Could a software glitch kill your company?

No primary category set

How much do you reply on automated software to run your business and how robust are your procedures when something goes wrong?

There’s a story in the news today about Knight Capital who lost around £283m when their automated share trading software went haywire. Not only did they lose around 75% of their own market value, but they caused chaos on the stock markets as the prices they were trading at were all over the place.

Whilst your online business probably has no where near the exposure of stock traders, there are still many things that can go wrong. Earlier this year there were reports that AppEagle repricing software went awry and listed retailers products on Amazon for just $0.01. A few years back in 2009 Schuhstore had a major error with their inhouse software with some 15,000 products sold on auction which they didn’t have in stock. They had way over 1,000 negative eBay feedbacks and for many sellers this would have spelt the end of their business – it’s only due to Schuh’s volume that they managed to trade out of the glitch.

Do you know what could go wrong with the software solutions that you use that could affect your business? It could be anything from unintended listing on marketplaces, adword campaigns, shopping comparison listings, pricing, postage rates or even something as simple as the label printing software you use sending everything by courier instead of Royal Mail.

It’s worth reviewing the software that you use and checking exactly what permissions that software has. It’s almost impossible to run a sizeable business without a certain level of automation, but you should be aware of what your worst case exposure could be, both from how much an error could cost you as well as the reputational damage to your business.

4 Responses

  1. Howdy Chris,

    You’ve raised a very important query as software by it’s design has features.

    Sometimes in complex software there are bugs or as I call them “undocumented” features and sooner or later one or more of them will cause mistakes to happen.

    Whether they reprice all your listings to 0.01, cost £283m, it is is enviable to happen, just we don’t hear about the all small features that go wrong daily, generally these are raised as support queries or just go unnoticed.

    Make sure the provider can give you a service level agreement (SLA) for when things go wrong, for which they will and clear time frames for such events.

    When it comes to eBay and Amazon, both use programming interfaces (API’s) and for both of them, if you enable the developer tokens, then that developer token can process almost everything you can on the websites directly AND a lot more besides remotely and a lot faster too, so if its’ going to go pear, it can do fast, as we’ve seen with the AppEagle example.

    Anyway events to these scales are rare, what is of greater impact to us is the support structure to cope with the little features that happen much more frequently.


    PS. When I saw Schuh’s account go red, I thought that was the end of them on eBay, top marks they pulled that back well.

  2. Chris, Do you have any more detail on the appeagle glitch? Any ideas on what percentage of the customers were hit?

    It would be great if 3rd party permission could be designated to specific areas of ebay/amazon sites. Handing over pricing to unmonitored automated processes developed by faceless uncontactable software geeks is certainly an act of faith.


Amazon Disbursements held due to unmet UK business establishment requirements unfreeze disbursements says Minister

Enterprise minister tells Amazon unfreeze disbursements

Amazon Disbursements held due to unmet UK business establishment requirements unfreeze disbursements says Minister

Amazon Disbursements held due to unmet UK business establishment requirements

Ecommerce SNAFU - Swearing & Cancelled Deliveries

Ecommerce SNAFU – Swearing & Cancelled Deliveries available quantities glitch available quantities glitch

Royal Mail Click and Drop Collections Failure

Royal Mail Click and Drop Collections Failure

ChannelX Guide...

Featured in this article from the ChannelX Guide – companies that can help you grow and manage your business.

Register for Newsletter

Receive 5 newsletters per week

Gain access to all research

Be notified of upcoming events and webinars