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Why You Couldn’t Enter Travis Scott Launches

July 21, 2022
Patrick Donelan
CTO & Co-Founder, EQL

It’s 2022, and sneaker raffles feel like they just got worse

We recently saw the start of one of this year’s hottest sneaker releases, the Travis Scott x Jordan 1 Low in ‘Reverse Mocha’ colorway. Retailers across the US announced all the various ways you could participate in the launch. Unfortunately for fans of the sneaker and Mr. Scott, thousands of customers were unable to participate—raffles wouldn’t load, apps lagged, and errors persisted.

Versions of this frustrating experience are increasingly happening across event tickets, cars, whisky, watches, campsites, collectibles, toys, and so much more. So even if you're not a sneakerhead, chances are you're a fan of something where the demand is much greater than the supply. So, what's going on behind the scenes? Why does everything fall apart at the crucial moment? Why is this still happening?

A sample of comments found on the Instagram pages of US retailers that are releasing the Reverse Mocha Jordan 1 Low.

Most sneakerheads know that bots are exploiting raffles. But yesterday felt different, the combination of both demand and bots prevented people from even submitting entries across a variety of retailers. The problems with hype commerce might be reaching their peak for consumers. High heat drops like this aren’t new, so why are they getting worse? Shouldn’t technology adapt, and make releases better and better?

The demand for this week’s Jordan 1 Low was not unexpected either. Just last August 2021 a user claimed to get 32K bot entries into Travis Scott X Fragment AJ1 raffle. Yet the infrastructure that retailers have in place for hype drops hasn’t changed since Travis’s first Jordan Low in 2019.

What’s happening behind the scenes?

When half the internet is sending you traffic all at once, your first challenge is to keep your website up and running so that you can capture all of those entries. If your website infrastructure is caught with its pants down or can’t keep up with demand, entries start failing, errors pile up, and real customers are prevented from entering. You need the right tech in place to meet the demand of high heat launches—purpose-built, battle-tested, scalable cloud infrastructure that eats hype for breakfast.

High heat launches are incredibly spiky — most of the action happens in the first few minutes, and most systems are simply not designed to handle such extremes. If 100K people arrive at your house party all at the one time, a lot of people are going to be left outside in the cold. It’s the same here. Even the biggest cloud providers have hard limits that restrict their usefulness in these scenarios, and traditional ecommerce systems simply can’t cope, or can’t scale up fast enough. Which is why we continue to see retailers' commerce systems fail in the heat of the moment. Shout out Corey Worthington.

A typical hype launch spike (AJ1 Mid SE Fearless Maison Château Rouge)

Let’s pretend that your site did manage to stay afloat—congratulations! Your users were able to enter, and now they’re counting on you to deliver a fair selection process. How do you ensure that your system doesn’t pick bots and scammers as winners? You need a fairness engine that can perform sophisticated AI analysis in real time, to reward people who are playing by the rules and ensure that products end up in the hands of real fans.

When you see a high heat launch struggling to keep up with the deluge of entries, it’s safe to assume a two things (1) they’re likely not capturing accurate scammer signals, which means they’re also unlikely to be analysing and filtering with complete confidence, and (2) unfortunately, for some poor employee, this process likely gets done by hand in some kind of spreadsheet. Bots are far too sophisticated, entry volume is too large, and overall demand is too intense for manual clipping to be effective. Payments get messy, too. The result? Product gets into the wrong hands, and real customers are left empty-handed and frustrated….again.

Wrong tools, big problems

You’d never book Kendrick Lamar at The Bowery Ballroom in Brooklyn. (While you’d have 575 happy people inside, you'd have some incredibly angry people outside). High heat creates chaos, and retailers haven't had access to solutions that were designed for these moments. Cobbled together DIY solutions fall apart when the stakes are highest. All you end up with is frustrated consumers—tired of wasting their time and energy jumping through hoops that are poorly designed.

While sneakers have made incredible strides to tell better stories, and find new audiences, the technology is being left behind. You can't expect to win an F1 Grand Prix in a go-kart. It doesn’t work. With hype, the demand is higher, and so are the expectations. With over 200+ bots on the market, there’s likely more developers working on bots than there are employed at retailers. Many retailers can’t afford the full-time staff, and it makes sense. If you’re not managing hype launches with EQL, you’re likely putting a strain on resources and overspending—it’s not easy to scale infrastructure, hire engineers, data analysts, and payment experts.

We have to commend those who are actively trying and experimenting for their customers, but we understand the need for something better. To win—to really delight your customer, ensure a smooth launch experience, you need the right tools and technology in place.

Epic numbers: Unseen and unmanaged in e-commerce

High heat sneaker releases are measured in the millions of entries. At EQL, we typically see about 34% of entries coming from bots. The cruel irony is that the more your tech stack struggles with bots, the more attractive your site becomes to botters, which results in a feeding frenzy. On the flip-side, we’ve seen traffic drop by 10x after a site switches over to EQL, as many bots give up and go elsewhere.

At EQL, we’re always investing in the infrastructure and smarts that allow us to capture and analyse an ever-growing number of entries in real-time. It ensures that everyone can enter smoothly, and the process runs fairly. Our internal mantra is to always be 10x ahead of the curve, because the next big record-smashing hype launch is always just around the corner.

If you’re not prioritising your technology, you’re not putting your fans first.

We’re quickly approaching a tipping point in hype commerce—things need to change. Since EQL launched ~3 years ago, we’ve run over 2,000 launches, analysed over 50M+ signals, and gotten product into the hands of half a million valuable customers. We’ve built the solution, an end-to-end platform that prevents sites from crashing, filters out bots and fraud, processes payments, and ensures releases are easier to manage for retailers and and fairer for customers. And we’re already doing it for Foot Locker, Crocs, and many more internationally.

Hype Commerce is unique, it behaves completely differently to any other type of commerce. It’s high heat, spiky, intense and chaotic. We love it, and would love to help more retailers thrive in it, and get more out of their launches.
Patrick Donelan
CTO & Co-Founder, EQL

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