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Guest comment: Mastering website performance to combat abandoned transactions

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by Graham Moore

Shopping cart abandonment is the Achilles heel of online retail. It’s hard enough to attract a lot of shoppers to a site, let alone convince them to actually complete a transaction. A big part of this is website performance. It is crucial to provide a positive online experience. All too often sites suffer from painfully slow loading times, and worst of all, crippling periods of downtime. Not only does this damage brand loyalty, e-retailers have found that even a short period of downtime results in huge revenue loss. More than half of UK marketers (53%) admitted that if their site went down just for one day it would cost the company in excess of £10,000 in lost revenue, yet they continue to underestimate the importance of how well their site performs. A stable online presence is the key to building customer trust in a website so that they feel confident enough to buy, rather than just browse. This calls for a traffic management strategy to be put in place that proactively maintains a brand’s online presence, and ensures that customers have a great time online.

No more 9 to 5

As people become more comfortable shopping online, they expect more from the websites that they visit. Consumers expect to be able to access their favourite online stores whenever and wherever they want. Unlike on the high street, transactions for a product or service over the Internet need to be processed around the clock – something customers take for granted when making online purchases. Measures must be put in place to ensure there is a consistent, solid transactional process available to consumers at any time. Response time is a major factor in a customer’s experience of a site. Amazon has found that every 100 milliseconds of latency in page delivery time results in a 1% drop in sales, demonstrating that speed is essential to persuading people to buy. Intelligent traffic management can divert different types of requests to different servers, blocking any malicious traffic. The most valuable customers (for example members of a loyalty scheme) can be prioritised to ensure that they get the best possible service at all times.

Zero downtime

Online customers show zero tolerance towards outages on the web and can easily switch to competitor sites to purchase similar products. The rise of price comparison sites means that consumers are more willing than ever to go for the best deal, rather than the best-known brand. This makes maintaining a constant web presence crucial to brands, if they are to retain the customer’s business. Failure to do so will not only lose a company that particular sale, but will damage the reputation of the brand online with the customer on a more long-term basis. A poll by Harris Interactive found that 40% of online shoppers will abandon a website if a transaction fails. A staggering 90% also believe that a failed transaction could mean that their personal information was vulnerable to fraud. This highlights just how closely trust in website is linked to its performance. A strategy that plans for peaks in online visitors and suitably manages web traffic will maintain the customer’s relationship with the brand on an ongoing basis, allowing them to make purchases unhindered. This approach also allows customer data to be masked, so that it is secure even if it is inadvertently transmitted.

Say hi to it

A flash flood of traffic is a dream come true for any business, but if the infrastructure can’t cope with this volume it can become a nightmare. It is one of the most common reasons for website crashes. The best way to avoid this problem to is to establish an open channel of communication between marketing and IT. The majority of large influxes of traffic to a site are predictable, whether because of a sale, a promotion or a great advert. Sites must be able to capitalise on these occasions, and not only convince people to buy at that time, but provide such a high level of service that new customers want to come back in the future. Promotions are really important for retailers, and if a site goes down just as it is welcoming an exceptionally large number of visitors, it will result in hundreds of frustrated new customers and thousands of pounds in lost revenue. A scalable solution allows IT to plan for high volumes of traffic and meet the demand quickly and easily.

At a time when making the most of every sales opportunity is crucial, maintaining uptime is more essential to brand reputation than ever. Poorly performing websites suffer from abandoned transactions because customers have come to expect a high-street service from online retail, and will quickly take their business elsewhere is their expectations are not met. E-retailers must examine the response times of their sites and make sure that they are deploying a flexible, scalable solution to manage whatever traffic comes their way.

Graham Moore is e-retail specialist at Zeus Technology.

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