Catalyst

Is your website turning customers away?

Martin Ryan | Updated on March 10, 2018 Published on December 31, 2015

Costly hiccups Shoppers wait only for three seconds before abandoning one website for another

Internet speed and a host of other factors, including ISPs and domain name systems, might be undercutting your best efforts



According to industry reports, e-tailers in India were expected to account for 40 per cent or $7 billion of their annual sales during the festive season between October and December 2015. Much of this shopping was expected to take place on mobile devices, currently estimated to generate sales in the range of $30 million, and take the total e-commerce market to a whopping $16 billion.

While the industry is gung-ho about the growth prospects, a survey conducted by Dyn in early 2015 revealed that 42 per cent of consumers in India still preferred the in-store shopping experience and that the same percentage of people would wait only for three seconds before switching to a competitor’s site while shopping online.

Given India’s limiting broadband infrastructure, reliable delivery of e-commerce websites and a seamless and secure shopping experience are still a far cry. And these concerns are expected to get compounded by increased traffic volumes to these websites with the memory of 2014’s billion dollar sale crash lingering.

Hence the question: Had India’s e-tailers, both established as well as start-ups, got it right while planning their strategy this festive season? And did they look beyond offering the right product mix and pricing to also think about offering a seamless ‘availability’ and ‘security’ strategy?

The e-shopping conundrum

Contrary to popular belief, a personalised experience isn’t the answer to this question! Instead, the solution to this billion-dollar dilemma among e-tailers has a deep connection with ‘internet performance’ considering that the window of opportunity for e-shopping is only three seconds or less!

Internet performance means different things to different people and is ultimately defined by the experience of an internet user who accesses a company website or application. Potentially thousands of variables can affect that experience: from the end user’s device hardware and operating system to the company’s backend web server infrastructure — and everything in between.

And considering the three seconds rule, the ‘in betweens’ become the real deal-makers or deal-breakers in most cases.

With a view on these ‘in betweens’ and the fact that online shoppers in India are seen as the most progressive the world over (after China), e-tailers who have been thinking hard about how they connect to their customers need to shift their focus on how their customers connect to them. This is where factors such as speed and simplicity take precedence over the product and price, no matter how appealing the offer.

The ‘in betweens’ broadly encompass internet service providers, domain name systems, content delivery networks and cloud providers – each of which plays a crucial role in ensuring the availability and performance of your website in India’s booming e-commerce battle ground.

Most often internet service providers (ISPs) are called out for issues relating to customers unable to connect. The fact here is that ISPs only watch their own speed, security, availability and cost and most of them are really good at optimising their own infrastructure.

But, they measure their optimisation of the internet, not yours, and often these measurements mismatch. The only company that can really measure the effectiveness of the internet for your business is you alone.

Second, poor website performance results from routing a user to a less-than-optimal endpoint which will affect the entire experience — page after page, image after image. That endpoint could be geographically far away from the end user, or it could be located in a poorly performing data centre, both of which are bad for business.

Third, not all network outages are due to ‘technical difficulties’. Often, an outage is the result of a political or financial dispute between two service providers.

It’s important for you to be able to see the current and historical performance data of not only your ISP, but also any upstream provider networks that your ISP relies on for internet access. Finally and most important, security! E-tailers have traditionally focused their security efforts on securing their network or data centre, thus opening up web servers to various vulnerabilities.

In such cases, an attacker can simply redirect your customers’ web traffic to a web server that it controls and lure the user into entering personal information and/or financial information. Similarly, a distributed denial-of-service attack can cause your customer to lose confidence in your website, or simply frustrate him enough that he goes to your competitor’s website!

Customers have power of choice

The stakes for internet sales in the festive season skyrocket. Online businesses across segments have been struggling to keep pace with consumer demands over the past couple of years regardless of where, when, or how these customers shop.

Technology advancements, while giving these e-tailers new ways to reach customers, have been just as much of a blessing as a curse.

Winning and keeping customers is getting harder, and one hiccup — an unavailable or slow website, hard-to-find products, or security shortcomings — could send a would-be customer to shop elsewhere and possibly never return to your website.

Hence, as India’s retail industry’s reliance on the worldwide web continues to grow, internet performance is emerging as the critical building block to ensure e-commerce sites are always reachable, always fast and always secure to ensure a seamless customer experience and long-term brand loyalty.

Published on December 31, 2015
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