During our latest usability study we used live websites which caused a number of our test subjects to run into technical errors or site maintenance. In 8 out of 9 instances (89%), this led to instant abandonment of the site.
Subjects generally showed an extreme level of impatience towards technical glitches, often not even trying to reload the page, but simply leaving it immediately.
This also applied to sites that were taken down for maintenance. Most subjects didn’t really care that the site offered to “be back shortly”. So don’t expect your visitors to come back and make their purchase once your site is up again.
The only site we tested that did take an interesting approach to this was AllPosters who offered their visitors 10% off any order placed within the next 7 days. This is a great way to retain visitors. (Not surprisingly, this was the one instance where the subject didn’t leave the site immediately.)
The great thing about this approach is that you’re acknowledging the wasted time and frustration of your customer and you’re giving them a reason to wait making their purchase with you instead of just going to another online store, offering the same products or services.
Do you have other good ideas on how to handle technical glitches without losing sales?