7 New Years Resolutions for Online Retailers

7 New Years Resolutions for Online Retailers

7th January 2013

After another record-breaking festive period for ecommerce sales, there’s no a better time for retailers to focus on improving their website for the year ahead.

Here are 7 potential new years resolutions for retailers who are looking to stay at the top of their game for the year ahead.

1. Get to know your customers!

Understanding your customers is a fundamental part of retail and it’s equally important for ecommerce businesses as it is for offline retailers.

There are lots of things that all retailers should be doing in order to understand their customers, such as:

  • Monitoring website-driven sales calls and enquiries (and adapting the content on their website to address barriers)
  • Asking for feedback after a user has converted
  • Monitoring live chat transcripts (if you use live chat)
  • Split testing design changes (to see how your customers respond to them)

In addition to these, retailers could also learn more about what makes their customers tick by adopting the following:

  • Customers focus groups – This will help to identify issues with the site, content that should be prioritised in the design and also get valuable feedback on the existing design
  • Asking for feedback from active site users – Although lots of users tend to ignore them, feedback popups are a great way of getting honest and accurate feedback from users
  • Post-checkout feedback / 4Q surveys – Although you’re asking people who’ve successfully purchased from the site, finding out how they found the experience is valuable
  • User testing – Testing users to look for conversion barriers will help you to identify opportunities for improving the usability of your site
  • ClickTale – Although there are alternative options, we use ClickTale to watch how visitors are engaging with websites and also monitoring mouse usage and clicks

2. Respond to responsive!

Although there are lots of retailers (SuitSupply, SkinnyTies and Currys are good examples) that have adopted responsive design, the majority of retail sites are yet to optimise their site for mobile devices.

Responsive design represents a huge opportunity for retailers, as generally a large proportion of their traffic will be mobile users and visitors are far more likely to convert if they’re confronted with a mobile-friendly browsing experience. We’ve built a number of responsive retail sites and we’ve always seen significant uplifts in the number of mobile conversions as a result.

I think that although last year was supposed to be ‘the year of the mobile’, we’ll actually see a lot more retailers adopting responsive design this year.

3. Allocate more time / budget to publishing quality content

Content is a fundamental part of ecommerce and will influence how your website ranks, how people engage with your site and whether or not these users will buy from you. Despite this, there are still thousands of retailers who don’t invest in content and run the risk of operating at a fraction of their potential.

Editorial content

Publishing great content is a great way of bringing people to your website. Websites like Net a Porter, Mr Porter and ASOS are great examples of retailers who generate lots of traffic from new and existing customers from their high quality editorial content.

Writing content that subtly channels readers to retail pages of your website is a great way of converting people who aren’t initially looking to purchase.

Product-focused content

Product-focused content should outline the benefits to the user and should be able to answer all of the obvious questions a customer may have. As I mention below, story telling is another great way of selling a product to a user.

Category Pages

All of the category pages on your website should also have content, which should be focused on defining and selling the range of products featured in that section (eg: content about a brand or type of product).

4. Start telling stories

One of the biggest conversion rate optimisation tips to be lauded over the last twelve months has been story telling, with stories said to generate much better responses from readers than bulleted features or generic sales copy.

Writing stories about how a product can benefit the user and how it was made provides a far more digestible and enticing proposition to readers.

The principle of story telling can / should be adopted throughout your ecommerce website, as it adds value, is easier for customers to consume and it helps people to connect with a product.

5. Start looking at attribution

Over the last 12 months, more and more retailers have started to allocate more of their budget to analytics and attribution, in a bid to better understand the value of their different marketing channels.

The introduction of Google Analytics’ multi-touch attribution has helped retailers start to see how value can be falsely attributed to different channels, but there’s far more insight to be had.

If you’re running online campaigns (particularly display advertising, paid / organic search and banner advertising), it’s difficult to truly understand the value, as offline sales and phone orders cannot be attributed to a specific channel. This is where an attribution model would come into play.

In the past, for phone sales tracking, I’ve looked at the ratio of different channels within analytics, applied the same numbers to revenue generated from phone orders and then added them together to get the best indication – although this doesn’t provide concrete figures. For more a more accurate indication, you could use a third-party call tracking solution like CallTracks or Infinity Tracking.

Additional attribution insight that will help you to evaluate the value of different channels:

  • Offline sales generated by the website
    • Offline sales generated through organic searches
    • Offline sales generated through paid searches
    • Offline sales generated by affiliate ads
    • Offline sales generated by display adverts
    • Online sales generated by physical referrals
    • Online sales generated by offline marketing activity

6. Review your category pages

Site architecture is a fundamental part of SEO and usability and should be reviewed / improved regularly.

Having more static landing pages on your website will enable you to target more keywords for SEO and also provide more targeted content and products, which will help to convert more people.

Within discovery sessions with new clients, we write down all potential pages and physically map out how they should be structured. We would then review the site architecture against keyword research to look for any additional opportunities. This phase would be done with as many people from the company as possible, as they have a better understanding of what the customer wants from a category page.

Something we’ve started doing recently is creating buying guides, which feature very specific category pages with very specific content. For example, we work with a wine retailer and they now have hundreds of valuable category pages (with lots of useful information) for different regions, food pairings, grapes etc.

I would recommend reviewing your site architecture every so often with a view to adding new category pages or adapting existing ones.

7. Give your customers what they want!

Last month, I wrote this post on the Koozai blog on improving user experience for ecommerce sites, which included a section on site search and why it’s important. I’ve worked with lots of retailers that have terrible site search, which generally provide completely irrelevant results for key searches. I’ve also seen how this can affect conversion rates.

In the blog post I wrote, I suggested looking at third party providers such as SLI Systems, PredictiveIntent or Locayta, each of which can help to provide more effective results to users based on user activity and lots of relevancy indicators.

According to this article on Econsultancy up to 30% of users use site search on ecommerce websites, however lots of ecommerce companies still overlook site search as an important part of online retail.

Provide the ‘right’ products:

One of the biggest mistakes that retailers make (which is often complex to resolve) is providing the wrong products within category and search pages.

If you’re looking at the men’s clothing section of a site, you’re going to get a better response from visitors if you provide a varied selection of products, which would feature your most popular options. However, most retailers will provide a list of products within that are generally similar in a lot of ways (whether it’s the same brand, price bracket or anything else.

There are plenty of third-party search merchandising options available for retailers, (most of which provide site search and merchandising solutions) including the ones I referenced earlier; PredictiveIntent, Locayta, and SLI Systems.

One of the things that I love most about these providers is that they can deliver results based on how a user has interacted with the site, which is guaranteed to generate a better response from customers.

There are plenty of other areas that retailers could be looking at to improve their site (such as social integration, performance, SEO etc), but I didn’t want the post to be any longer. If there are any other things that you think ecommerce businesses need to be doing in 2013, please feel free to document them in the comments below.

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Written By
Paul Rogers currently works as the Organic Performance Manager for Buyagift PLC. Before joining Buyagift in June 2013, Paul spent three years working for GPMD (a London-based ecommerce agency) as Head of Digital Marketing.
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