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Performance Tracking  > 2006 Holiday Season

WebSitePulse 2006 Holiday Retail Performance and Uptime Report Summary

With the Holidays Season over, now it is time for the analysts and industry experts to announce the final numbers and conclusions about the 56 busiest shopping days of the year. However, it is already clear that online retail is the big winner of the Season: Online Customers spent 26% more compared to the same period of 2005, according to comScore Networks. The estimated $21 billion spent online between Thanksgiving and Christmas added up to the online retail numbers from the first 10 months of 2006, and for the first time ever probably topped the $100 billion mark for the entire year.

WebSitePulse Performance Reports measure Uptime and Response Time as the most important metrics for the availability and the reliability of any web-based operation, critical for the End Users' overall online experience. The top ten online shopping destinations were monitored for the second time this year to keep the general public and the Internet community informed about the progress that is made, as well as about the challenges webmasters, owners and operators are facing on a daily basis, especially during the online shopping-intensive periods of the year.

Interestingly enough, two of the websites mentioned in the last year's Report were again the ones that triggered most alarms at the WebSitePulse headquarters in Orlando, FL.

BestBuy.com was not available for online Customers from 11:30 pm EST on December 14th up until 8:30 am EST on December 15th, and also the next morning between 2:15 am and 3:00 am EST. WebSitePulse experts' initial assumption about a scheduled update or maintenance was rejected later because of the duration of the downtime, unusually long for a scheduled update. Furthermore, it is quite unlikely to schedule several maintenance sessions in the middle of the busiest shopping season of the year. After several instances of detected malfunctions and unavailability, WebSitePulse believed that BestBuy.com was struggling with technical problems, and attempted to contact the IT management to extend an offer for free monitoring and reporting until the end of the Season. No response was ever received from BestBuy.com.

Sears.com was another website that drove down the availability and uptime averages of the Retail Group monitored by WebSitePulse. On December 22, from 6:00 am until 9:20 am EST, the website was unavailable for online Customers. The problem was immediately detected by WebSitePulse, and reported only a few hours later. As the rest of the monitored online retailers performed well during that time, WebSitePulse experts could not attribute the event to any general events related to the Global Internet Network functionality, and concluded that the malfunction was specific to Sears.com.

However, the biggest surprise for the season came from Walmart.com. On Black Friday - the day after Thanksgiving - Walmart.com experienced serious problems resulting in about 10 hours of total downtime. The response times of some of the web pages included in the monitored transaction increased 6 to 7 times above their normal levels leading to overall poor performance and interrupted e-business process for one of the leading online retailers.
In addition, on December 13, Walmart.com servers were under heavy pressure related to the increased online demand for the Elmo doll. WebSitePulse first detected the error at 12:00 pm. The website was fully functional again at 12:52 pm. This downtime is slightly longer than the 45 minutes reported by Keynote Systems two days after the event.
Even though no other problems of similar magnitude were detected for Walmart.com until the end of the monitoring Report period, the biggest retailer consistently ended up at the last positions on the daily Uptime chart. WebSitePulse monitoring agent detected multiple, intermittent errors while communicating with the Walmart.com system of web servers, resulting in interrupted connections. No downtime announcement could have been made however, because almost all the times the next measurement returned an "OK" status. WebSitePulse experts believe that most probably these interrupted connections were caused by web servers overload.

The summarized numbers and averages for the entire monitoring period are shown in the tables below:

Average Response times for the whole period
#TargetLos Angeles, CAChicago, ILWashington, DCAvg. resp. time

Average Uptime for the whole period
#TargetLos Angeles, CAChicago, ILWashington, DCAvg. uptime

Best regards, and takeITeasy™ with WebSitePulse™

Iavor Marinoff, CEO

Report Methodology:
Performance and availability are measured for a typical shopping web transaction at 15 minute monitoring interval every day between the hours of 6AM and 3AM EST. The WebSitePulse application monitoring service is used to collect data and to create the reports.
The steps in each shopping transaction - opening the home page, browsing for a product, adding product to the shopping cart, and secure check out - are comparable for all ten websites, and reflect the real online buyers' experience. The simultaneous monitoring is performed from 3 US locations of the WebSitePulse monitoring network: Chicago, IL; Los Angeles, CA, and Washington, DC. In case of a detected malfunction or unavailability, the system performs automated error verification from 3 independent resources and only after the above procedure is performed and has returned consistent results, the detected error is confirmed, recorded, and included in the daily performance reports. In these cases, an advanced WebSitePulse exclusive feature comes into play - Forced Monitoring - which automatically switches to a 3 minute - monitoring interval for increased accuracy.

About WebSitePulse:
WebSitePulse is a leading provider of global, independent, and objective availability and performance monitoring of web sites, servers, network components, web applications, e-business- and email round-trip transactions.

For more information about this report please contact:
George T., CTO
phone: 1-407-380-1600

WebSitePulse launched the Performance and Uptime Reports program to keep the general public and the Internet community informed about the performance of specific websites and the challenges their webmasters, owners and operators are facing on a daily basis, especially when the web traffic intensifies due to some special events through the year. Some of the most popular web destinations, related to each particular event, are selected for the purpose of the Reports, and data from their performance measurements is made available on the WebSitePulse public website.

With the intention to broadly disseminate this information for the benefit of the Internet community, we encourage the use of this information without prior approval and under the following Terms and Conditions:
  • WebSitePulse should be referred as the "Source" of the information;
  • WebSitePulse should be acknowledged as the owner of the copyrights of the information in the Reports;
  • The texts of the Reports could be changed or altered to better suit the needs and the style of the publisher without prior notice to WebSitePulse. However, the integrity and the meaning of the information should be preserved;

The Data from the performance measurements cannot be changed or manipulated and should be used "as is".