Why Choosing Reliable Apps Can Make or Break Your Ecommerce Business
For nearly all ecommerce businesses, Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) make up the most important weekend of the year. Stores launch huge “Cyber Weekend” promotions and consumers are ready to kick off the season of holiday spending. This past weekend, stores attracted record breaking traffic to their websites. According to a report by Forbes, more than half the US population was shopping online from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday. This should be cause for celebration across the ecommerce industry: after all, more traffic means more sales. Unfortunately, in some cases, heavy traffic can yield bad news, especially for stores that utilize one or more relatively untested apps.
This happened to be the case for Scott Moran, founder of GO2 Impact, an agency specializing in digital marketing consulting in ecommerce.
Scott was working with a third party app provider that specialized in finding additional sales for ecommerce businesses through emails, pop-ups and other forms of retargeting messages. Early on, Scott noticed a few minor deficiencies with the product. There were several features that should be intuitive but were yet to be implemented. Being experienced working with smaller technology providers, he wasn’t worried. Their team was friendly and hard-working and he understood that these were things their team would work on and add to their service over time.
Understandably, the app was an important part of BFCM (Black Friday/Cyber Monday) strategy for many of the ecommerce businesses that Scott worked with. They provided a huge value add in terms of additional sales and could have made the difference between average performance and a blockbuster weekend.
Eventually, Black Friday rolled around the corner and as Scott prepared to manage the app’s activity, he saw this dreaded screen:
The app’s dashboard was down. Not only could Scott not analyze and manage the app, he also could not see if their strategy was being executed properly. In the midst of the biggest ecommerce weekend of the year, instead of worrying about how to maximize performance, Scott had to deal with figuring out whether something he had paid for and set up months in advance would even function. Ultimately the down time cost stores as much as they were paying for the app in the first place (if not more).
For Scott, this occurred with one particular app, but there are countless other things that could go wrong with any ecommerce store especially during high-traffic times. What if your email marketing provider or loyalty program provider were to “go down” when you needed it most? Imagine your email announcing your newest promotions not going out on time, or an inundation of support request when your customers aren’t getting double points like you advertised. Worse yet, what if something went wrong with your ecommerce platform overall?
The Risks of Working with an Unreliable App
Nowadays, high-performing ecommerce businesses rely on dozens of third party app providers to stay competitive and maximize their performance. Many of these apps work closely with one another and when one of these apps can’t handle heavy traffic, your store’s performance could take a hit that goes beyond just missed sales.
While downtime is the most dreaded “doomsday” scenario for your store, any performance issues that your technology partners have could end up being very costly.
Diminished Monetary Returns
The obvious risk of an using an app provider that isn’t prepared to handle high traffic, is losing out on the money they are built to bring to your business. Everything an app does is value you could potentially lose when downtime occurs, however brief. This value can be immense both for apps that are central and secondary to your store’s overall function.
If your email marketing service is unable to send emails, the financial impact on your business is tremendous. These apps provide extensive outreach and power campaigns that drive a significant portion of your businesses revenue.
Here are some of the ways email service providers earn additional revenue for your business:
- Customer Newsletters
- Product Upsells
- Abandoned Cart Emails
- Browse Recovery Emails
These campaigns can add up to huge chunks of revenue that you could lose entirely because of a bit of downtime.
To really highlight how downtime from any app you use impacts your financial performance, let’s consider social login plugins. These apps achieve the simple and relatively self-contained task of allowing shoppers to create store accounts and login to their store accounts using connected profiles from websites such as Facebook, Amazon, or Google.
Shoppers who create accounts are more likely to go on to convert to purchasers. When a customer who is already highly likely to convert attempts to login or create an account and is unable to complete the action, they likely will give up on the process all together. In fact, most of those shoppers will decide not to create an account at all in the future.
Difficulty navigating a website is one of the main reasons shoppers decide not to make a purchase, and a hiccup in this process (especially during a high-traffic time period like Black Friday) could lose you bunches of potential long-term shoppers.
Delayed Website Speed and Performance
Even more so than difficulty navigating a website, poor website performance is a well-known killer of conversions.
Under heavy stress, apps that are unprepared can have drastically increased response times, and those that load content directly on your website can tank your overall page load time. A study by Kissmetrics found that even a delay as short as 1 second can produce a decrease in sales as high as 7%. The same study found that a page delay of 5 seconds resulted in page abandonment rates over 25%.
Now consider the impact of an app trying to load on your website that is delayed for a multiple of that duration. The average store spends a huge portion of its budget on marketing, but one slow app can often cause you to bleed away the traffic your team worked diligently to earn.
Ongoing Effects of a Bad Customer Experience
Perhaps the most damaging, but least considered drawback of using an unreliable app is the lasting effect of a bad customer experience.
A consumer report from HelpScout stated that nearly 90% of customers will choose not to patronize a business that “botched” the first encounter. Many of these unhappy customers will not even give your business a chance to make it up. According to The Office of Consumer Affairs, a measly 4% of shoppers who are unhappy with their experience will bring share their frustration with the store itself.
Making a customer wait on your website or offering services that do not function is a quick way to lose shoppers and keep them away for good. Remember, to your customers everything that goes wrong with your store is a reflection of your brand, not the brand of the apps you are working with. If your page takes a long time to load or features that should work smoothly are nonfunctional, you may leave shoppers with the impression that your brand is unprofessional.
How To Make Sure You’re Choosing Reliable Apps
No one can prevent downtime and performance issues entirely. Even massive corporations like Amazon and Google experience problems from time to time. However, the businesses that you should want to work with do everything they can to minimize the possibility that something goes awry.
There are two major characteristics that you should evaluate in order to decide which apps you can depend on when you need them most.
Preparedness is the most crucial indicator of whether or not a business will be able to handle heavy traffic and be a dependable long-term partner. As the saying goes, if you fail to plan you plan to fail. Businesses who will be good partners typically take numerous measures to make sure they have planned for every possible scenario.
To develop your understanding of an app’s overall preparedness, reach out to their team. Ask them about their existing Quality Assurance infrastructure. Who are their biggest clients? How much traffic do those clients process? Have they experienced any trouble in the past on high traffic days? If so, what caused it, and has that problem been solved going forward? Some of these are qualitative questions, but the answers will give you insight into the business you are about to trust with your reputation.
Beyond these qualitative assessments, the most important quantitative metric you should be using to evaluate technology partners is their average response time (the lower the response time, the better!). This will tell you exactly how quickly their products typically perform and hint at whether or not they will be able to hold up under the heavy stress of a high traffic weekend such as BFCM.
Some businesses such as Shopify make their performance statistics public at all times. Because so many stores constantly rely on Shopify for their survival, all Shopify users can view the real-time status of Shopify’s response times at: https://status.shopify.com/
With other app partners, ask their teams about their response time during particularly high traffic periods of time. If a business does not experience huge spikes in their response time during BFCM, they are typically much less likely to experience downtime, interfere with your customer experience, or slow down your storefront. For example here is a graph of Swell’s servers during the BFCM weekend.
For reference, on average during a non-holiday week Shopify’s storefront response time is around 71ms. During the traffic spikes of the BFCM weekend, Swell’s app response time hovered around 65ms.
The other characteristic of a business that is well equipped to handle any and all situations that may arise is their support and response infrastructure. Are they constantly monitoring their performance? Do they have a team that will stay in contact with your business and make sure things go well when you need them most?
General responsiveness is typically a big indicator of whether a business can be reliable. Offering a live in app chat and being easy to get in contact with beyond the initial sales process are good signs of trustworthiness.
If you have questions about how Swell handles heavy traffic or quality assurance, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.