Like all eCommerce websites, availability is clearly critical to our success at 123Print. We fully understand that when our site is unavailable, we are not open for business. It’s as if we walked through our store and kicked everyone out, leaving half-full shopping baskets in the aisles. This is not a business practice we recommend! It’s critical that your small business’ website is actively monitored so it stays available to customers — whether you have a full e-commerce site or not.
Small business websites enable a wide range of capabilities, and most are not full eCommerce sites. There are three broad categories of websites:
- Informational Site. An informational site is primarily a marketing tool that presents information about what the business is, what is being offered and how to contact the company (usually via phone or e-mail). It provides a reference and direction but is limited in its goals, with a focus on initiating communication.
- Rich Interactive Site. An interactive site provides a more robust catalog of information with a focus on communication between the business and the prospective customer. In addition to basic marketing, these sites will enable messaging via the site rather than just referring the customer to call or send an email. The interactions may include web forms for messages, chat or other capabilities.
- eCommerce site. A full eCommerce site offers the complete purchasing process over the web.
This range of enablement often leads the small business person who is not running a full eCommerce site to discount the need for reliability and availability of their web presence. Over the years, I have heard some of the most successful business people I have worked with say, “Our customers can’t buy online, so it’s not a big deal if our site is down for a while.” This is a fallacy that costs business. For more and more consumers, the web is the first and only place they look, for both products and services.
What should you do? Every business needs to ensure that their web presence is actively monitored by an automated tool that recognizes issues and actively notifies the business via e-mail, tests, phone app, etc.
Most reputable web hosting providers will have monitoring services available either as part of their basic package or as an optional service. Check with your provider to confirm if they support automated monitoring and altering.
If you have a bargain-basement hosting solution, or just want to have better visibility and more control of your site, a separate monitoring service may be the right solution. Sites like www.pingdom.com and other low-cost/free web-based services will check your site every few minutes and alert you with a message if a problem is encountered.
Whatever your solution, the key is to automate monitoring and alerting to allow you to focus on what is truly important. Remember an inaccessible website is akin to your phones not working. Customers won’t try to understand what is happening, they will move on and spend their money — just not with you! Avoid that issue by doing your best to be sure that your small business’ website is available 99.99% of the time.
Do you have any other resources for small business owners that will help them with managing website availability issues? Do you have any additional tips we didn’t mention here? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment below, or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.