6 Secrets of Successful eCommerce Businesses

Contrary to what many believe, getting ahead in the eCommerce world isn’t a matter of who you know (as it often is in the brick and mortar world), but rather the success so many strive to achieve really comes down to what you know. There are a number of “secrets” or “keys” to succeeding online. If you know these secrets and follow the advice they offer, your chances of online success significantly increase. Ignore the secret strategies that successful online businesses employ, and your chances of eCommerce success are reduced quite drastically. If you want to succeed online, one of the best practices to put into place is to follow the secrets of the most successful eCommerce businesses. Here are six of the secrets that every eCommerce business should employ if they hope to achieve the success they are striving for.

1. Utilize a Quality Uptime Monitoring Service

One of the biggest threats to an online business’s success is website downtime. Every minute of downtime costs your business money and can hurt your reputation and even your search engine rankings if the downtime is not dealt with properly. The goal is to minimize any downtime your website experiences. The best tool to employ to do this is a website uptime monitoring service. With a website monitoring service in play, you will not only know about any downtime the very moment it happens, but you can put automated processes into place to reduce that downtime and may even be able to detect an occurrence of downtime before it happens, allowing you to solve a problem before it grows out of control into a full-blown downtime episode. When it comes to minimizing downtime, a quality uptime monitoring service is going to be your most powerful offense and defense, making sure you are able to respond to downtime as quickly as possible and ensuring that you are aware of any trends that may show a threat of downtime on the horizon.

2. Utilize Custom Error Pages

If visitors go to your site during a bout of downtime and see a generic error message, they aren’t going to know what’s wrong with your site, that you know something is wrong with the site, or if there is even anything being done to get the site back online. With custom error pages, however, when a visitor arrives at your site and something is awry, they will see a custom error page with your customized message letting them know that you know there is a problem and that you are working hard to resolve it.

Amazon’s “dog” pages are a great example of custom error pages. When something is wrong with the Amazon site, customers are driven to a page featuring a picture of a dog and a message that something is wrong with the site and that Amazon is working to get the page back online. Amazon is such a big site that it is common for specific pages to go down without the entire site going down. These “dog” pages let customers know that Amazon is aware of the issue and is working to resolve it. When online businesses utilize custom error messages such as these, customers are reassured that the business is on top of things and issues are indeed being resolved, which is much better than leaving customers in the dark wondering if you even know that there is a problem let alone whether or not you are working on it.

3. Utilize Email Lists

When your website is down you want your customers to know that you are aware of the problem and that you are doing everything you can to resolve it. This means you need to make communication a priority. One of the best ways to communicate with your customer base regarding any downtime your site may encounter is via your email list. You can send an email to your customers letting them know that you are aware that there is an issue with the website, discuss what you are doing to resolve the issue, and let your customers know when you expect the problem to be resolved and the site to be back online. The more transparent you are about your downtime, the more forgiving customers tend to be. This is critical considering the fact that customer loyalty isn’t usually a benefit that online businesses tend to enjoy. If your site is down, a customer is much more likely to simply go to a competitor than they are to wait around for a website to come back online, especially if nothing has been conveyed by the company that something is wrong and when the site is expected to be back up. If you want to retain customers during episodes of downtime, transparent communication is one of the best ways to do it.

4. Utilize Social Media

Not all of your customers or potential customers may be subscribed to your email list. Because of this, you need to find additional outlets that allow you to reach out to your customers and alert them of downtime issues and what you are doing to resolve them. One of the best ways to do this is via social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. For customers and potential customers who don’t receive a direct email, a Facebook status update or a Twitter tweet can convey the information an email would have, so no one is left out of the loop in regards to the fact that the downtime of your site is temporary and you are working hard to get your site back up and running as soon as possible.

5. Apologize

It is amazing how far a simple apology will go in terms of getting customers to forgive episodes of downtime. One of the biggest complaints that eCommerce customers tend to have nowadays is the lack of quality customer service in the eCommerce world as well as the fact that online companies don’t truly appreciate their business or appreciate them individually as customers. When you apologize to your customers for any inconvenience your downtime may have caused them, it shows your customers that you do appreciate their business and that you truly do care about any frustration the downtime may have caused them.

6. Create a Win-Win with Discount Offers

Two things are always a given when you have downtime. You lose sales and profits during the downtime period and at least some of your customers are inconvenienced to some degree. The best way to turn lemons into lemonade in such a situation is to offer a limited-time apology discount. For example, you can offer 10 percent off all purchases or $10 off a $50 purchase for the 48 hours following the resolution of your site’s downtime. Not only does this show your customers that you are willing to put your money where your mouth is and extend a discount to them for any inconvenience they may have suffered, but such an incentive offer is also likely to help you drive up sales so you can make up for at least some of the profit loss the downtime issue cost your business. You can advertise the discount via your email list and social media, ensuring that everyone has access to the discount offer. This can drive customers who didn’t even know about the downtime to make a purchase to take advantage of the discount, so you may actually be able to recoup more than the actual profit loss you experienced depending on how successful your apology incentive sale proves to be.

The Bottom Line

Downtime is an inevitable. What you can, control, however, is how serious you are about minimizing that downtime and how your customers react to any downtime your website does endure. By minimizing downtime with a quality website monitoring service and by utilizing tools such as custom error pages, email, social media outreach, and apologies along with a discount, you can reduce the impact that downtime has on your customer relations, your profits, and your public image. Always remember that the more transparent you are about downtime, the more information you convey to your customers, and how you notify the public and keep them updated as to the status of your site’s downtime, the more likely your eCommerce business is to come through a period of downtime with its reputation unscathed and hits to profits minimized.