on August 23 after two years of development, it must have felt like a dream come true. But it wasn’t — at least not for customers who discovered that big chunks of the new site didn’t work at all, and almost nothing worked as well as the site they’d seen a day or two before.

Why? What went wrong? Actually, not much, from the point of view of experienced developers. Naturally the site had glitches — that’s to be expected.

Target decided to end its arrangement with Amazon two years ago — and that meant it had a completely blank slate to start from in creating a new site. Most e-commerce execs would love that opportunity to shed all the legacy code, the decade or so of kludges, workarounds and hacks that make it so difficult to do anything really innovative. All that old junk makes new approaches next to impossible.

But the downside is that there was also no legacy code that worked. If a new feature was too buggy, there was no old version to fall back on.

Target’s developers figured that was OK. The site would go live, they’d work the kinks out as quickly as possible, soon there would be all sorts of great new stuff built on the wonderful infrastructure that was still invisible on opening day, and everyone would understand — right?

No. Customers neither knew nor cared that the new website was the product of two years of loving development and was bound to have a few hiccups at first. It didn’t matter to them that Target had to build from scratch or that all sorts of wonderful new features would be coming once the site was stable.

All that customers saw was that their passwords, which worked fine on Monday, didn’t work on Tuesday. They couldn’t edit their wedding registry lists. They could no longer track orders they had paid for a day or two before. The weekly newspaper ad wasn’t showing up; neither were coupons. A large digital countdown clock on the homepage (an extremely long homepage) warned that today’s Daily Deals would end in so many hours, minutes and seconds — but the link went nowhere.

In fact, lots of the links were dead ends, delivering customers to very pretty error pages featuring Target’s mascot dog. (There’s a downside to using pictures of a dog mascot all over your site, including error pages: at a certain point, customers are likely to start really hating the sight of that little dog.)

No doubt all of that will soon be fixed. Much of the site was working far better the following day. But it will take a lot longer before customers feel like the new site is as good as the old one — which, of course, means better than the old one.

Discussion questions:  Do you think Target bungled its new website launch? What’s the best way to prepare and reassure customers for likely problems encountered as part of such overhauls?

My post:

Well it is now 11:30pm East Coast time and the site appears to be mostly working.  It was down when I first tried and then came up 10 minutes later with everything functioning except the “daily ad” link.

The comments above are accurate:

1.  “Glitches” are certainly failures, and

2.  The customer will not hold this against Target.

It is, however, a significant embarrassment to the IT team and should be a cause for concern for senior leadership.

Overall I like the design of the new site and think the situation will be forgotten by tomorrow – as long as it continues to function!

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! ™ strategist

What do you think?  Please add your comments and add to the discussion!

Go to the full discussion at  New Target.Com


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