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How to use error pages on an ecommerce site

Posted By Jacob Ingram

Error pages can be heart attack-inducing on an ecommerce website. There is already a fine art to keeping potential customers engaged - when money is involved your visitors will take the smallest excuse to leave your site for Amazon or a competitor. A 404 page on a popular product or collection is the last thing that you want.

So, which error codes do you need to look out for?

  • 200: This is a good page. This is what you want to see.
  • 404: This shows a page that doesn’t exist.
  • 301: This is a page that has been permanently moved or redirected to a different URL.
  • 410: This is a page that has been removed from the site permanently.
  • 503: This page is down for maintenance.

The three main error codes that you will be concerned about on your ecommerce site are 200, 404 and 301. You will rarely come across a 410 page on an ecommerce site because it is a command to a search engine to remove it from the indecise. It is much better for your ecommerce user journey and customer service to redirect pages rather than removing them completely. It is a similar story for 503 errors - you should only take pages of your ecommerce site down if it is absolutely necessary. Your customers can’t convert if they can’t view your site.

So, how should you use error codes on your ecommerce site?


Your first question when you see error codes - especially 404s - doesn’t have to be HOW DO I FIX THIS!?

Take a breath and don’t panic. Redirecting this page to a similar product, or a relevant collection page is a great way to keep customers in your site, especially if they were expecting to find something specific.

If you need to 301 redirect some URLs on your Shopify site, check out Easy Redirects - the best way to upload them in bulk.

If you’re the kind of business that offers limited edition products and capsule collections, then you may end up removing products regularly and need to redirect redundant URLs. Implementing a strategy that anticipates and manages your redirects means that you can provide better customer service and user experience.

404 pages

This is a great opportunity to be creative with your 404 pages. Many digital businesses see the 404 page as being the end of a customer’s time on your site. When they see a 404, they leave.

Why does that have to be the case? Your customer has hit a page on your site that they weren’t expecting. An extra page in the journey. Use it as part of your marketing strategy - see it as an opportunity to engage with them in an unexpected way, reinforce your brand or make a striking apology. Most marketers would kill for the chance to put some extra messaging in front of their customers.

You could also implement a search bar. This is an active piece of functionality that gives your customers the opportunity to get back into your site.

The best 404 pages on ecommerce sites give your customers a reason to stay on site. Or even better, they give your customers a reason to spend money. Our favourite, and the most effective 404 pages have been amusing offers. Acknowledge the fact that you have messed up, and compensate your customers for it. 10 or 15 percent off their next order will probably be enough to not only save you from a bounce, but to get an extra sale AND to make it look like you’re great at customer service.

If you are looking for a great 404 page design, get in touch.

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Shopify Conversion Optimisation 2018 Checklist

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