If shoppers have to wait in line to get onto a website, that’s better than having the site crash while they shop, says Jamie Rau, marketing manager for scooter e-retailer Micro Kickboard.
Unfortunately, MicroKickboard.com learned this lesson the hard way. The brand’s site crashed for the first time about a year ago on National Scooter Day. The retailer had a promotion lined up to give away 500 helmets, but shoppers flooded Micro Kickboard’s site, and down it went.
“Our whole website did crash,” Rau says. “What we intended to be fun and exciting was very frustrating.”
It took Micro Kickboard’s IT department about an hour to resolve the issue, but even after that, the site was slow, Rau says. The retailer estimates it lost about $15,000 in sales that day from shoppers who would have made a purchase along with receiving a free helmet.
Since its site wipeout, Micro Kickboard implemented a virtual waiting room for high-traffic periods that limits the number of visitors to the website at one time. The splash page, which is the first page a consumer sees before advancing to the main site, has the Micro Kickboard logo and lets the shopper know how long it will take to get onto the site, which is typically between five and 10 minutes, Rau says.
“Rather than 2,000 people with a bad experience of a slow website, we’d rather people come in chunks and all have a fast experience,” Rau says.
Rau estimates that about 500 consumers can be on the site at one time before its performance starts to slow. However, what those shoppers are doing, such as checking out or browsing, affects site speed, she says.
The retailer only uses the splash page during times when it knows it will have a high volume of site visitors, such as Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) and large sale days, when traffic is 200% to 500% more than its average day, says co-owner Julie Hawksworth.
Since Micro Kickboard implemented the waiting room, the retailer has used the virtual waiting room three times, Rau says. And it is effective. Rau says 95% of shoppers who landed in the waiting room on Black Friday 2016 waited their turn to shop and didn’t abandon the page, she says.
The retailer also can customize the splash page to give shoppers information about the sale or tell them why they are in a line to get on the site. Micro Kickboard monitors the site’s activity during high-traffic periods and can increase the wait time for shoppers if the site starts to slow down.
Micro Kickboard tried investing in more servers to handle increased traffic, but it was not successful at keeping the site from crashing, Rau says.
Micro Kickboard uses virtual waiting room technology provided by Queue-it for the waiting room feature, and says it took about two weeks to set up. Rau would not disclose how much Micro Kickboard pays for the service, but it is priced by the number of times the retailer uses the waiting room and depends on the amount of traffic to the website.
Launched in 2007, Micro Kickboard sells its products on Amazon.com Inc., No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2017 Top 500; in bricks-and-mortar retailers; and via its own e-commerce site. Sales off of its own site in 2016 totaled $5 million, Hawksworth says.