Automated Monitoring To Ensure Your Flower Shop Website Is Online

How busy florists can use simple monitoring services to make sure their ecommerce floral websites are online, performing well for their retail customers, and not adding products they don't want.

Automated Monitoring To Ensure Your Flower Shop Website Is Online

Hopefully you have an ecommerce website that is an important part of your business, tirelessly serving customers, selling flowers and making a great impression 24 hours a day. But how can you be sure? Especially at those peak industry periods when you are at your busiest and customers are most likely to be visiting your site?

Let’s look at some of the things that can go wrong:

  • Your site can go “down” for an extended period, meaning it is offline or not available to vistors, who will instead see an error message when they visit. Our industry is one of extremes and websites are sensitive to volume - a site that performs fine with limited traffic in August will be under a lot more pressure in February or May and fail as a result.
  • Your site can go offline (or respond so slowly that it appears to be offline) for brief periods throughout the day. It will usually be available when customers visit it, but it is also likely to return an error while they are placing an order – forcing them to start the process over again… or just go to a more stable competing site.
  • Your site can run so slowly that it frustrates your users, perhaps to the point that they decide not to come back.
  • Your website provider (the company that you pay to provide you with the website) can add links and or products that you do not want appearing on your website.

This is just a partial list. Running an online flower store is a complicated business and a lot can go wrong.


So How Do You Keep An Eye On Your Floral Website?

Some florists try and make a habit of checking manually. They make a point of trying to check their websites (usually with just a quick visit to the home page) on a regular basis but this isn’t enough. Most florists, even those that visit their sites every day, probably won’t be aware of any problems until they hear from a disappointed customer.

There is a better solution in the form of website monitoring services. These services let you set up different “checks” that test your site for a number of different problems, as often as every minute, and alert you via email, SMS text message or app. They work around the clock to make sure that your website is online and providing a great experience to everyone that visits.


Monitoring For Availability

The most basic check provided by monitoring services is one that confirms your website is online and available, and not providing some kind of “not available” message to your visitors. This kind of check is usually performed frequently – as often as every minute.

If your site goes down you’ll be notified immediately – usually with an email or SMS text message – so that you can deal with it before customers see it, assume you are out available (or maybe even out of business) and, contact a competitor.

It is a good idea to check more than just one page on your website. Sure – the home page that greets visitors is the most important and you want to be sure it is available but hopefully visitors are going to click deeper into your site and you want to make sure that those pages are available too.

The big concern is always a prolonged outage, one where your website goes offline for several minutes or hours, but brief intermittent outages, as short as a few seconds, are another serious concern.

These outages are almost impossible to detect without a monitoring service. They are so brief that you are very unlikely to just stumble across one when checking your site manually. Without a monitoring service you probably won’t ever know they are happening.

Is it really a big deal if your site briefly goes offline on a regular basis? Yes! Sure, your website will be available to most visitors when they arrive, but the longer they stay the more likely they are to encounter an outage or timeout that will end their session. And when do people spend the most time on your website? When you least want to interrupt them… when they are placing an order!

A timeout error in the middle of an order will typically end the session, forcing the user to start the process over again. And there is no reason to assume that they are going to start over again with you:

When a site experiences an outage, 9% of online customers permanently abandon the site, and 48% of site users establish a relationship with a competitor.

Jupiter Research


One of the most respected SEO experts in the flower business (and monitoring enthusiast) Ryan Freeman of Florist 2.0 explains that:

“A twerking website (one that goes up and down) frustrates your customers and it can also hurt your standing with search engines. They see a website that is less reliable and are reluctant to endorse it with a high ranking”.

Ryan Freeman, Florist 2.0


The part about search engines is very important. People choose a search engine because they trust it to provide good results when they perform a search. Search engines take that trust seriously. The same way you strive to provide your customers with the best possible flowers search engines strive to provide their visitors with the best possible search results… and they are very reluctant to send their visitors to a website that frequently goes offline.

Even the most basic availabilty monitoring helps with all of this. A monitoring service will alert you as soon as your site goes down and again when it comes back up. And it will provide detailed information on all of the checks and outages in reports that illustrate exactly how your website is performing.


Monitoring For Performance & User Experience

The first checks that you create with your monitoring service, the availaibility checks discussed above, will be about ensuring that your site is online and available to shoppers.

Once you are confident of that the next consideration is user experience. Is your website fast enough to keep your visitors satisfied? Again you can use a monitoring service to ensure that your floral website is online and performing in a way that won't send customers looking for alternatives.


Speed matters. In 2006, the average online shopper expected a web page to load in four seconds. In 2013 the same shopper expected a page to load in two seconds or less.


