Why be concerned about having a boring 404 (Not Found) page on your BigCommerce store’s website? Because at the very least, retaining an ugly default error page is a lost marketing opportunity. Creating an informative, branded 404 page takes advantage of blank real estate that can be used to help a potential customer find what they need. Using every available technique to keep customers on your site and on the path to converting is crucial for your long term success.
An ecommerce website, like a good soup or a stew, isn’t driven by just one thing. It’s lots of different ingredients that, when brought together, create an all-inclusive experience that helps an online business succeed. When one of those ingredients leaves a bad taste in a customer’s mouth, like an unhelpful 404 page, consider making things right in a way that’ll help your business rather than do further damage.
You shouldn’t understate its utility. The 404 page is perhaps the most neglected web design element.
The 4 Elements of a Good 404 Page
As we mentioned in our article, “Best Practices for Managing Ecommerce 404 Error Pages,” customizing your 404 page can also be helpful in improving user experience, conversions, and reducing bounce rate. There are four important elements to consider when creating a custom 404 Not Found page:
- Explain the problem like a human
- Echo your brand in the page design
- Be engaging
- Give customers a way forward
1. Explain the problem like a human
Does a customer need to know why they arrived at your 404 page? No. All they need to know is that they didn’t get the page they wanted. Speak like a human, like the text on this page from Scentos. Customers don’t care about a bunch of technical jargon, they just want to know what happened and what to do next.
2. Echo your brand in the page design
Make sure the design of your page is in line with the rest of your site, both in appearance and tone. Uniformity in page styling is important to create continuity. Use your 404 page as another way to reinforce your brand’s image in their minds. As you can see from Scentos‘ home page banner below, their 404 page above is perfectly aligned with their brand:
3. Be engaging
Grab their attention! Using humor, chat widgets, and coupon codes are excellent ways to “lighten up” while still being helpful.
Life is short — don’t be afraid to use humor, as long as it’s fitting for your brand, like this page from DiBruno Bros., who sell specialty food gifts featuring cheeses and cured meats.
Give customers the opportunity to talk to you directly by using a chat app like LiveChat. With a link to the LiveChat chat widget on your 404 page, you can answer sales and support questions while the customer is on your site. This is the most personal way to make a connection with a site visitor.
Offer a discount
What’s not to like about getting a coupon code to encourage staying on site and perhaps finding a fitting replacement for the product you wanted? Nothing says “sorry for the inconvenience” like a coupon code.
U.S. Patriot Tactical sells
off-post military and tactical goods. The exit popup from their very funny 404 page offers customers an instant 5% off coupon sent to their inbox. A dropdown box gets additional information from them for future marketing efforts. Asking for the customer’s branch of service ensures that they can be sent targeted specials.
4. Give customers a way forward
They’ve hit your 404 page — now what? They’re at a stopping point, now use it to help them get what they need before you lose them. Here are three ways to do this:
- Offer a search bar
- Provide a list of top categories to choose from
- Include a way to contact you for help via phone, email, or chat
Beer Cartel sells a selection of beer (of course), glasses, gifts, and a beer subscription service. While simple in design, Beer Cartel’s 404 page invites lost visitors to search their site, in addition to choosing from popular categories.
Adding one or more of the above elements to a 404 page is especially helpful when leaving the 404 page in place without a redirection. This is done when there is simply no appropriate alternative to the desired page, like when a unique product has been discontinued.
Getting 404 errors on your ecommerce site is unavoidable. But with the right mindset and tools, you can turn this inconvenience into an opportunity to increase sales and create opportunities for success.
Evelyn Bai is the Digital Marketing Strategist at Inkblot Digital. She’s a passionate improvement addict and info geek who seeks to improve the world and ecommerce one little post at a time.