Graham Cooke is the CEO of QuBit, a technology company specializing in advanced website data collection, analysis, and optimization products. He was previously a senior product manager at Google. Follow him @thegrahamcooke.
Times are changing for web marketers, particularly those dealing with online retail marketing. Customers are getting harder and more expensive to attract and retain, and new technologies are emerging at breakneck speed.
There are a lot of tools that promise to help, but the better approach may be to focus on the following three areas that every marketer needs to address if they want to succeed online.
Many websites are still under performing when it comes to speed, and there’s a measurable financial cost associated to this. Every second added to a website’s load decreases conversions by a massive 2% to 7% and reduces page views by 1% to 2%. Just as importantly, Google makes no secret of the fact that speed is part of its ranking process, meaning that a slow loading site is going to suffer in search results.
A fast website is, therefore, the first thing you need to ensure if you’re going to win in the increasingly competitive online retail world. There are basic, technical things you can do. For example, ensure your site is technically optimized.Also, check out your hosting and bandwidth providers and make sure that you’re not unnecessarily forcing users to download massive videos or images.
Another route to faster site speeds that’s being adopted by major players in web retail is the tag management system. Website tags are used by third-party technologies to track and control activity on a page. Many sites can have twenty or even thirty different tags per page, and each one of these will slow down a page’s loading speed. A tag management system can manage this process, speed up your site, and improve performance.
That said, speed isn’t just about the rate at which your pages load. The best companies are constantly evaluating and rolling out new approaches. To succeed, your marketing team needs to be working with your technical team to ensure that you can move quickly and make the most of the technologies and approaches that exist.
2. Customer View
Online shopping behavior is becoming more complex. Three quarters of customers use more than two points of contact to make a purchase, whether that is multiple visits to a single site or using different online and offline access methods. As a result, 25% of sales cycles take more than a month to complete from consideration to purchase.
During these extended purchase processes, there are hundreds of different influences, offers, social messaging, and other touch points that can influence a consumer decision. A user might visit your website initially, but then they might friend your Facebook page, see a display ad, visit through a search link, or head into your physical store. Retailers need to stay on top of this journey throughout its life cycle. You need to know what led to a customer buying something from your site and, more importantly, what led to them not buying.
The answer is to take a customer-centric view of your analytics, rather than a web-centric view. Traditionally, analyzing website traffic has been all about tracking individual visits to your website, but instead you need to think more broadly about what customers are doing that leads into their on-site experience.
Amazon does a great job of this, using all the information they have on you to ensure that their recommendations are almost always spot on. Similarly, Apple does a great job of integrating the in-store and online experience. They’ve taken the pain away from in-store lines with their remote iPhone-style checkouts. Would you like them to email you your receipt? Of course! And in doing so, you’ve just handed them valuable information about your purchase that they can use on their website.
Once you have a distinct understanding of your customer the next step is to see how you can personalize their experience. Personalization isn’t the same as recommendation. It’s not saying ‘you bought that so you might like this.’ It’s about building an online experience that’s truly personal and unique.
Imagine a store owner who knows you by your name, your size, your preferences, and hang ups. Imagine if you’re hesitating to buy a pricey shirt and they offer you quality reassurance or even a special offer if you’re about to walk away? What about if they can help you curate an outfit or even try it on? What if the store layout was adapted to your liking? What if you always walked into the Hugo Boss section? (Assuming that’s your cup of tea?).
This is personalization: The combination of bespoke design, layout, stock, and messaging. Some websites out there are starting to do this, but only a few so far. However, many websites still work on a site-wide change basis, changing everything for everyone. Research by Jim Manzi , has shown that only 10% of site-wide changes actually drive business change. True personalization relies on being able to serve the right content to the right segment at a specific time, nearly guaranteeing that your changes are going to drive results.
Of course, personalization isn’t a simple process, and it requires what could be the fourth game changer: automation. If you’re going to personalize for individual users effectively without killing your backstage team then you need to be able to customize on the fly based on the data you hold.