Target website outages could spell problem for ecommerce industry

Target website outages could spell problem for ecommerce industry

In less than two months, retail company Target has suffered multiple outages of its website, according to a recent Computerworld report.

During the latest problem, Target's website was shut down for more than two hours, a company spokesperson told the news provider. Although the time was given regarding how long the site was off, the source did not reveal the cause of the problem.

According to Computerworld, Target's previous outage that occurred in September was due to an influx of online shoppers after the company began selling merchandise from Missoni Italian fashion house. The latest issue with the ecommerce website may prompt Target officials to bolster the site before the holiday shopping season goes into full motion.

"Target obviously needs to figure out what's causing the problems with their web presence," Gabriel Consulting Group analyst Dan Olds told Computerworld. "They need to put the same, or more, effort into maintaining their website as a physical store manager would to ensure his store is operating in an efficient and safe manner. Target needs to redouble these efforts as we get closer to the holiday sales season."

Olds also said Target must test their web applications to make sure they can handle the spike in traffic. If these problems continue, Olds said the company may have to bring in a third-party to help them improve their ecommerce operations.

While this news is certainly dangerous for Target's operations, continued outages may have further repercussions for the entire ecommerce industry, said the news provider's Sharon Gaudin.

"It's scary how much depends on their position in the market," Technology Business Research analyst Ezra Gottheil told Gaudin. "If approximately the same products are available at another similar [online] retailer, you could lose a customer for life ... And it's only increasingly more critical as we get closer to the big season."

Gottheil said that although these outages to Target will not have a profound impact on the company's ecommerce sales, a problem in November or December could be dangerous.

"Fix it, figure out what went wrong, make sure it never happens again, explain to the world what went wrong and how you will keep it from happening again," said Gottheil. "And then hope."

According to the report, Olds added that many shoppers are checking online stores before heading to a brick-and-mortar establishment. Any problem with their ecommerce website during the busy holiday season could be a "nightmare," said Olds.

Despite a weak economy, consumers in the United States continue to use ecommerce as a way to conduct their shopping. According to a study released in August by comScore, U.S. ecommerce sales for the 2011 second quarter reached $37.5 billion, increasing 14 percent from the 2010 second quarter. The continued ecommerce success in the United States also represents the seventh consecutive quarter of year-over-year growth.

"The second quarter of 2011 saw a continuation of this year's solid double-digit growth trends in online spending, well ahead of the rate of growth in consumers' overall spending," said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. "As a result, it’s clear that consumers are continuing to shift to the online channel, with almost $1 in every $10 of discretionary spending now occurring online. Ecommerce's benefits of convenience and lower prices continue to be the drivers of the shift."

With so much consumer money available, companies must make sure their websites have the proper security in place to make sure their consumers do not go elsewhere if a strain on the network happens or if hackers attempt to breach the system.