New research from managed hosting company Hyve quantifies the reputational damage caused by website downtime. Over a third (36%) of UK shoppers say a non-functioning site immediately damages their opinion of a brand, causing perceptions of an ‘unprofessional’ and ‘poorly managed’ business.

The study of over 1,000 consumers found that website downtime has a significant impact on brand image and customer attitude.

If the website is down for a second time when a consumer visits, the consequences are even more serious. Eight out of 10 respondents said their brand perception would be damaged after a second unsuccessful visit.

According to the research millennials are particularly unforgiving consumers. Well over half (57%) of this age group said site downtime causes immediate negative brand perceptions, compared to under a third of baby boomers and 18-24-year olds, respectively.

If a site is down a subsequent time, nine in 10 (88%) millennial consumers report perception damage, and a third (29%) would never visit the brand’s site again. With millennials predicted to have the most buying power of any generation by 2020, these findings have considerable implications.

The study also outlined the extent to which targeted remarketing efforts can help repair consumer trust in this situation. Over half (55%) of consumers said they could be won back if offered a special deal or discount as an apology. However, businesses should note that these attempts are lost on almost a fifth of shoppers (18%), who said they’d still avoid a brand online, regardless of the rewards offered.

Finally, respondents from high-income households are much less understanding of a faulty website than their low-income counterparts. Two thirds (63%) of consumers from households with an annual income of over £100,000 said just one site fault damaged their brand perception, and 18% would not return to the site. This compares with under a quarter (24%) of those earning up to £25,000 – a tiny 1% of which would never return.

Hyve director, Jon Lucas, commented: “A seamless and uninterrupted site experience is crucial in building a brand’s reputation. Today’s buyers are no longer forgiving of technical faults: they expect a high-quality service at all times. Our study shows how website downtime instantly damages customer trust, in many cases permanently. That trust is hard to rebuild, particularly for smaller and less well-known businesses.

“Considering how difficult it is to generate new customers and leads, every business must pay attention to its digital infrastructure – keeping reliability and user experience front of mind. Even brands targeting more affluent customers are not immune to the damage caused by site downtime.”

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