BFCM Labs: Managing Dead Ends & Empty States On-Site

Syte Senior CSM Aaron Ellis walks you through the three critical steps to take to prevent shoppers from reaching a dead end on your site this BFCM.


Prefer to read? Check out an edited transcript of this video below:

Introduction: Empty States & Dead Ends On-Site

Hi, I’m Aaron, Senior Customer Success Manager here at Syte. And today, as part of our BFCM Labs series, I’m going to discuss a major pain point that every brand and shoppers face on black Friday and Cyber Monday: empty states and dead ends on your website. Let’s go.

First, let’s talk about what empty states are. This is when your user takes action on your website and receives either no results or they can’t continue on their shopping journey. They’re stuck. It’s frustrating. And, when poorly managed, it’s pretty much a one-way ticket off your website.

Here’s how we can tackle these empty states with three easy steps: prevent, communicate, and provide an alternative path.

Step 1: Prevent

Step one: prevent. The best way to ensure that shoppers don’t hit a dead end is to eliminate that dead end path entirely. If a product is out of stock, don’t display it on your product listing page. This way, shoppers won’t have the disappointing experience of clicking on a PDP and seeing that the product itself is sold out.

This also applies to sizes and colors. You may not be able to remove a product from your product listing page if you still have certain sizes and colors available. So whenever possible, and as early as possible, gray out options that aren’t available, letting shoppers know right off the bat that they won’t be able to find that item. This way, they can continue on their journey and focus on what they’re actually going to buy. Searches are another common dead end. No results pages should be avoided at all costs, and utilizing autocorrect and synonym recognition is critical to achieve that goal.

Don’t let typos be the reason you have a dead end on your website.

Step 2: Communicate

Step two: communicate. Despite your best efforts, there will be scenarios on your website that lead to empty states. The most important thing you can do here is to be transparent and to tackle it early on. There are plenty of dead end scenarios that can be communicated well in advance. For example, the cart page is not a time to say, “sorry, this item does not ship to your region.”

These messages need to be communicated as early as possible, ideally from the PLP and at the very latest, from the product page itself. When you have no other option, but to communicate through text in an empty state or a dead end, empathy is absolutely critical, especially on Black Friday when shopping is so time-sensitive. Keep your messaging simple and to the point. Make sure to acknowledge their frustration, apologize for their experience, and — this takes me to step three, provide them with an alternative path to continue their shopping experience.

Step 3: Provide an Alternate Path

Step three: provide an alternate path. This step goes hand in hand with communication. While a clear heartfelt apology is important. It’s still a dead end. You need to do everything in your power to provide your shoppers with an alternate path.

If an item is out of stock, give them the options and register for a restock. Or even better, present them with a similar option in your inventory. If a search yields no results, after your apology message, provide the shopper with a curated selection of personalized results. If you don’t have a personalization engine, then present your best sellers to keep them browsing.

These alternate paths enable your product discovery to continue from what would otherwise be a dead end, and ultimately, a lost customer.

We’re about to close this one out. So let’s quickly summarize: one, prevent your users from arriving at empty states or dead ends. If they do end up in these situations, make sure to communicate this as early on as possible and keep the messaging clear, simple, and empathetic.

Finally, provide an alternate path. Always give your users a relevant recommendation to keep them on their shopping journey.

Thank you and catch you next time on BFCM Labs.