How (And Why) Website Downtime Can Derail Your Subscription eCommerce Business

Anyone browsing Amazon during last week’s Prime Day shopping frenzy has probably grown especially familiar with the dogs of Amazon — and not for the reason you’d think.

Beginning on Monday afternoon — essentially the very moment Amazon’s biggest shopping day of the year kicked off — the eCommerce behemoth struggled to handle the influx of people on their site. Rather than being able to view bargains, users were instead routed to a custom 404 page that read “something went wrong on our end” and included pictures of Amazon employees’ dogs.

As much as people (including us) loved seeing pictures of cute pups, it’s likely that Amazon employees weren’t so thrilled. The temporary outage is estimated to have cost the company an estimated $1.2 million per minute — adding up to as much as $90 million based on sales in 2017.


The Downtime Domino Effect

So why should Amazon’s technical glitches matter to subscription eCommerce businesses like yours?

First, temporary outages are certainly not limited to big companies like Amazon. Nearly every eCommerce company is prone to outages and downtime, which refers to as the eCommerce “kiss of death”. In fact, according to a Rand Group survey, a whopping 98% of businesses say that a single hour of downtime costs their business about $100,000 in revenue. Yikes.

Second, consider all of the tools, plugins and extensions your business relies on. Most modern eCommerce companies use some form of cloud computing to run their business reliably and from anywhere, either to manage payments, offers, subscription management and fraud protection.

So even if your site is up and running just fine, you place a lot of trust in those external systems and the IT teams that manage them. If even one of those systems experiences an unplanned outage, that can directly impact your ability to sell — creating a digital domino effect that can be hard to recover from.


What Happens If Your Business Experiences Downtime?

Unplanned downtime can impact a whole lot more than your bottom line. For subscription eCommerce businesses, maintaining customer loyalty and trust is a key part of fostering a membership mindset and reducing churn. That said, nothing undermines trust and loyalty quite like unreliability — which is perhaps the most damaging impact that downtime can have on your business.

Just consider the numbers. A recent survey conducted by customer engagement company SDL found that it takes an estimated 2 years for customers to trust a business — but research by Neustar estimates that 67% of consumers lose trust in brands when websites take too long to load (or, in this case, fail to load altogether).

So realistically, the time and effort you put into fostering lasting relationships with your customers could feasibly unravel after just one episode of unexpected downtime, even if it’s not directly because of a website you manage.


Avoiding Downtime — Tips for Subscription Businesses

For subscription businesses, site downtime can spell total disaster for your company within just a matter of hours — but before you panic, remember that a bit of prior planning can put you back in control.

Follow these simple steps to reduce your company’s exposure to unplanned outages that could cost you thousands.

Check in on your site speed. Downtime and outages almost always have some kind of prior warning, so If you don’t already invest in site monitoring services, now might be the time to start. Site speed monitoring tools can let your team know when a portion or all of your site is experiencing slow load times or outages, and even give you prior warning before bigger problems occur.

Plan ahead for periods of high-traffic. Big sales, offers and deals can cause a rush in users to your site. While this is obviously a great thing for your bottom line, it can spell disaster for uptime if you aren’t prepared. Before running an offer or promotion you think will boost traffic considerably, make sure your web host can handle the extra load.

Do some research on your company’s plug-ins and eCommerce platforms. Monitoring uptime across your company’s platforms and tools is just as important as monitoring your own site’s speed. If you haven’t already, take a closer look at the uptime percentage of the tools you use to run your business. If any of those numbers are lower than 99%, it might be time to find another solution.


Fun Fact: LimeLight uptime averages 99.9% — a full percentage higher than the other guys.


The Bottom Line

You work hard to attract and keep your customers, so don’t let unexpected downtime ruin all of that hard work. This is especially true if you’ve become reliant upon platforms and tools to run your business and analytics effectively. Do your research on a regular basis to make sure they continue to deliver. The company you keep matters more than you think!