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.

WalMart, showing how it’s done

If you haven’t heard of Walmart Labs, you should go and check them out right away.  Last April, WalMart teamed up with Kosmix, the same guys who founded Amazon marketplace, to create Walmart Labs.  A company based in San Burno.  If you ever wanted to look at where the future of retailing is going, these guys are one of those groups to watch.


Walmart Labs is a company I am very impressed with.  Everyone knows Walmart and love them or hate them, you have to respect what is going on at the Labs.  A group of innovative thinkers and doers who are looking at the world of retail, not for today but for 10 years from now and then laying down that road to get us there.  In a world where companies barely look beyond the quarter, this thinking is revolutionary.


A lot of people talk about the showroom for Amazon impact that many retailers are experiencing.  But few really address the issues like Labs does.  As someone who follows what that group does, I have a pretty good idea of what kind of talent and culture the team has and what they are capable of.  This is a team that has the ability to change the way we shop and probably for the better.  I am impressed with the people they have and the rate of change they are moving at.  Walmart Labs is changing the way people like me, view Walmart.  A company that is now innovative.


As a competitor, I would be concerned about Walmart Labs, as a consumer and technology watcher, I am interested in what the team is doing.  Part of my job is to look at what Walmart Labs may be up to.  Walmart Labs is certain one to watch in the space of shopping experiences.  Most would claim Amazon is the top dog in this race for the online experience.  However, I would make the case that Walmart Labs, if allowed to really show their skills, would be the ones to define the online and cross channel space in a way that we have not seen before.  It is certainly a group to watch.

The End of E-commerce or the End of Silos

I saw this great article on the End of E-commerce.  I wanted to give my opinion on this as well as it is something I get to spend a lot of time thinking about, although in a very different way.  It isn’t really the end of e-commerce but the end of silos that needs to take place in retail.


Having cut my teeth in start ups during the dotcom era, I heard all kinds of comments about how e-commerce was going to kill the malls.  Well, most malls are still around.  In fact the one near my house got even bigger since the dotcom era.  The net did not kill physical stores, if anything, they made them more relevant.  I remember during the dotcom era, I was into the way under reported movement of cross commerce.  That was, taking the elements of the net and brining them into the retail space.  We knew the technology was not there but it would be in about 10-15 years, aka, right now.


When I look at retail today, I see tablets and phones that bring the web right into the store location.  What is an online sale and what is an in-store, there is almost no different now.  People do research online and buy in-stores and vice versa.  What smart retailers get is that you can’t have separate groups anymore, one handling the stores and the other handling online.  These are one in the eyes of consumers.


Think about it, when you shop at Walmart or Target, you don’t think, “gee, I’m dealing with the online team now, I should think differently about my consumer experience and realize it is not like the stores.”  Nobody thinks that way.  They see Target and think; it should be the same as the stores, same products and same brand promise.


For some retailers, this concept is revolutionary, but for the consumer, it is evolutionary.  The best companies in the near future are going to be the ones that are able to bridge all their channels in a seamless experience, both front and back.  And to be honest, nobody has done that to a truly evolutionary level.