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25% Of Merchants Have Lost ‘Critical’ E-Commerce Content

With e-commerce single-handedly keeping much of the apparel retail world afloat through the coronavirus outbreak, companies are realizing just how valuable their digital channels can be.

But one thing retailers have underestimated—and likely take for granted—is the ability of their web store to stay online and functional at all times. In fact, 60 percent of retailers said that before implementing their current e-commerce platform, they had never backed up their web content by any method at all, according to a report from data protection application provider Rewind.

When asked whether they had ever lost website data in the past, 25 percent of respondents reported losing critical content that needed to be restored. Twenty-three percent of retailers say they lost products and product images while eight percent said they lost customer orders. Another 7 percent lost full pages, themes and even inventory information.

“The unfortunate part with these disasters is that nobody ever gets a warning before it happens,” Mike Potter, CEO of Rewind, told Sourcing Journal. “The disasters are unexpected, they happen at random in some cases, and there’s really no telling before they happen but they’re going to happen. So a lot of the response to that depends on how protected you were, how seriously you took the threat, and how much effort you put in to ensuring that the data that you’ve got in your store was able to be recovered.”

In the visually driven apparel business, shoppers must see the products and gather all the information necessary regarding availability, color, fit and other product details included, or even an estimate of what a garment would look like on them. Without these factors within the shopping experience, consumers have an incomplete picture to go on and would be better off going to another site. Shoppers missing out on these products directly contributes to lost sales and may even prevent them from returning to the site.

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An overwhelming 95 percent of retailers said products and images were the most damaging datasets to lose, even above customer orders at 88 percent, the survey said.

Potter noted that during the pandemic, he has ordered more apparel and home furnishings products online, and suggested that now is the time for these merchants that didn’t already have a major online presence to establish new relationships with a set of customers that have never shopped there before.

“That initial order experience is so important to determine whether or not that person is going to come back,” Potter said.

Respondents in the survey largely agreed, with 89 percent describing e-commerce data loss as impacting revenue and orders. Even more retailers (91 percent) said they were negatively impacted by the time and labor wasted rebuilding the website.

Most retailers set the time to recover from the data loss between zero and five hours (28 percent), with 13 percent reporting that it can take anywhere from six to 25 hours. Nearly 8 percent of respondents said they never fully recovered from the loss.

Interestingly, 52 percent of respondents who had lost data were unsure how long the interruption to their operations lasted, indicating either a brief interruption that didn’t impact their business enough for them to notice the recovery time, or a sustained interruption that caused them to lose track of the time to recovery.

Understanding the timeliness and source of the outage matters, especially for smaller brands that may only recently gotten their e-commerce operations up and running. The report cited a prior IDC study that said SMBs stand to lose anywhere between $80,000 and $256,000 during a single downtime event.

“It all depends on what your recovery mechanism is,” said Potter. “If you’ve got software that can automate it and you’ve got the backup in place, the impact of moving all your data is minimized. If you don’t, you’re looking at potentially catastrophic disasters that in some cases, some customers can’t actually recover from since they’ve lost so much data.”

As far as the culprits for these data losses or site outages, 57 percent of respondents cited human error and cyberattacks as major threats to online data. Slightly fewer (53 percent) were aware that the third-party plugins used by almost all e-commerce operations can potentially crash a site and cause permanent data loss.

“Most of these businesses are being run by entrepreneurs that are extremely busy and are trying to manage multiple things at once,” Potter said. “Many of them have full time jobs in addition to running an e-commerce site. Human error happens. They go in, they think they are making an edit to one product and they accidentally delete something else entirely. As their business grows, a lot of these people are using other people to help them run their business, or get full-time employees in. The more people you add to the system, the more likely it is that someone is going to make a mistake.”