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How to tackle online traffic delays and save brand reputation

How to tackle online traffic delays and save brand reputation

By Graham Moore, e-retail specialist at Zeus Technology.

A flood of online traffic is a key indicator of a successful marketing campaign or sales promotion, however when it causes your website to slow or even crash, it can mean more bad than good for brands.

As more of us turn to the Internet as the first port of call before making a buying decision, poor online service can be as bad for business as closing your shop in the middle of a Saturday.

Marketers are increasingly well-versed in online promotional tactics such as social networking, e-mailers and search engine optimisation. However a 2009 survey of UK marketing professionals shows that an important element is all too often overlooked – the role of web traffic management.

The downtime domino effect

A staggering 72 per cent of UK marketers admitted it would be a complete disaster or a major problem if their organisation experienced downtime. When asked about the impact of downtime, more than half (54%) said that damage to brand reputation is their greatest concern.

But almost half (46%) said they don’t know if they have a solution in place to manage peaks in online web traffic. So, while marketers recognise that downtime has the potential to negatively impact brand and reputation, few are taking the necessary steps to ensure delivery.

Last year, Sainsbury’s suffered a website outage for three days resulting in hundreds of customers purchasing groceries from competitors. The supermarket giant reportedly lost nearly £700,000 in sales for every day their website was down, equating to a massive £2m.

More than half of UK marketers (53%) surveyed revealed that if their site went down just for one day, it would cost the company in excess of £10,000 in lost revenue. With online sales set to quadruple to a market worth £162b by 2018, online service should be a top priority for retailers.

A failure to communicate

At Christmas last year, the efforts of a marketing team at a major e-retailer resulted in primetime TV coverage showcasing a number of its top products available from its site. Shortly afterwards, a massive peak in traffic caused the site to crash, resulting in hundreds of frustrated new customers and thousands pounds in lost revenue.

When asked if the marketers had given the IT the heads up on the TV appearance, the answer was no. So despite the campaign’s potential, it was deemed a flop by the business with most of the blame placed on IT. The question here should not be who is responsible but why there was no communication.

Unfortunately this scenario is all too common. Two thirds (65 per cent) of marketers said they never or rarely meet with their IT department to prepare for peaks in website traffic. Better communication between marketers and IT therefore becomes critical, so both parties are aware of upcoming marketing activities and can plan accordingly.

Online promotions can attract high levels of traffic but are unlikely to be successful, unless the marketing team works with the IT team to ensure solutions are in place to handle peaks in demand. Equally marketers need to be aware of any planned technical work that could hinder the campaign.

Marketers should have a vested interest in the underpinning technology that supports online campaigns and promotions since it ultimately dictates the success rates. It is vitally important that both parties work as a team, by organising regular meetings to understand how they can best prevent downtime.

Know traffic trends

One way to keep a steadfast online brand presence is to review traffic management strategies with IT regularly. With consumers increasingly scrupulous over company performance, it makes sense to work with IT to identify popular peak times. A good web traffic reporting solution will show when spikes occur and help organisations to identify trends.

For example, travel companies know that January is busy, e-tail sites the weekend and gambling sites overnight. Aside from the loss in revenue during periods of downtime, organisations will be subject to significant brand damage if they fail to deliver when their customers need them most.

We all know that a brand’s online presence does not open at nine and close at five. Unlike on the high street, transactions for a product or service over the Internet need to be processed around the clock – something we customers take for granted when making online purchases. This calls for measures to ensure there is a consistent, solid transactional process available to consumers at any time.

A huge flash flood of visitors to a website is desirable for any brand. Online sales enable companies to expand into new markets and geographies while keeping customer service costs down – unless they crash or stall a site. Ensuring you have the correct measures in place to handle peaks means every transaction is completed quickly and customers never experience poor online service.

IT and marketing teams need to work together more closely to anticipate slow service so it is not simply reacted to. At a time when making the most of every sales opportunity is crucial, maintaining uptime is more essential to brand reputation than ever.

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