brandswrong-head

When anticipating extra traffic to your website it’s important to consider whether or not your hosting is configured to handle the extra workload that will be heaped upon your server.

Lately, we’ve been talking quite a bit about the benefits of thinking ahead when it comes to the extra traffic your website is likely to receive. Whether that’s explaining CDN’s or showing you how to avoid any mishaps with our hosting animation. Planning ahead is vital to ensuring that your website stays online during busy periods, keeping your customer experience positive and preventing you from losing a ton of potential sales.

But what about if you don’t do anything? What happens if you leave your hosting as is and just ‘see what happens’ come your busy period. Let’s look at some examples of how big brands have fared in the past.

Sainsbury’s

Back in 2014, Sainsbury’s used a popular ecommerce marketing technique to boost sales at Christmas. They created urgency by putting a deadline on when you had to place your order by, to receive the goods in time for Christmas. An age old psychology trick proven to boost sales. However, whilst the campaign was well thought out and extremely successful, nobody considered what might happen to the website if you direct all of your customers to one place at one time.

Sure enough at 10.50pm (ten minutes before the 11pm deadline) the site was overwhelmed by customers trying to get their online shopping carts through the purchase stage in time for Christmas delivery. The website crashed and went down for thirty minutes. Customers were met with a holding message advising them to contact the store by phone – the problem here being that the lines were busy and prompted the caller to visit the website… #facepalm.

Without any official figures being released by the company we’re left to speculate that a lot of customers were forced to abandon their Sainsbury’s shop, losing the company a considerable volume of sales. Alongside this, shoppers went to twitter in their droves to vent their frustration. A bad day at the office for the retailer on what should have been one of their busiest and most successful of the calendar.

Sodastream

The retro soft drinks gadget has made somewhat of a comeback in recent years. Going from a kids’ Christmas list staple in the 80s – to a relatively unknown ‘do you remember those’ type product at the turn of the millennium – to (suddenly) a pretty cool, retro kitchen gadget in the last few years. This revival has, in part, been caused by (and enabled) bigger and better marketing campaigns. In 2013 Sodastream had the golden goose of advertising spots, a 30 second ad during perhaps America’s biggest annual event – The Super Bowl.

The ad would have cost the company an estimated $4million and some consider this a bargain considering the sheer volume of traffic it can generate, which of course is fantastic if your website can handle that traffic.

Sodastream’s couldn’t. Cue the usual social media outrage and mockery and the transformation of opportunity into a way of looking a little incompetent. The ad generated a superb amount of hype and kudos for that but after the initial interest, you can’t help but wonder how many viewers remembered the ad well enough to revisit the site when it was up and running again.

Argos

Black Friday is the busiest time of year for a lot of ecommerce businesses. The American sales phenomenon has been adopted by us Brits in the last few years and love it or loathe it, it’s here to stay. A huge brand that fell victim to the Black Friday traffic surge in 2014 was Argos (amongst others – Tesco, Littlewoods, Curry’s and more). With millions of shoppers flooding the net to find a bargain, the site cracked under the weight and went down for over two hours at what would have been their busiest period.

This amount of down time not only lost the retailer a huge amount of money in lost sales but (as always) customers were quick to take to social media to criticise the brand. Angry that they couldn’t get the deals they’d been hunting for and associating the company’s twitter handle with the hashtag #epicfail… ouch.

How to avoid this

Website crashes can happen to anyone, as well as the examples above brands like Coca Cola, Audi and Calvin Klein have succumbed to traffic overloads in the past and it’s not just huge companies getting millions of visitors that struggle, small businesses have smaller hosting packages and will have difficulties with an increase in traffic in the same way.

Avoid any potential problems by contacting your hosting provider as soon as possible and ensuring you’re ready for any extra visitors your latest marketing/seasonal boost may bring.

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