Research shows that 52% of online shoppers consider quick page loading important to their site loyalty and 79% are less likely to buy from the same site again when dissatisfied with site performance.


Again monitoring can help by providing detailed reports and graphs that illustrate performance.

It’s tempting to think “I visit my site a few times a week and it always feels pretty fast” but that isn’t enough for a couple of reasons:

  • In the flower business speed (and user experience) is most likely to suffer when you are least likely to notice: the major floral holidays. The increased traffic can slow your site down and frustrate customers when you probably aren’t checking it.
  • You will almost always see your website perform better than the average visitor because you likely visit it frequently. This lets your web browser “cache” or store the content locally which means that you don’t have to wait for that content to download from the server.

Monitoring services help you evaluate the experience in a couple of ways. The first is that they won’t cache page content, which means the timing they report will be much closer to what actual users experience.

They also help put the speed measurements into context. What people expect when shopping online is always changing but a good monitoring service will provide feedback on what the times from your site really mean. Typically good results will show in green, less stealer results in yellow or orange, and bad results in red.

Monitoring services also make it easy to check multiple pages and processes. Sure – the loading time of your home page is very important but what about some of your other most popular pages? How long does it take to load the specials page? Or add an item to the cart? Monitoring lets you check each of those things, as often as every minute.

A great thing about monitoring for speed (as opposed to just availability) is that it lets you prepare and respond to a serious problem (a slow website) instead of just notifying you of a fatal problem (an offline website). If your monitoring service informs you that your site is getting slower you can act to protect your business – you may be able to put a message on the website asking people to call you if they have any problems.

A slowing website can also indicate a coming outage as the server enters a death spiral, getting slower and slower before it finally goes down. Again a monitoring service helps by providing advance warning.



Monitoring For Content & Links

Once you have configured your monitoring service to check for availability and performance what else can you do? One possibility is monitoring for content (specifically products and links) that you do not want on your website.

Some florist website vendors will make changes to your website – adding, removing or highlighting products without you knowing about it. Sometimes their intentions may be good but you may not always agree with their decisions and you probably won’t be aware of them.

One example involves links. Some website providers will include a small link that says something like “Powered by Floral Websites Inc.” with a link back to their own website on one or more pages. This is fairly standard.

Other providers prominently feature large artwork, links and text promoting their own services on the website you are paying for. Most florists understandably do not want this – they are paying for a website that serves their business, not promote their vendor. They also realize that it doesn’t look professional – serious companies don’t have websites that aggressively promote the vendor that supplies them.

An even bigger concern is products. Some providers will, as part of seasonal updates, add new products to your website. Some of these products may not be the kind of thing you want to feature on your site, while others may not be something you sell at all - some providers will add products that are actually sold by the website provider and shipped direct.

Many florists don’t want to include those products on their websites, but they generally won’t notice until they happen to stumble across them or see them showing up on sales reports.

That leads into another issue – links that take the customer from your website to the provider’s website where they can then buy directly from them. Again this is something florists generally want to avoid.

A monitoring service can help with all of these concerns. The same way you can configure checks so you are alerted when a certain page on your website is not available, you can also be alerted when certain text or links appear. You can then make (or request of your vendor) the changes that you need.


Alerts & Providers

How do you choose a website monitoring service and how should they notify you when there is a problem? Depending on the monitoring service and plan you select you will have varying options. The most sophisticated will let you choose who (and how) gets notified when there are status changes with each of your checks.

Email and/or SMS text message are standard. For some people texts are more immediate, but email is more permanent and keep all your email alerts in a special folder can help you get a sense of things without even having to generate monitoring reports.

Some services also provide an app. Pingdom for instance includes a very well designed mobile app that shows you the status of all your checks. It is great for taking a quick look and making sure everything is ok, checking response times, etc. but email and text messages are better at alerting you to a problem.

There are many different service providers but my current favorite is Pingdom. It offers good value, great reporting, and a variety/frequency of powerful checks and alert options. Several other options are listed below.

Like Pingdom most of these services offer a free option with a limited number of checks. Switching to a paid account generally gets you more checks more often.

The number of checks is very important because you need to be checking for a few different things – things like the availability and speed of several pages that are essential to a good customer experience, products, links, etc. The frequency of the checks is important because infrequent checks will almost always miss the brief outages/timeouts that are so frustrating to your online visitors.

A package that provides ten different checks running every minute is probably adequate for most flower shops. With Pingdom this would cost about $10 a month. It’s not an insignificant amount of mont but, in return, you get detailed minute-by-minute reports on a vital aspect of your business.

One approach is to try the free options from a couple of different services. This lets you evaluate all aspects of the service (variety of checks, alert options, ease of use, etc.) before committing to the one that provides the best fit for you.