How can 404 error pages help your eCommerce business?

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Angela de la Vieja

The 404 error page is one of the most feared pages for any online vendor. This is the error displayed to the user when the page they’re looking for doesn’t exist. Maybe it was deleted, the product is no longer sold, or, simply, the URL in the link is incorrect, for example. A priori, this is nothing more than one of the classic support pages. But nothing could be further from the truth. There are ways to exploit 404 errors in your eCommerce business to help you take advantage of every last sales opportunity.

To go along with this, it’s necessary to clarify that the precise challenge of these pages is to awaken and maintain the interest of the user who, for whatever reason, has landed on one of these error pages.

When it comes to 404 error page design, these three pillars must be taken into account:

  1. The design

  2. The content

  3. The options offered

In terms of design, more and more eCommerce shops have been joining the trend and adding some of their essence into their 404 error page. This is because appearance is important when personalising a 404 page. While on this page, you want the user to feel that they’re still in the store, reduce any feeling of uncertainty about the error, and even give it a touch of humour – why not?

This is becoming so popular that there are already web designers that specialise in this task. You can even find inspirational channels and Instagram accounts that collect examples of the most original specimens out there.

In regards to content, in this case, it’s about polishing your message and, above all, not making the user responsible for the error. It may seem unlikely, but not choosing the right words could make the potential client feel as if they made a mistake along the way. This means that their next action (on a high percentage of occasions) is to exit the eCommerce page.

When deciding on the copy that will accompany the outstanding creativity showcased in your 404 error page, it’s important to keep in mind the tone that you want for your brand. Casual, more formal, intimate, with a fun message… No matter what the case, the most important thing is to explain what happened (not all users are computer scientists) and what options they have. Escaping the classic “404 Error – Page Not Found” is already the right thing to do. Doing it with style, grace, and utility for the user is what will really make the difference.

How can you take advantage of this page? As we mentioned before, it’s important to know beforehand what you want the client to do when this error occurs in order to know what alternatives to offer them. What options are there?

  • Offer to take them to a similar web page, if it’s possible for the website to identify one.

  • Provide a link to a highlighted page within the eCommerce website that is of special interest to the business.

  • Suggest visiting the category page associated with the page that could not be found.

  • Contact the eCommerce site's customer service (which will allow you to search for any possible leads at the same time).

  • Return to the home page, plain and simple.

All of these options will allow the eCommerce store to find new sales opportunities. As a kind of parallel with cart abandonment, recovering a user who has become lost navigating the store can offer even more value through the help and support that this implies for the potential client.

Choosing the options offered to the user now that they’ve landed on a page that doesn’t exist within the store is the responsibility of the eCommerce business. When it is time to make this decision, making it easy for the user has to be number one. It’s also important for the marketing and sales teams to decide beforehand what user experience technique should be applied to achieve the goals of the business.

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