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GUEST COMMENT Five web hosting tips to maximise ecommerce profits this Christmas

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by Mike Bainbridge

Overcrowded shops with terrible music on repeat and the inevitable cold weather, or staying at home and having gifts delivered to your door? It’s no wonder ecommerce sales at Christmas are growing by around 20% a year.

Unfortunately, online retailers still aren’t always ready for the spikes in traffic the Christmas season brings. If your ecommerce storefront crashes, the resulting loss of orders can have a significant impact on festive season profits. Knowing where and how your website is hosted is critical to ensuring perfect site performance. Get prepared with our top tips for better ecommerce hosting.

Optimise your site’s speed

Consumers are increasingly impatient – a slow or crashing website will affect conversion rates. One in five shopping carts is abandoned because of slow page loading or crashes. That’s more than $3 billion a year in lost sales. Web hosting optimised for online storefronts decreases page loading times by at least 40 times.

Running an ecommerce website on a basic hosting setup risks performance issues that translate into slow loading pages, abandoned shopping carts and ultimately lost revenue. This can be improved by using optimised hardware and software configurations for faster page loading times.

When partnering with a hosting provider that offers a solution optimised for ecommerce, it adds a layer to the hardware setup, known as the ‘caching mechanism’. This layer stores the data for pages so it can load them more quickly, taking stress off the main server.

Depending on which caching mechanism is used, the performance increase could be either faster page loading times or an increase in the amount of traffic that can be handled simultaneously. It is up to your hosting provider to determine the most suitable configuration for your online storefront.

Also bear in mind that Google’s search results are gradually changing so that a website’s speed has more influence on its search ranking. Retailers with slow sites will be charged more for their paid search adverts.

Keep your site online

You need to be able to keep meeting customer demand online. This means being able to scale out the number of servers your site is using.

Guaranteed uptime despite power cuts or server failures can be achieved with the right hardware setup. The most common bottleneck causing downtime is a server being pushed beyond its processing capabilities. Deploying more servers dedicated to handling specific tasks is the solution, as this allows more orders to be processed.

Some hosting providers promise up to 99.999% uptime in their service level agreements. ECommerce-optimised hosting increases the amount of manageable simultaneous traffic by up to five times and doubles the number of manageable simultaneous orders.

Protect your customer’s payment details

Speed and reliability are important in closing a sale, but you need to make sure your customer’s payment details are properly protected. You can cover yourself on the stringent industry standards for credit card payments by partnering with a hosting provider that has pre-approved compliance. This is the sure-fire way to ensure your ecommerce site is processing payments securely.

Be ready for the rise of m-commerce

The amount of smartphones sold since the birth of the iPhone 3G was revealed recently to be a staggering one billion, with the majority supporting ecommerce applications you can use to make orders directly from your phone.

Mobile orders have grown to 1.4% of all sales and this is growing quickly. Gartner predicts that by 2015 50% of all web sales will be mobile. The message is clear; customers are moving to m-commerce in their droves, so you’ll need to be sure your site can cope.

Some hosting providers can enable seamless multichannel functionality across desktop, tablet and mobile. Having a solid multichannel presence is essential, so partnering with a hosting provider that can support this is a must.

Get closer to your customers

Using a hosting provider that has a presence close to your entire target market ensures your website is fast and reliable internationally.

Your hosting solution needs to support you in all the countries you want to trade in or website performance will be affected in locations that don’t have a nearby data centre, or ‘point of presence’.

Some providers offer a ‘content delivery network’ service that links their data centres around the world so the user’s nearest point of presence is never too far away.

Mike Bainbridge is solutions architect for PEER 1 Hosting.

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