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From Lost to Loyal: How to Make the Most of the 404 Error Page

From Lost to Loyal: How to Make the Most of the 404 Error Page

Some of the best and most exciting things in life are overlooked by most of us. It’s not technically our fault. Things fly under the radar for a number of reasons (if you know of a delicious diner that is rough around the edges but serves incredible dishes for cheap, you’re probably not going to spread the word that far, either).

And ecommerce is jammed with overlooked areas. Across the digital landscape you have the skyscraper names of brands and retailers that dominate the skyline. You have the neon signs and welcome banners competing with each other on the main internet highways and trying to entice customers onto their websites.

Yet in the quieter corders you may find an easter egg. And we found one. Follow me…

Now, walk away from the brightly-colored homepage lights and take a look around the back, through the dark alleys that lead there. (Alternatively, and the safer route: head onto the website and scroll through the main pages until you head to the back.)

Here you will find that room that holds those people who are lost; like kids wandering off in a store. On an ecommerce website, the place that is too often overlooked in the design and creation process is the 404 error page, where customers will stumble onto a “Page Not Found” message.

Page 404

From Lost to Loyal: How to Make the Most of the 404 Error PageWhen a customer is navigating through your website and either clicks on a broken link or types in something that doesn’t exist (or perhaps it is simply misspelled) your site won’t have the correct CSS files, image, or JavaScript, which causes a 404 error, and directs a user to the 404 page.

Once a user finds themselves here, traditionally, they will see those painful and frustrating words “Page Not Found” plastered on a boring white backdrop while they’re trying to search or buy something. If you’re a retailer, your goal here is to get your customers back onside and continue shopping. So you add a message to explain the problem; you attach products that they have previously viewed or alternatively the featured products on your site; and you add a search box so that users can redirect themselves.

We’ve all stumbled onto a 404 page and quickly wanted to leave. But they can actually be remodeled into a place of reimagination, of laughter, of turning a lost user into a loyal customer. It’s no secret that, here at United Virtualities, we work intimately with Salesforce Commerce Cloud (formerly Demandware, and slowly remodeling itself as Salesforce B2C Commerce) and while on a routine scan through its documentation, we came across an easter egg.

404 easter egg

Buried in the platform documentation is a list of suggestions for boosting your 404 page. Beyond the usual suggestions like what we have mentioned above (provide a reason for the error, display product images and descriptions, and recommendations) it continues by suggesting to inject humor and reward into an otherwise frustrating space. And the best and most effective type of humor is brand-based humor — when customers will connect your brand with lightheartedness and creativity. There are a number of brands that do them very well, but I have a particular soft spot for the simple yet very effective 404 page of Lego (why not take a quick look!).

From Lost to Loyal: How to Make the Most of the 404 Error PageThere are other nuggets of insight to be found, such as offering promotion codes if a user notifies a retailer about a broken link — now that’s a great reward for very little work. Or instead, how about offering a particular product that is exclusive to people who land on a 404 page, which cannot be found by searching through catalogs. Such a product could generate a buzz around how to get hold of such a lucrative item!

And following such sage advice, you can take such a creative brainstorming session into discussions about how to setup or adapt your “Zero Search Results” page.

PS: UV is one of the world’s leading Salesforce Commerce Cloud (Demandware) tech teams. Contact us to see how we can work together.

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