Article by Sam Cinquegrani Published in The Future of Customer Engagement and Commerce
Many discussions about the cloud center around the direct benefits businesses gain by using it, elements that are mostly hidden from consumers. There’s a good reason for that – the cloud offers a number of improvements when compared to local hosting – but only considering internally visible advantages means missing out on the bigger picture.
What do customers have to gain from companies using the cloud? There are many advantages, but they’re generally related to the customer experience. Taking these concerns into account ultimately creates better, more positive experiences and strengthens relationships between merchants and shoppers. Let’s take a look at them:
The Importance of Performance
Three major elements contribute to the performance of websites: code efficiency, navigation, and hosting. Cloud hosting both creates a significant improvement in keeping the site available for visitors and reduces the time it takes to load pages. Load time is a critical element of an enjoyable customer experience and also has a strong impact on sales. A study conducted by security and delivery provider Radware found a site that takes 5 seconds to load tallies 38 percent fewer conversions than competitor sites that load faster.
Shoppers don’t want to wait for pages to load, and it’s certainly worth noting another relevant statistic from Radware: Optimal site load time is 3 seconds, but the median load time for top U.S. retail sites is more than double that, at 7.25 seconds. It’s easy to see how a competitor could start capturing part of your customer base by selling similar products and using a faster, more reliable option for hosting – and that assumes both businesses have similar price points.
When considering the overall power of the cloud, this is one of the areas where customer engagement can be strengthened the most. Providing a fast and responsive experience is critical to providing a strong first impression and successful customer engagement in the long term.
Always Open: The Need for Stability and Access
A single server inside a merchant’s facility can be vulnerable to everything from localized power outages to large-scale natural disasters. E-commerce merchants can and do take some significant steps to secure their servers. However, even when prioritized, this remains just one element of a company’s overall operations. The dedicated nature of cloud hosting providers means they can commit more resources to ensuring the server hosting your site remains operational 24/7 and cultivate the appropriate knowledge and skill sets among staff to quickly solve problems.
For customers, one of the only things worse than slow performance is no performance. If a technical issue or extended power outage knocks your internally hosted site offline, customers will likely go somewhere else. One of the most famous examples of downtime leading to lost revenue is an Aug. 2013 outage at Amazon. Roughly a half-hour of downtime led to a loss of $66,240 per minute, or close to $2 million for the entire outage. While rare, short outages can never be completely eliminated, the potentially substantial increase in risk that comes from local hosting can’t be ignored.
Uptime can be difficult to directly and explicitly promote to customers. However, a lack of sustained outages and a low chance of experiencing even a short one is enough to instill a positive feeling about ease of access and the ability to shop whenever desired among your customers.
A Desire for Security
There are few things an overwhelming number of consumers agree about, but security is one of them. A site has to both appear to be secure – especially important to customers who understand the general importance of a secure website for e-commerce, but not the technical details behind it – and have the right safeguards in place to prevent a number of different malicious actions.
While not all providers are equal in this regard, a reputable cloud hosting company offers both experience and expertise when it comes to physically securing cloud servers and protecting digital information. When a hosting provider has security specialists on staff and the right approach to potential issues like DDoS attacks and data breaches, you no longer have to worry about constantly maintaining and growing this technical knowledge in house.
The question is: How can you broadcast this heightened sense of security to consumers? Highlighting your hosting provider’s use of Transport Layer Security and the associated utilization of HTTPS, as well as Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard compliance, is a good start. The image of many different security factors in play is reassuring to less technically inclined shoppers, while the verifiable presence of these factors appeals to those who have a better understanding of them. Leaning on your cloud hosting provider’s expertise in this area only makes your site appear more secure and therefore more desirable to shoppers.
The Power of the Cloud
While a number of different issues influence customer opinions of an e-commerce merchant, many of the most serious are based on the speed, security, and stability of their websites. The direct, secure and stable path that cloud hosting creates to customers is far superior to local hosting inside a single or even many facilities. At its core, the cloud creates a better, more consistent and safer customer experience, allowing your business to increase and improve engagement.