Published: 07/10/2020

The Most Disruptive Black Friday Outages of 2019

  • Netacea, Agentless Bot Management

4 minutes read

Major eCommerce businesses experienced technical difficulties on their websites during Black Friday 2019. And this isn’t something retailers can afford, when Black Friday is traditionally the day retailers roll out their biggest online discounts.

As Black Friday approaches, many websites will see a spike in traffic which means an increase in bot activity.

Are bots hiding in your holiday traffic?

In 2019, 38.6% of Black Friday traffic consisted of bad bots. Some bad bots make very little or no attempt to hide their identities. This can sometimes make them easy to spot using basic IP blocking. However, identifying bad bots becomes much more challenging during busy periods when they mimic human behaviour. Bad bots disguise their identity to avoid detection and attacks are on the rise across every industry, especially during spikes in traffic such as those generated on Black Friday.

Cyber-attackers use bots to target eCommerce websites with excessive traffic and brute force attacks that take sites down and often drive the user to a competitor when service because slow and clunky.


Scraping and inventory hoarding are amongst the most common bot attacks observed during the busy Black Friday sales period.

What is scraping?

Content scrapers attempt to use stolen content as their own. It is an illegal process of when a bot downloads original content from a genuine website and using the stolen content to another website without the knowledge or permission of the content’s owner.

What is inventory hoarding?

Inventory hoarding is when a user selects and holds an item in a basket that is usually, limited in availability. Because that stock is held in a basket, it becomes unavailable for others to purchase.

Why is speed so important on Black Friday?

In previous years, companies including Macy’s, Target and Best Buy have all experienced web issues around Black Friday. It has been estimated that retailers lose about 4% of a day’s sales, each hour that a website is down during this time.

Black Friday is one of the biggest days for consumer spending of the year, and therefore the one day that website functionality is a must. Bad bot traffic and downtime simply aren’t an option.

We look back at 2019 and the outages experienced by retailers on Black Friday:

Costco experienced issues as customers frantically shopped the Black Friday deals in advance. Customers took to social media to complain that they were unable to complete orders online. Costco had later added a banner on its website informing customers that the website was “experiencing slow response times.” The Costco website issues possibly cost the company millions of dollars in lost sales.

Although not a retailer, it’s how we pay for our items. NatWest and RBS customers in the UK reported over 2500 problems when they were unable to complete transactions on Black Friday, using the online and mobile banking services. Customers were left unable to access their accounts.

The bank stated: “We’re currently looking into reports of issues with some of our services. We are working hard to fix this, thanks for your patience.”

H&M was unable to manage the high volume of incoming traffic. As a result, the retailer displayed a message to users that they were experiencing a temporary issue. Long wait times were detected for H&M’s search results page. The retailer also experienced similar issues during Black Friday in 2017.

Connectivity issues proved to be a pain point for retailers and data reveals the amount of downtime each retailer experienced was because of capacity problems.

Despite Black Friday being a huge online event, every year sees at least a few companies who encounter problems throughout this day. Many retail sites fail to prepare at all, if the site goes down, brand reputation is affected.

Retail sites usually crash because they weren’t tested appropriately or carefully enough to make sure they could handle the kind of traffic that these shopping days generate.

Is your website ready for Black Friday 2020?** Contact Netacea** to find out how bad bots are taking advantage of the high volumes of traffic and what you can do to stop them.

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