Making the most of nifty web design tricks and promising a speedy checkout process to lure customers into buying from your website is all well and good, but if any element of an ecommerce site suffers a hiccup during a purchase, there’s a significant chance you’ve just lost a customer.

Anyone who has paid for something online, a figure now standing at around two thirds of us in the UK, is likely to have experienced the convenient highs and infuriating lows of online shopping. Much of the time, the responsibility for the “lows” falls with the website’s hosting provider. If a flaky web hosting service crumbles at a critical time, all the sweat, tears and cash that has gone into making your website eye-catching and easy to use, has been wasted.

Consider the competition amongst event ticketing websites for instance. The news is regularly populated with stories of sites going down at the critical moment as users rush to buy tickets for events at the same time. As ecommerce sites crash, the brand name of the retailer or ticket agent is considerably damaged, whilst they also miss out on a large chuck of revenue due to down time.

Is it possible that this could happen to you? If so, how much revenue would you lose? What it comes down to is the importance that you place on the ‘experience’ that people come across when interacting with your brand online – it’s not just a transactional process anymore – consumers want to feel valued.

There are solutions that have been designed to handle massive traffic and purchasing surges, providing fast page uploads, smooth checkout and 100% uptime. When looking for hosting providers, companies should consider performance, reliability, flexibility, cost, location and support.

One size does not fit all, so an online retailer should search for a provider that understands their business in order to deliver the ideal service whilst keeping costs to a minimum. This should be set out in the service level agreement (SLA), so both parties are clear on what should be delivered and what support is on hand to deal with any issue that may arise.

Companies should also have a clear understanding of the location of the datacentre, for any international data storage compliance issues and know how the hosting provider handles sensitive customer data, such as card payment details so specific requirements or legal standards are always met.

What you may have gathered from reading this is that because web hosting providers cannot differentiate themselves by having superior technology alone, quality of service, quick response times and technical know-how are the attributes that set the standard. Your choice of hosting provider can have a direct impact on the performance of your ecommerce business, the reputation of your brand, and ultimately your revenue. As such, you need to be sure you’ve partnered with a web hosting provider that you can rely on, as a responsible investment in an appropriate, quality provider should provide benefits that far outweigh the initial investment