Robert Belgrave
Robert Belgrave 12 May 2017

Marketers Listen Up: Your Website Could Suddenly Cost Billions

Marketing is becoming a fascinating ecosystem. While it used to involve one department with a clearly defined skillset, today the team includes content writers, creatives, techies, trend-spotters and SEO experts, to name but a few.

Having been thrown into disarray by the birth of the Internet, many are now rightly championing a more pragmatic approach to bringing these different specialisms together, believing that marketing needs to be balanced between traditional and online channels. However, there’s rarely any denying that the future is digital.

Take a look at how the ecommerce industry is thriving. According to Stastica, worldwide retail e-commerce sales will be $2.3 trillion in 2017. In 2020, they will be $4 trillion.

Digital is in the spotlight, but how many marketers think, and I mean really think, about the infrastructure underpinning their online platforms? Mostly likely, web hosting is seen as uninteresting back-end tech stuff, with the rest of the marketing team showing it little interest. Besides, how precarious can it be? Nowadays tech is smart. From your office desktop to your Citymappered commute, to your Amazon Fire, everything just works.

But does it? Remember last year when Seetickets crashed right at the crucial moment as Glastonbury tickets went on sale? The blip happened because millions of hopeful festival-goers all tried to access the site at the same time. But do website crashes only happen due to traffic of that magnitude? We’ve all tried to access a site that just won’t load. “Aw, Snap!” as Google Chrome would say.

Now imagine that your experience is that of a customer visiting your website – because it happens all too often, as shown by a survey we recently conducted to understand the risks of bad web hosting.

Our survey of 1,000 UK-based consumers found that in the week before they were polled, nearly half of respondents (45 per cent) claimed they had been shut out of a website they were visiting with the intention of making a purchase. 100 of these people had suffered a failed online journey between six and 10 times in that period. What’s more, as consumers increasingly use the Internet for research before making a purchase, effectively meaning one brand’s online sales are often at the beck and call of search engines, or even another retailer, 55 per cent of respondents reported difficulty in reaching a site just to check something out. A glitch on Google could impact your bottom line.

Ecommerce at a cost

Losing money is one obvious consequence of shoppers being unable to reach your site – but marketers probably don’t realise that this loss is often built into the contracts they sign with their web hosting services. Speaking as the owner of a web hosting company, one of the biggest problems we face is that our work is so technical and our customers often don’t easily understand what we do. That said, web hosting companies simply don’t spend enough time explaining how these things work. It all gets swept under the carpet.

For instance, if you haven’t previously been involved in the technicalities of a Service Level Agreement (SLA or hosting agreement) with a web hosting company, you might not know that nine is a magic number.

Uptime – the amount of time a website is live across an agreed period – is typically set in SLAs as 99.9 per cent. That seems kind of alright, right? Like when your hand wash kills 99.9 per cent of bacteria. The odds are in your favour.

However, what it really means is 0.1 per cent of the time it’s totally fine for your website to be down. This equates to 43 minutes per month or nearly nine hours a year. If we tinker with the Statistica figure mentioned above, agreed downtime could equate to $2.3 billion in global revenue sales lost this year.

That’s how we can measure the cost of downtime in monetary terms. But what about the damage this could have on your brand? Our research also found that more than two-thirds (68 per cent) of respondents believe their opinion of a brand would be negatively affected by downtime on its website. 57 per cent would be put off buying from that brand in future.

It is clear something needs to be done to rectify the industry’s understanding of web hosting, bringing everyone up to speed. There is a clinch that 0 per cent downtime is almost impossible. But should that stop marketers from pushing for a 99.99 per cent uptime when they sign SLAs, or web hosting companies from better educating their clients?

Opportunities for growth are proliferating thanks to digital innovation, but marketers are increasingly being held to account for where their budgets are spent. Investments need to be smart and provide a return. The secret to success will be in a more transparent approach to educating our peers and understanding the technology supporting our futures.

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