It seemed the whole social world was aflutter with the news: Target was launching a Missoni collection in early September. And I would know. I’m the exact demo for Target. A self-described “budget fashion-ista,” college educated with an age somewhere north of 28 and south of 40. Which is why on Tuesday, September 13, 2011, I set my alarm for 2:55 a.m. PST to wake up, jump online and spend a significant portion of my paycheck on the iconic Missoni zigzags that were once unattainable but now within my price range. I was not alone in this. Across the country, ladies (and gentlemen) of all ages did this exact same thing.

What happened next can be used as a case study for savvy e-commence retailers. At 3:00 a.m. PST, on the morning of the much-hyped Missoni launch, crashed.

It seems that where Target went wrong wasn’t in creating a solid marketing campaign plan – it was in the length of that plan. Anticipating the sales volume, driven by the response to the pre-launch marketing campaign, they could have seen the demand coming and braced for impact with a more appropriate digital strategy, made up of a strategic use of microsite and social media tactics.

#1 – Divert Traffic Swells with a Branded Product Launch Microsite

Good news, bad news. Let’s start with the good news. The Missoni products were in demand, meaning all the pre-launch promotion was a huge success. The bad news is that in all likelihood, was not ready for the swell in online traffic, thus crashing the site. This is where the news gets worse. Having the site down angered fans that then hit social media with a fury while at the same time preventing everybody else who wanted to order something non-Missoni-related to take their dollars somewhere else. With a thriving e-commerce site, we’re guessing that translated to thousands of dollars worth of lost revenue for Target. And then there’s the PR aspect of all this. Yes, people are talking about the brand but they are talking about how failed. NPR picked up the story as did MSNBC.

One solution would be to have put the products on a microsite, thus isolating the Missoni products from the rest of It sounds simple in theory, but we understand there are a myriad of other factors that we simply don’t know: server issues, e-commerce platform, etc.

#2 – Use Social Media to Reward Enthusiasts

The Missoni launch would have been the perfect opportunity to reward the passionate fans & followers in the social space. Here are a few ideas: give Facebook fans & Twitter followers a head start on the shopping. Or create a social queue. Target could have used the social chatter to build even more excitement by setting up a contest in which fans & followers could win a “golden ticket” for a 15-minute head start on the Missoni items. Instead, the Target social team has been in crisis-communication mode, acting as social-based customer service, instead of creating even more excitement and brand good will.

Damage Prevention

This case study is really basic economics, translated in the digital space: limited supply with high demand. With the holiday season on the horizon, now is the time to start planning how to use digital strategies to create a smart plan. What do you think?

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