E-commerce, use the 404 error page to trigger conversions

by ‘Sep 25, 2017’Personalization

Internet users regularly come across the 404-error page while browsing. Leveraging this page may actually turn out to be very useful. Yet, it is too often overlooked by e-merchants who do not realize its huge potential.


What is a 404-error page?

This error is due to an HTTP communication protocol error. The server returns that error any time a resource requested by an Internet user is not available on the website. In fact, this usually refers to a web page that is no longer available on your website.


What makes Internet users land on 404-error page?

While there may be tons of reasons, here are the most common:

  • A third-party site redirects users to your site, but the link is no longer active.
  • An old page of your website is still present in the Google index but no longer available on your site.
  • The Internet user misspelled the URL she is looking for so the webpage simply does not exist.
  • Among the many links on your site, some are broken (note that while this is really bad for your image, the impact is even worse on SEO).




What are the consequences of the 404-error page on browsing experience?

Have you ever landed on such a page? If so, you know what we’re talking about and how annoying this turns out to be.
Regardless of the reason why you ended up on this 404-error page, the outcome is pretty much always the same: you just leave the website. And you wouldn’t be alone in doing so. Most users will leave the website when such an error occurs as the content displayed on a 404 page usually only tells you that the content they’re looking for is not available.

This may be interpreted in several ways:

  • This e-merchant does not have the products I’m looking for
  • The website no longer exists
  • Once again, I wasted my time on this website

Regardless of the interpretation, all the efforts you have been making to improve the user experience will be reduced to dust within seconds if you do not offer anything useful or entertaining to your clients upon a 404 error.


Yet the 404 error page might help you

While you won’t be able to fix all the sources that lead to this error, especially if the problem comes from an external website you are not responsible for, you can still leverage the 404-error page.

Messages and pictures:

When a user lands on a 404-error page, the first thing she sees is obviously the error code in black and bold font without any illustration around.  To avoid her leaving the site straight away, try to change the message displayed and a touch of humor, or a nice visual illustration (logo, mascot, etc.). This will definitely stir up your visitor’s curiosity.

Internal search engine:

Most of you already have an internal search engine. You can use it to encourage your user to interact with (and stay on) your website despite the 404 disappointing experience. Not only will this direct the user to the product she has been looking for but it will also contribute to the global analysis of your website by knowing what customers are looking for.

Product recommendation:

Since you have an entire array of products in your catalogue, try to leverage the empty error page. For instance, you can display a selection of the most popular products on this page. Even better, if the user is a returning one who is recognized by your recommendation algorithm (like ours for instance), the algorithm will display the products that she is most likely to like and purchase.

Obviously those techniques and features have been designed for more but using them in this context will not only help you increase your turnover but will also show your potential customers that you care about them and do all you can to improve their experience. That is of the utmost importance, as customers are very demanding, and not very patient, especially on the Web. Nothing should be neglected to reach that goal. In this particular case, improving the user experience will help retain an audience that would have been lost otherwise. Obviously, the figures won’t be as high as in the case of a standard navigation but as Louis-Auguste Martin already said in 1855 “The efforts will eventually pay off”.



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