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How did Valentine’s Day affect online card retailers?

Valentine’s Day, the annual cringefest, with its red roses, soppy Facebook statuses and overt PDA, is the first big retail event of the New Year. As discussed by Tim Hinds of Neotys, February 14th is an important day for e-commerce sites that are selling flowers card and chocolates.

Hinds describes the importance of load testing for these sites and shares tales about how last minute purchases of flowers have caused websites to crash in America. When I mean last minute, we are talking about ‘sites expiring high traffic spikes in the early morning of Valentine’s Day’.

With this in mind then, we were interested to see if the onrush of last minute shoppers caused any similar spikes in traffic for the leading online card retailers. Using our in house monitoring tool, we pitted seven online card retailers together and compared their web performance over the week leading up to Valentine’s Day.

Three Second Benchmark

First and foremost all of the websites monitored had an average response time under the magic three second benchmark.  This in itself is an achievement, as it is suggested that 92 per cent of retailers fail to achieve the milestone. You’ve probably heard the stats before but to reiterate, 57% of consumers will abandon a page that takes longer than 3 seconds to load. With this in mind, it’s good to see these sites performing to meet customer expectations. 

Were there any web crashes?

We didn’t detect any major web crashes like those described by Hinds, with all the sites seeming to hold up quite well. Does this mean that Brits are more prepared than their American counterparts? Who knows, but it was interesting to note that we saw slowdowns for the majority of the sites a couple of days before Valentine’s Day. Both the 11th and 12th February saw increased homepage response times; with one example seeing their average page load time treble during the two days.

What made slow?

As demonstrated above, we monitored each site at five minute intervals. Looking specifically at the 11th February it’s interesting to note that all retailers had an increase in response times. However, the spike was bigger for some compared to the others. Moonpig’s times were extremely slow and on three occasions we were unable to get a response from the site.

So what was it that made their website so slow? Was it a spike of customers buying cards at the same time for their loved ones over their lunch break? Are Moonpig the ‘go to’ website and was it experiencing a lot of traffic compared to the other retailers because of its most popular? It’s difficult to say exactly what it could be looking from the outside, but we’re fairly confident in saying there wasn’t radical changes to the webpage make up during this period that may have contributed to the slowdown. 


Overall, it’s fair to say all the retailers that we monitored performed well over the Valentine period. Fortunately no one seemed to have major crashes. Even though Moonpig encountered some serious slowdowns, they still finished third in terms of average response time behind Tesco Card and first placed, Funky Pigeon. We have monitored the latter for nearly a year and they have continually performed well.

With the change in buying habits moving firmly towards the web, the fact that all the sites averaged under the three-second benchmark indicates that performance is a key factor with online card retailers. We intend to see how these companies get on in the week leading up to Mother’s Day. If we see anything interesting, we’ll be sure to let you know!

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