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GUEST COMMENT Success can kill

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As an online retailer, you are probably already aware of the lost revenue and customer frustration associated with the experience of a slow or unavailable webshop. To make matters even worse, this often happens during peak times such as a holiday sale, or a particularly attractive campaign.

As online retailing gets increasingly campaign driven with more than 51% of online spending executed during peak times, site performance becomes crucial to maximize campaign ROI by maximizing revenue and conversions. A website crash, or even slow response times, due to massive visitor volumes, can be fatal. Not only is revenue lost in the heat of the downtime moment (or hours), but as much as 78% of potential customers will move on to a competitor’s website and 88% are less likely to ever return to your site.The consequences escalate as 42% will discuss the negative experience online.

Handling visitor overload situations with fairness and transparency in a virtual queue has the potential to make webshop crashes a thing of the past, and instead facilitate increased peak revenue and conversions. Queuing up surplus visitors is a unique opportunity to create engaging online customer experiences, which can lead to increased brand profitability.

The basics

A virtual queue system is a software-as-a-service, designed to protect ecommerce retailers from revenue loss due to capacity overload during user peaks. Whenever the number of visitors exceeds the capacity of the shop, the excess visitors are handled in a virtual queue system.

By managing website overload with an online queue system, user inflow volumes are controlled in detail as number of users per time unit. Whenever the configured thresh-old is exceeded, excess visitors are queued up and returned to the website, in the de-sired volume and in chronological order.

The visitor experience is dramatically enhanced. The vast majority of shoppers will never see the queue. Visitors, who do end up in the queue, are presented with an in-formative queue page, which updates the individual queue status dynamically. As soon as each user reaches his or her turn, they are automatically redirected to the page they intended to visit, and are now able to complete their shopping without failure.

From a technology perspective, the software service will work on any platform and the integration is at the application level. A queue system covers the entire infrastructure and business flow, including external components such as payment gateways.

A captive audience

People who are waiting patiently in line for something that they are interested in make a uniquely captive audience. This is of course only true as long as the queuing process is perceived as fair, with an orderly and timely progression. Fairness and transparency are exactly how a virtual queue system differs drastically from your average online waiting room, although both may be used to prevent failure due to visitor overload. The perception of progress and fairness is what keeps people around.

Queue statistics, based on mass-interest campaigns, consistently document that users are willing to wait online for between 45 to 60 minutes for something that they really want.

In other words, if your campaign offer is truly attractive, you indeed have a very captive audience, which represents only people who have demonstrated an interest in your product or service. This provides a unique opportunity to turn visitors, who would normally cause your shop to crash or slow down, into Facebook fans, newsletter subscribers, or promote additional products or services.

In order to further enhance the waiting experience, you have the option of offering additional discounts or coupons, available only to those who wait. Consider graduating these discounts based on how long of a wait, users have to endure. When considering the various queue engagement options, always bear in mind that only users who exceed your site capacity will actually experience the queue.

The VIP treatment

As an online retailer, you have no doubt segmented your visitors based on, for example, past purchase patterns, membership, new/returning visitors. By applying multiple queues, you have the option of providing preferential treatment to specific groups of visitors, so that you can rest assured that they are always served first during peak situations. You are probably already familiar with this concept, which can be seen in the first class fast track queue at the airport, bypassing the massive lines of economy travelers.

All websites have an upper capacity limit on how many simultaneous users or transac-tions it can handle without slowdowns or failure. When you reach that limit, it is great to rest assured that you are still able to offer priority treatment to your VIPs. By implementing multiple, parallel queues, you can provide preferential treatment to one or more specific user groups, granting the VIP visitors access to your shop much faster than your general user access.

Keep your marketing success from causing website failure

Some 73% of marketing departments report website failures during marketing campaigns.

There are many reasons that this number is so high, but it starts with not knowing your ultimate shop capacity, combined with not knowing exactly how successful you will be in future campaigns.

Load testing can help determine your shop capacity, which is always limited by the weakest component in the flow. Communication between IT and marketing can help anticipate future visitor volumes and gear up for specific campaign or seasonal peaks.

Once these factors are combined, a virtual queue system will be able to kick in and protect your revenue during extreme or unexpected peaks.

Camilla Ley Valentin is co-founder and CCO at Queue-it.

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