Why website downtime can trigger a host of problems

Online businesses face new EU threatWe’ve all had to endure the frustration of trying to buy something online, only to be faced with a frozen screen at the final hurdle. Impatience is a modern virtue, and something today’s customers have in shedloads. They won’t wait around forever, and for retailers, it could very well be the last contact they ever have with them.
The consequences of downtime – the period where a website crashes and people can’t log on – can be disastrous. A dent to sales and damaged brand reputation are not to be taken lightly. Web development and hosting is a minefield for marketers. Too few businesses pay attention to the infrastructure and support needed to ensure consumers experience an unbroken journey. Our recent research report, “The Marketing Cost of Downtime,” encourages marketers to heed the serious impact of downtime.
Uptime – the opposite of downtime – traditionally has its bar set at 99.9%. In essence, the 0.1% ‘allowed’ downtime equates to 43 minutes per month, or a shade under nine hours per year. This may not sound like much but this can equate to millions of lost revenue every month. And it will be far more if it occurs on a key date in the retail calendar like Boxing Day. In 2008, Amazon had two hours of downtime. In this time, not only did it lose around $29,000 – $31,000 per minute (total loss estimated at $3.6m) but the share price fell by 4.1% on the day – wiping around $3.12bn off their stock market value. These are serious numbers.
We commissioned a survey among 1,000 UK-based consumers this year to get a sense of their experience on ecommerce platforms. The findings were not all that surprising. Altogether, 45% of respondents claimed they had been shut out of a website to buy something during the week before they were polled. There was an even higher figure relating to consumers trying to use the Web for research, with 55% who have struggled to reach a site to check something out. Losing money isn’t the only downside to downtime. Brand damage is another and our survey concurs. More than two thirds (almost 68%) agreed that their opinion of a brand would be negatively affected by downtime on its website.
Many marketers won’t, and nor have they been expected to, know the intricacies of hosting technology. Yet with customer experience being rated as the primary way for organisations to differentiate themselves they must understand the effects of poor technology. That’s not to say that there aren’t brand-side marketers who are getting savvy to the need for action.
A genuine dialogue between the marketing and IT departments is fundamental, especially in larger organisations. These teams don’t often talk to each other. Publisher ClickZ recently found that marketers are more conscious of brand reputation and customer experience than their IT counterparts, as 88 per cent of IT respondents found infrastructure at their organisation ‘cutting-edge’ or ‘good’, compared to only 61 per cent of marketer respondents.
Web development and hosting is a minefield for clients, with lots of suppliers willing to accept big fees for offering a basic service. Hosting only works well if it’s with a supplier that can back a solution technically as well as financially. This means brands having 24/7 managed support. Ongoing care and attention is vital.
Domain hosting is taken for granted, by consumers and marketers alike. A broken online journey can ruin a brand’s reputation and, worse still, dent sales. It’s time to change the way brands think about website hosting.

Robert Belgrave is CEO and founder of Wirehive

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