RealTime IT News

Holiday Hits, Misses for E-Tailers

Two PC manufacturers fared best in this year's online holiday shopping onslaught, according to officials at Web site performance monitoring firm AlertSite Tuesday.

The Web sites for Dell and Gateway experienced the best response times and success rates among a crop of major e-commerce sites, notably Amazon.com and Walmart.com.

AlertSite rated the top online sellers from Nov. 23 through Dec. 26 on two criteria: response time and success rate.

Every 15 minutes, seven AlertSite servers throughout the United States query the home pages of the e-tailers to see first whether it was successful, and then to measure the response time.

Online Shopping Numbers
Site Response Time
(in seconds)
Success Rate
Dell.com 1.77 99.99%
Gateway.com 2.12 100%
eBay.com 3.14 99.99%
JCPenny.com 3.16 99.94%
Walmart.com 3.75 99.24%
SharperImage.com 4.17 99.88%
Amazon.com 4.89 98.43
Sears.com 6.01 97.90%
BestBuy.com 6.18 99.87
Target.com 7.80 99.9%

Overall, all the companies fared pretty admirably, said Ken Godskind, AlertSite vice president of marketing, though the group average success rate of 99.52 falls below his benchmark of 99.7 percent of a "good number."

"It's really interesting how online retailing has changed the visibility and leverage of the stakes," he said. "If you go to a Wal-Mart and the cashier is nasty to you, okay, you've got one angry, upset customer. But if you're Amazon or Wal-Mart and some individual on your staff makes a mistake or there's an equipment failure that affects performance on your site, there's thousands or tens of thousands or millions of users potentially affected.

"In any environment there are dozens -- if not hundreds or thousands -- of pieces of moving parts: equipment, databases, networks, routers, switches and servers," he added. "And in those environments, you have both equipment failures and human mistakes and they're very amplified. It's not that they're unavoidable, but life isn't perfect."

Earlier this month, both Amazon.com and Walmart.com were hit with Web site outages that kept customers from making purchases online, according to AlertSite statistics. On Dec. 8, Walmart.com had limited access to its site for a couple of hours in the morning, while Amazon.com experienced major site problems for about seven hours on Dec. 6.

Officials at Wal-Mart and Amazon.com were not available for comment at press time.

Of course, the experience wasn't a complete loss for Amazon.com. According to the company Monday, it experienced record sales for the 2004 holiday season between Nov. 25 and Dec. 23, and a single-day record of 2.8 million items on one of those days.

"While I think Amazon's success rate number looks a little low, relatively, I think they handled some incredible amount of activity this year," Godskind said.