During the holiday season, online retailers can see a 10x spike in traffic. Black Friday and Cyber Week represents 20% or more of a retailer’s holiday revenue. However, website and database performance issues can cut into revenue dramatically. This can lead to abandoned carts, lost sales, and a drop in customer confidence and loyalty.
Derek Swanson, CTO at Silk, sat down with Keith Lyon, a retail website optimization guru, to break down 5 of the most pressing customer-facing issues slowing down retail websites and channels.
You can watch the full conversation here. Read on for a recap.
Slow is the new down – what that means for retailers
Slow is the new down is the loss of sales by retailers due to poor customer experience. Both the desktop and mobile experience are equally important when it comes to your customer experience.
For example, a change to a company’s product page that was designed to make the site load faster ended up creating challenges for their end users. The product reviews were negatively impacted and started loading very slowly. This led to end users bouncing off the pages because they couldn’t get to the content they were seeking fast enough.
To make matters worse, the reviews were not readily accessible on the site. It took too many clicks and scrolls to get to the reviews. Reviews are what drives customer engagement with your product. In this case, changing the placement of review scripts led to a 40% drop in the customer bounce rate. This was a simple change with huge returns.
In today’s economy, you must control costs against increased efficiency as your operations continue to scale. Your company, like many others, can no longer rely on big budgets to provide outcomes to customers that they will love. You must safeguard and improve customer experience by bending the cost curve down as operations scale up, all while not sacrificing performance. This is where things can get tricky.
Cost to Performance Ratio
While achieving a 40% drop in the customer bounce rate is impressive, the bigger issue here is performance. Your company must learn to scale operations in the cloud to remain competitive. You can obviously throw a lot of money at your bottlenecks for growth to get the desired change, but this will cost you in the end. As your cloud infrastructure needs evolve to meet your growing customer demands, so too will your cost, affecting your bottom line.
In today’s world, you need to consider economies of scale. As the number of your users go up, you must strive to bend the cost curves back down. You need to get a better return on your investment.
As you add new users, the challenge is figuring out how to scale not just by taking on more cost. At some point, you won’t really be adding to your company’s bottom line. Instead, you need to focus on increasing performance as well as efficiency, all while controlling costs. The goal is to bend that cost curve down and gain a better return on your investment.
What are the top 5 issues facing retailers today?
1. Sluggish Content Downloads
Customers frequently download content off your website or other platforms. Images comprise the majority of the content being downloaded. Delays in retrieving images and other content is known as latency. Latency impacts all aspects of the internet, and ultimately how you interface with your customers. If you cannot scale, even the simplest of tasks such as a download can create headaches for your end users.
A slow database connection could cause the wrong size image to be loaded. Or the image could take so long to load that the customer loses interest in your product. Resources that are part of this critical path need to be quick. Even slight interruptions in the file download process could lead to a page full of errors, negatively impacting your customer experience.
APIs, headless transactions and interactive web services allow you to cater your content to each customer at scale. These tools enable you to reach your customer where they are using social media and third-party applications. There are billions, possibly trillions of head transactions happening across the Internet at any given moment. One glitch could stop your company’s workflow process in its tracks. While these additional tools add unimaginable value to your company’s operations, they also increase latency. A very slow weak point in the workflow can potentially degrade your customer’s entire user experience with your product.
2. Difficulty Accessing Product Reviews
Your end users visit your site to educate themselves about the products that you’re selling. You need to make sure reviews show up before the end user leaves the page. If the reviews are taking too long to load or don’t show up at all, your customer confidence takes a hit. This is a huge issue. Your target customer wants to be able to access real reviews on products they would like to purchase. If they are unable to do so, your customers will quickly lose confidence. Low confidence in your product will cause your customer to delay making that purchase or hop over to a competitor. If someone else has what they’re looking for, and their site comes up easily with access to reviews, they’re going to buy from there instead.
3. Complicated Payment Processing
Another big area for retailers is their payment processing. There needs to be trust between the application and the end user. Payment processing is one step in building that trust where you don’t want to have a hiccup. Issues in the checkout flow can ultimately lead to your customer shopping elsewhere. Once a customer has a negative experience with the checkout process on your site, there’s over a 50% chance that they will shop elsewhere next time. Once they lose trust in your ability to deliver the product that they need with a frictionless checkout experience, they’re not going to come back at a rate of 50%.
Your customer enters their most sensitive information during the checkout process. One hiccup in that process is going to break that confidence. The minute something appears to be wrong with your website, your customer’s first thought is “Am I getting hacked?”. Just think. Your customer just entered their credit card information onto your site and now it’s giving them a bunch of error messages. This can bring up a lot of different emotions whenever the checkout flow process doesn’t seem to be working like it should. When customers have those feelings of things being broken, they will go shopping elsewhere.
4. Real Time Pricing Woes
Real time pricing is a new practice that retailers are starting to deploy where prices change as demand goes up or as inventory goes down. This is a real time effort. There is a ton of backend processing power and database interaction that needs to take place for these pricing changes to take effect in real time. Since pricing is a moving target, you need systems that are data mining all the pricing between your competitors. This data has to be stored somewhere in real time. You also need a system that’s comparing prices against all the competitors for that particular product. Then, you need another system that has to actually post the final price where your users can actually see it. Any break in this chain of events can create latency for that product; you’re no longer being competitive.
5. Product Inventory
Imagine you found an item that was in stock, but by the time you go to buy it, it’s gone. You added it to you cart 30 seconds ago, but when confirm your payment, it was already out of stock. Or worse yet, imagine having already paid for the item, only to be informed that you’re not going to receive it due to an issue with product inventory. These experiences erode customer confidence in your ability to make good on customer purchases. The faster that you can accurately update inventory between your databases, the more product you will be able to sell. A happy customer is one who quickly found what they were looking for on your site and received their product on time. A happy customer is most likely to return to make additional purchases.
Silk boosts your performance in the cloud
A lot of customer experience issues arise from performance issues. While it’s true that some of these performance issues may be network or connectivity based, when you have a great connection, your customers expect to have a great experience. Many of these slow down and latency problems arise from the applications and platforms that you’re using on the backend. If the database engine that powers the customer experience is running too slow, this will negatively impact customer experience.
Silk steps in to fix these problems that retailers face at the cloud platform level. This ensures that the database that you’re running on to deliver high speed, guaranteed delivery and a smooth checkout process is optimized for the cloud. Silk improves cloud application and database speeds, while keeping your costs low. Maintaining a healthy cost to performance ratio is at the core of what we do at Silk. We all know we can’t just keep throwing money at these problems. What Silk delivers is major performance improvements at a cost ratio not possible with cloud native alone.
For more information on getting up to 10x faster performance for retail workloads on the cloud, visit Silk for Retail.