Our development team provides ongoing support for manufacturers and distributors ecommerce sites. In many instances, we are implementing new improvements, but we also help companies troubleshoot issues that may arise on their ecommerce sites, so we have seen many different types of problems that come up. Troubleshooting in the B2B space can be more complicated due to the back-end functionality and integrations that are involved.
When working on failures, we use this simple process:
- Recreate the issue – otherwise, it is hard to know if you solved it.
- Investigate possible causes.
- Determine if the issue is indicative of the need for reevaluating the site architecture or digital commerce software.
Some issues are relatively simple to address, but sometimes the fix can be more complicated than it’s worth. In some cases, problems can be indicators that your system or platform is no longer serving your company’s digital needs.
Recently a client approached us with a list of issues that existed with their ecommerce on-site search. They wanted our developers to work through the list of issues presented. Instead of diving into troubleshooting the specifics, we asked about taking a step back to analyze and understand the pain points and to make recommendations on ways to address them. We ended up offering suggestions they had not previously considered to simultaneously solve the problems and improve their system.
With that in mind, here are five failures that arise on B2B ecommerce sites, some of the most common causes, and ways to fix them.
FAILURE #1: Users can’t find what they’re searching for
Accurate search results are essential to successful ecommerce. If your customers can’t find what they’re looking for in the first few results, they’re likely to leave in search of a site that won’t waste their time.
If your search results are inaccurate—or even worse, blank—you’ll want to investigate three places: your data source, the search index, and the search implementation.
Make sure your data has product names, descriptions, SKUs, and asset file names that are indexed. What about content? Does your database include titles for articles and videos? Clean data makes it possible for search to be successful.
If the most relevant results don’t appear at the top, your developer will need to look at how search results are ranked and find ways to generate a higher score for the best results. Some search solutions allow you to weight certain fields higher than others (like product description or SKU). Third-party search tools often improve native results, but the cost must be evaluated against the potential benefit.
FAILURE #2: Shipping rates inaccurate or non-existent
It ’is important for customers to be able to predict the cost of shipping as well as deivery times, which can be complicated in the B2B space. When shipping rates are not working properly, the problem is usually the interface with shipping providers like UPS, FedEx, or USPS.
Some common issues we have run into include problems with the origin address, allowable shipping methods, and invalid logins or API Keys with the shipper. These issues are easily resolved, while other causes can be more involved, like network and firewall issues, server communication, software settings, or even security protocols. There are a lot of moving pieces when dealing with shipping, so be sure to cover all your bases.
FAILURE #3: Promotions are not working correctly
Promotions are a great marketing tool, but if they don’t work properly, it can cause customers to become frustrated and abandon their order. Issues with promotions are most common when multiple promotions are running simultaneously. Be sure to plan in advance how promotions will work together and set them up accordingly.
Free shipping on purchases over a minimum amount is a common promotion. However, when other discounts are applied, how does the free-shipping calculation work? Unfortunately for store owners, some ecommerce platforms will do the free-shipping check using the order’s subtotal before other discounts or promotions. This can lead to an order qualifying for free shipping when it really should not.
FAILURE #4: Products Not Showing Up
Obviously, when products that should show up on your site are not there, it’s a problem! The product details, images, and attributes have been entered, but nothing shows up in a product search, product category page, or even the product page itself.
When we are called in to help troubleshoot products that are “Missing in Action,” the most frequent problem is with data. When critical or required fields in the ERP or the ecommerce database are empty, products may fail to show up. This often happens with mass data loads or from manual-entry errors.
Aside from data, you may also want to check the product publishing properties, stocking threshold, and page permissions for other possible causes.
FAILURE #5: Site Slowness
The fastest websites result in the most sales, so we regularly watch and analyze websites to improve speed and performance. There are many issues that can slow down websites, so you may want to tackle them one at a time. Some of the usual suspects are:
- Bad database management
- Heavy use of third-party add-ons
- Under-resourced host servers
- Poor network performance (common in self-hosted sites)
- Lack of code caching (We have found that good caching strategies can reduce load time by 50% or more)
- Large images and files
- Unnecessarily complex or repetitive query calls to the database (usually with a custom ecommerce build)
Monitoring the speed of your ecommerce site is something that requires regular attention.
In fact, maintaining and troubleshooting issues on your ecommerce site is an ongoing project. Some failures, as well as their solutions, can be specific to your software platform and integrations, so be sure to work with a developer who can look at your specific situation. It is essential that your development team understands both the technology needed to fix the issue and your overall digital solution and considers impacts to other areas of your site, maintenance costs and the site performance as a part of their work.
Lori McDonald is the founder, president and CEO of Brilliance Business Solutions, a web development firm that implements digital commerce solutions for manufacturers and distributors. Follow her on Twitter @lorimcd and on LinkedIn.