The Data Age

Big Data and Living in an Age of Data

The Data Age - Big Data and Living in an Age of Data

Walmart DOS Attack, Warning to All Retailers

The web is buzzing with the potential that Walmart was hit with a DOS attack Tuesday.  A DOS attack is a Denial of Service attack where a hacker floods a site with a lot of requests all at once.  This attack tends to bring down a site or slow it down to the point that you really can’t use it as a consumer.   DOS attacks are nothing new, they have been going on for years, but the timing is interesting.


During Power Week, when every retailer is expecting massive volumes of traffic, a DOS attack is the perfect attack.  Why?  Because when you see a traffic spike, the first think that most retailers will think is, “great, we are seeing high volumes of consumer traffic.”  That’s what everyone has been trained to think, so an attack at this point in time can go unnoticed for a while.  And of course if you are doing hundreds of transactions a second, being down for one hour, will hurt!


Someone like Walmart will spot this attack but a mid-size retailer or one not thinking about an attack could go down for hours as they try and fix their “load” issue when in fact it is an attack that is not going to stop.  This could really damage a company.  Just knowing how many retailers think, a DOS attack is not top of mind when a lot of traffic is seen.

Black Friday Analysis

Thanksgiving is thankfully a quiet day for me. No family drama or anything like that, everyone behaves and gets along. Black Friday on the other hand, is a crazy lack of sleep day. I did my first black Friday years ago as a consumer, now that I’m on the other side of things, it is still a very interesting day.

Most people look at Black Friday from the consumer perspective, going out at odd hours to get a deal. It’s a little like war, long periods of nothing all of a sudden broken by a quick and fast moment of action. Most of time you wait, and just sit there and find ways to pass the time, then the doors open. People rush in and grab the deal they want and try to get out as fast as they can. Then once out, the rush is gone and adrenalin starts to go down.

This year, I was working, not in the stores but monitoring the systems in the back. I was up all night watching the systems and going to stores as well. I would wait until after the stores had opened to go see. Normally an hour or two after the open. I really wasn’t into the crowds, especially since the day had taken a 40F drop in temps.

As usual, the place was chaos, I spent more time at other retailers stores because I know what the stores are like at mine and with all the people on the team in the store, there was no reason for me to take up space. I was curious about seeing what retailers who are not often mentioned, where doing. Places like World Market where I went at 7am on my way into the office. They gave me a free Life of Pi ornament and a pass to watch a movie for free. And the little chocolate bears from Germany that are in the Christmas section, well worth the $4!

I also went to the Apple store at 6am which was not as busy as you would think, probably because the deals were a bit of a yawn.

I did go to Herbergers and Macy’s around 12:30am. Those were pretty crazy and packed with people. The staff at Macy’s seemed overwhelmed.

I took a walk through Wal Mart at 3am, it looked like a tornado had gone through there.

Overall I saw a less chaotic day. Most people were mellow, I didn’t see anyone go crazy like I have in years past. In a way it was kind of anti-climatic. The new schedule for stores spreads things out over a longer time period of 12 hours vs the 3-4 hours in the past. Now it’s 8pm to 8am where as before, 5am to 9am was what you saw. That smaller window seemed to keep people fired up and making it all crazy. Now, people go out because they can’t sleep and don’t have to work the next day so it’s a different mood for a lot of people who are out.

So how does this all fit with big data? Black Friday is a shopping day on steroids. You will see behavior 10x the level you normally will. I do think there is a lot of good information to gain from seeing what people do on Black Friday. Exactly what kind of information? Well, that’s something you have to hire me to find out. In this world where analysis and trend spotting is the new gold, I can’t just hand that information out.

I ended my all night Black Friday at about 2pm. No sleep all night and no breakfast, but after a big Thanksgiving dinner, that’s ok.

Was it a Smart Move to Open Early on Black Friday?

It has been nearly a month since the Thanksgiving Day early opening making it Black Thursday for some instead of Black Friday.  So the question that everyone is asking is, was that early open a smart move?  It is a fair question and one that the numbers may answer.


We saw some numbers showing that consumers were very much in a deal hunting mood this year.  Fair enough, the economy is still tough.  So the next question is, did those deals help?  For some companies it did improve market share but at the cost of profit performance.  We already know what happened to Best Buy, and chances are it is going to be the indicator of what the rest of the sector will show us.  However, one company to watch will be Sears.


Sears bucked the early opening and as a result, it may show us what next year will have in store for us in terms of opening hours for Black Thursday/Friday.

Power Week!

This is the start of Power Week.  What is power week, it is the week when retailers get ready and launch the holiday season.  So all over the country this week, retailers and those companies that sell through retail channels, are busy getting all their ducks in a row.


Some interesting things to watch will be, what is the backlash to Black Friday going to be?  Will we see anyone pull back on start hours at the last minute?


Will Target’s website crash again?


How many people will be sent to the hospital this year on Black Friday?


The interesting thing about Power Week and Black Friday is, the consumer wants a new model of shopping for the deals, yet this is really a throw back.  How long will it last is really more about the retailers and less about the consumers.  Because the retailers want people to spent money and they still believe this is how it is best done.  We will see.