A Word for Online Retailers

I write this post while I am waiting for a shopping cart to load on my favourite website (I will stress at this point that this was not a site that we built!).

As part of their VIP program, I received an email yesterday morning notifying me of their 70% off mid-year sale.  Naturally, I click on the link to see what was on sale – however the site failed to load.  It was only on my fourth attempt that I realised that the problem wasn’t my internet connection.

I visited the brand’s Facebook page to see if anyone else was having the same issue – and I wasn’t wrong.  The wall was covered in posts by angry shoppers who had added items to the shopping cart, got thrown off the site, only to reload everything and find that their size was now sold out.

Staff working for the brand in question did their best to manage their online reputation by assuring shoppers that “IT is working on the problem” and that “the website will be back up shortly”.  Unfortunately, as of 10.30pm last night I was still receiving errors as I tried to take advantage of the sale.  9am the following morning (today), a solid 24 hours after my first attempt, the website is still not functional, despite staff assuring everyone that things were “back up and working”.

With over 160,000 Facebook fans, and close to 5,000 Twitter followers – one can only imagine how many inboxes that sale email went to.  Surely the people sending it had some inkling on the influx of traffic they would generate from the mailout??  Ultimately, as an experienced online retailer this business should have been more aware of the hype around their brand and the potential for an excessively large influx of traffic after the announcement of a sale.

So what can you do to avoid a situation like this?  Well let me stress that traffic of this volume is rare and would only be expected on certain sites in certain industries – and usually only at certain times, such as post-Christmas sales, mid-year sales etc.   If you do think that you fall into this category, then we would suggest discussing a couple of things with your IT team or Web Developer:

–  Increase the amount of concurrent traffic requests that your site can handle
–  Decrease the time it takes to render pages so you can serve more visitors quickly
–  Ensure that your hosting platform is capable of handling more connections

However, if your site is going to experience regular influxes of high volume traffic – a dedicated business server would be your best option.

Technical things aside, from a customer service point of view we’d also recommend having someone on your team who is dedicated to handling any potential complaints or issues that may arise from website failures.  Online reputation management is vital in today’s world where a brand-damaging Tweet can be distributed to an army of hundreds of followers in seconds.

If you’d like to discuss your website hosting, or online reputation management –  free to give us a call on 1300 723 618.

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