From Black Friday to Christmas, this is a huge season for anyone working within retail. For ecommerce stores, this time of year comes with plenty of anticipation but also plenty of pressure, too. Sleepless nights can be spent worrying that your website might not be up to scratch or that it might buckle under the amount of traffic that will hopefully be coming your way.
High season sales can easily be swept off track by website glitches or a surge of visitors that lead to lags and errors. There’s a saying in tech that your infrastructure is as strong as its weakest link. As traffic swells, some set-ups aren’t made to handle the high level of visitors and this can lead to freezes, crashes, and provider-related problems.
The result? Lost profit and even worse – a loss of trust from potential customers. A staggering 96% of customers won’t return if they have a bad experience. An ecommerce break today could keep costing you well into the future.
To help you prep for potential pitfalls, get your ducks in a row, and have a quick action plan should the worst case scenario happen, here’s our guide on how to handle an ecommerce site crash in the busy season.
Why an ecommerce site crashes
There are many reasons why your ecommerce site could crash. From shoppers surging in the pre-sales space to bottlenecked payment gateways, there are multiple scenarios that can cause your website to stutter under the pressure.
But the crash can also be caused by other issues that just happen to fall on your busiest period. A code change can cause your site to misfire or even a malware attack can send your whole site into a tailspin. Whatever the reason, there are a few things you can put in place to protect your site from crashing.
How to prevent your ecommerce site from crashing
Monitor your uptime
Before the big sales season rolls in, take a little time to monitor your uptime. Running tests in advance can make sure that your site is running smoothly. Installing an uptime monitoring tool can make sure that your website is monitored around the clock and any issues or downtime glitches are instantly reported.
Don’t do big updates
So many site crashes can be linked back to coding errors or problems with plugins and extensions. To avoid this happening around your busiest period, maybe wait a while before doing any major platform or design changes just in case. If you do need to work on updates that can’t wait, try and organize it to be done in stages so that every change is staged, checked, tested, and tracked.
Automate and streamline
If you can find a way to automate discounts applied to your customers’ shopping cart, it can help speed up customer time spent on the site when purchasing. If a customer doesn’t have to memorize a discount code or search around for that information on the site (going back and forth), you can keep your traffic flowing. This not only keeps your site from being overwhelmed but also reduces customer frustration, too.
Remove old promotions
Have a quick clean up of your site and remove any old promotions and redundant rules that could be slowing your site down. The aim is to reduce the amount of calculations your site needs to do as this could add to the slow down. Removing unnecessary information can speed up your site load, which can make all the difference during busy periods.
Do malware checks
The busy period is no time to be taking any chances when it comes to malware. Make sure that your security is up to scratch. Locking down your systems before the rush is one of the most important decisions you can make. Keep your malware software current, updated, and on auto launch to stop any attacks in their tracks.
What to do if your ecommerce site crashes
If your ecommerce site does go down over the busy season, you want to get control back as soon as possible. Acting quickly and keeping your focus fine-tuned towards your customers should be your first set of priorities. Here’s how to handle an ecommerce crash and avoid hitting panic mode:
Check if the problem is your website
Your first step should be to check that your website is actually down. There are lots of tools out there to help you determine if your ecommerce site is actually down or if it’s an external error.
Cover safety first
If your website really is down, you want to check your safety nets first and make sure that it’s not the result of a malware attack or security breach. If there is a risk of any data being breached then you want to follow specific safety steps to ensure you are doing all you can to mitigate the risk.
Notify everyone in your team or organization who can help you to solve this crisis. Learning where the crash is coming from and notifying the right people should be done as swiftly as possible. Contact your IT specialists, your marketing people, and your digital team along with third parties, such as hosting providers or your ecommerce agency. Getting everyone on board to solve the problem can save valuable time and reduce losses.
Concentrate on the customer experience
While the backend is busy solving the problem, don’t lose sight of your customer experience. You can stop your customers feeling too much frustration by redirecting them to a landing page with on-brand updates about the technical difficulties. This way, you’re letting them know that the situation is only temporary. You can also look at keeping your customers engaged in a virtual waiting room where they can receive real time updates.
Turn to social media
Social media platforms can be another great way to keep customers engaged and informed. Communicating empathy for your customers, being authentic in conversation, and showing dedication to fixing the problem can all enhance the customer experience and keep confidence levels high moving forward. If you have the capacity and the resources, you can also invite customers to reach out via other channels (email, phone, store, etc) so that you can keep serving their needs.
While your ecommerce store is down, it’s time to press pause on any paid ads or marketing campaigns you have running. Sending a surge of customers to your broken website is never ideal and will only lead to more dissatisfaction. You also don’t want to be paying for ads that have no chance of delivering a return at this moment. It’s best to pause any campaigns until you have the situation back under control.
Resolve and recap
Once the situation has been resolved and the root problem has been fixed, it’s a great opportunity to recap and reflect with the team. An outage can be incredibly stressful but it’s also a good time to reflect on what went wrong and to make a contingency plan for next time.
Don’t forget about your customers here either – a clear, concise, and honest explanation and apology can help to regain their trust.
Ecommerce site breaks happen to even the biggest of companies. While there will be losses, it can also be a potential time for gains. Learn from the mistakes, put preventative measures in place to stop it happening again in the future, and show your customers that your brand can handle stress and mistakes well.