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Was Finish Line’s New Site Disaster The Latest Cloud Casualty?

January 9th, 2013

And the most likely culprit is the cloud architecture, because Finish Line in November bragged about how the new site stitched together CRM, inventory and other databases with customer shopping carts. That means a lot of round trips between Demandware’s cloud, Finish Line’s datacenter and customers’ browsers. It may be possible to tune a site that ambitious to overcome all that inevitable network latency, but it sounds like Finish Line’s site didn’t manage to achieve it.

Samuel Sato, Finish Line’s president, said the site’s launch timing was potentially the biggest problem from the chain’s point of view. “Two critical pieces: One is the timing of our launch prior to holiday. In hindsight, this was a mistake, given the importance of the holiday season. Secondarily, we had consumer experience issues that were primarily driven by the site design and functionality. And, in fact, traffic on our new site did not change from its previous legacy site. In fact, it grew a tad. It was really about conversion that led us to make the strategic decision to move back to our legacy site and to ensure that we could preserve our important holiday selling season.”

CFO Edward Wilhelm added that shoppers were happy again as soon as the old site was restored. “Once we reverted it back, we got back to the same metrics that we were seeing on our old site previously, so there was no lingering effect,” he said.

CEO Lyon took much of the blame, saying overconfidence and insufficient supervision appears to have been behind the problem.

“In hindsight, launching the Web site in November was a huge mistake. Now you get into the whole leadership and management scenario that says, ‘Did confidence outweigh reality of doing something like that at that time of the year?’ We had so much confidence built into the fact that this platform was going to improve our business, never thinking that it could be decreasing our business,” he said.

Once management realized the problem, it didn’t immediately go to the old site. Instead, the chain worked on the new system for 10 critical holiday shopping days before reverting.

“We spent 10 days to make sure that we couldn’t fix it and have it perform at a level that was acceptable at holiday time and then go forward with it, adjusting it on a go-forward basis,” Lyon said. “I constantly use the expression around here that we need to be confident, but we can’t be cocky. And the fact is, we might have got a little out on our skis here. And we’re admitting that to you, and we’re taking all of the proper actions to fix that.”


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