Is an Outage Sometimes Your Best Strategy?
By Aaron Rudger | September 12, 2012
Today's launch of the iPhone 5 followed a similar pattern to Apple's other previous product launches. And while Apple seems to be training the media to certain launch event expectations, it also seems to be training its Apple Store customers to expect closed doors at its e-commerce website.
Just as with the last major product launch (remember the "new" iPad?), the Apple Store was taken offline immediately preceding, and for some time after the media event. In this instance, for 7 hours. Keynote measurements of the Apple Store, a member of the Top Retailers (US) performance index, show the outage and captured the state of the website before, during and after.
Scatterplot graph of performance for the Apple Store home page. The screenshot images--captured by Keynote Transaction Perspective--have been imposed onto the graph for illustrative purposes.
A 7 hour outage for any online retailer is huge, and Apple's outages appear to be intentional. The closing of the Apple Store in this instance raises interesting questions about managing customer expectations and online experience. Are launch event outages a defensive practice, or an intentional component of the overall launch experience? Is it worth handling the spike of non-buying visitors (pre-sales won't be available until a couple days later) during the launch event, when most 'lookey-Lous' will likely get their fix through the subsequent media tsunami? At what point does opacity change from creating a sense of mystery to confusion?
The overall performance and availability of the Apple store is quite high, with it consistently ranking above the Index average for online retailers. Indeed, the past 6 weeks reveal improvement in Total User Experience Tim eand solid availability:
Apple appears to take Web performance seriously. Launch events such as today's are consistenly ochestrated to careful detail. So while most online retailers strive for 5 nines, is there something to be learned from Apple? Could an intentional full outage (outside of planned maintenance/change) be a viable e-commerce strategy in certain circumstances? If so, when?