This post previously appeared on realbusiness.
We are becoming a nation of savvy shoppers. And, having largely overcome any lingering doubts over online shopping, the internet has become the de facto starting point for many consumers trying to seek out the best deals possible on the goods we want.
In fact, half of the money shoppers spend online is now with internet-only retailers. According to recent figures from the Office for National Statistics, stores with no permanent physical presence on the high street or out of town shopping parks, such as Asos and Amazon, took nearly 50p in every £1 spent with online retailers in 2015. And in May 2016, the amount spent online accounted for 14.3 per cent of all UK retail spending.
With these figures in mind and with the rapid adoption of smartphones and shopping apps, retailers can no longer consider physical stores and an online shop as separate channels if they want to compete in the market.
Consequently, retailers are increasingly investing in online channels to drive growth and sales. But what are the consequences of not being properly prepared for online customers?
Today’s customers expect a seamless, delay-free experience when shopping online. They do not have the patience to wait for slow-loading websites, and even less patience for sites that are down.
And every second a consumer spends waiting for a web page to load is an opportunity for them to click over to a competitor’s site. Sites that go down, or have too long of a delay, may be relegated to the “no-go” zone and never be considered again.
In a study Dyn carried out, we found that nearly half of British consumers (47 per cent) are willing to wait just five seconds for a web page to load before moving on to a competitor and more than a quarter (27 per cent) said they would abandon a purchase if the website is too slow – and given the increasingly tech savvy nature of our society, these numbers are only sure to rise each year.
With more and more consumers favouring the internet to the high street, providing anything less than an exceptional customer experience online will not only impact a retailer’s revenue, but also its brand reputation.
The internet is, however, a volatile environment. We frequently read about outages and downtime, particularly around peak shopping days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and the rising number of DDoS attacks doesn’t help the situation either. In fact, a recent Aberdeen Research survey found that 78 per cent of enterprise CIOs report four or more internet disruptions each month.
But whilst the internet is unpredictable, it is not uncontrollable. By having a well-executed technology strategy in place to monitor, control and optimise their online infrastructure, retailers will be able to deliver great customer service, regardless of time or circumstance.
Failure to prepare, prepare to fail
One part of that strategy should be recognising the most important third parties that their systems depend on, and then monitor them constantly, so that IT managers can be alerted when things go bad.
Whilst this might sound obvious, until you know and understand a company’s exposure to infrastructure dependencies, you won’t be fully prepared for hijacks, slowdowns or outages.
Online retailers, then, should perform routine stress tests to ensure their sites can handle a high volume of traffic and regularly monitor their internet infrastructure to ensure there are no delays or glitches in accessing assets online.
Another part of that strategy is preparing for those peak online shopping days. On Black Friday last year, well-known retailers such as Boots, John Lewis and Argos suffered service outages during the day because of large influxes of traffic to their sites. With the hourly cost of downtime amounting to over £30,000, it’s important that retailers prepare ahead of peak days such as these.
Retailers need to take a critical look at their ability to handle huge volumes of traffic, putting in place measures to balance load and re-route traffic, to ensure online solutions are consistently available, efficient, secure and fast.
Lastly, retailers need to react quickly if and when an issue does affect their site performance. Have a strong plan B in place is vital not only to safeguard brand reputation, but also to guarantee consistent, seamless online experiences for those customers who will come back to purchase again.
This year was the first time consumers said they made more of their purchases on the web than in stores and this trend is only likely to continue growing as more and more online retailers introduce same-day delivery services and make returns easier and cheaper.
Being prepared, having complete visibility of the network in which their customers reach them, and better managing internet performance, will be crucial in ensure retailers make the internet their competitive advantage in this online-centric world.