November 9, 2010, 2:00 PM adopts a new holiday marketing approach after last week’s crash

Heavy traffic to the retailer’s holiday promotion halted online transactions last week.

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A two-day long early holiday promotion that offered limited quantities of select products with discounts up to 90% generated an unexpected amount of traffic to and left the home improvement retailer unable to process online transactions just minutes after the sale began at midnight last Friday.

During the incident irate consumers posted on the retailer’s Facebook page that items disappeared from their shopping carts and error messages appeared when they tried to complete their orders.

Now Lowe’s has found a different way to distribute the required coupon codes and restore its ability to deliver on the sale offers.

In its original incarnation, Lowe’s Black Friday Sneak Peek Party promotion gave consumers who clicked that they Like Lowe’s on Facebook a chance to snag a KitchenAid standing mixer at 90% off on a first-come, first-serve basis with the use of a coupon code. The retailer revealed the coupon code via a 15-second video posted on its Facebook page and the first 200 consumers who completed transactions with the code received the discount. A Lowe’s spokeswoman would not reveal specific traffic numbers but did say a barrage of traffic overwhelmed the site and derailed the promotion. The company says it tested the site prior to the promotion’s launch but declined to reveal how or what exactly triggered the problem.

The retailer’s Facebook team posted updates throughout the day on Friday and explained to consumers that it was working on a way to get more promotions up ahead of the weekend. The following day Lowe’s revealed new rules for the sale, now dubbed Black Friday Sneak Peek Party Part 2. Rather than prompt consumers to rush the e-commerce site for a few available products all at once, the company revealed new offers on Facebook sporadically.

To respond to an offer consumers clicked on a link that took them to a landing page where they entered their e-mail addresses. Consumers received an e-mail message within five hours that contained a coupon code unique to each recipient. First responders, up to the limit on the offer, received the 90% off codes; consumers who didn’t act quickly enough to get the 90% code received one for 20% off.  Consumers had 48 hours to redeem codes online or inside stores.

In all, Lowe’s also extended the Sneak Peak promotion for two days and offered more KitchenAid mixers, in addition to other products, at 90% off.

“We listened to our customers and offered an additional 200 KitchenAid mixers at 90% off, twice the original amount planned,” the Lowe’s spokeswoman says.

Lowe’s employees communicated with customers via Facebook throughout the weekend and assured customers that the sale would continue.

Word of the sales spread widely. On Friday, Lowe’s had 211,000 people who had clicked that they Like the retailer on Facebook. On Monday afternoon, it had more than 264,000. Two weeks ago, it had just 134,000, a Lowe’s spokeswoman says. In the span of 24 hours, from midnight Saturday to midnight Sunday, Lowe’s also received 81.3 million post views on Facebook, she says; post views refer to consumers who clicked on Lowe’s Facebook posts.

Lowe's is No. 81 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

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