5 Best Practices to Optimize E-Commerce Sales
Tallying over $30 billion in online sales during the holiday shopping season, 2010 will go down as the year e-commerce emerged as the most convenient means of shopping for consumers. As more retailers look to leverage their websites to increase sales and revenues, they should be well prepared to keep those sites healthy and viable.
Monitoring your website from an end-user perspective provides a true view into the health and vitality of the applications being used to drive business online. Web application performance management allows organizations to identify problems before they become critical incidents and impact their ability to increase sales.
Consistently monitor your website to avoid costly interruptions that influence return on investment. The following is a list of five best practices to ensure that your website is as efficient as possible during peak shopping hours:
1. Understand your company’s mission, goals and key success metrics. As a precursor to developing a dashboard or creating standard metrics, it's important to understand what your business does and what makes it successful. An online retailer defines success by the number of products it sells per day. It's unlikely that using the same standard metrics template for measuring a corporate website or a charitable organization would also prove successful for an online retailer.
Performance monitoring solutions have the potential to illuminate varied data specifically related to different areas of functionality of the application (e.g., latency for checkout vs. content download vs. video displays). An appropriate examination of the most relevant metrics goes a long way towards optimizing your web application.
2. Create metrics with context. When creating reports or dashboards, simply saying that there were 323 visitors from Argentina who visited the site from Aug. 1, 2010 to Aug. 31, 2010 isn’t useful. Put this statistic in context by comparing historical data in addition to providing data on the marketing spend for these two periods. Give specifics to management about actual business results. The number of visitors to an e-commerce site is likely to increase during the holiday shopping season, so your dashboard and metrics can be adjusted so that activities are optimized for the increased traffic.
3. Understand the effect of performance on consumers. An important factor for the effectiveness of your site is the performance it delivers to consumers. If performance is deemed too slow, shoppers may abandon your site in frustration and turn to a competitor. Web application performance management tools that monitor your entire user population are available and determine exactly how well users are being served.
4. Use your statistics IQ when interpreting data. Interpreting data requires basic statistical knowledge. For example, when looking at average spend for teen shoppers on a hip retail clothing website for December 2010, and comparing it to average spend for their over-65 counterparts, you must understand that averages can be skewed by an unrepresentative subgroup of visitors. A better metric would be median spend value to compare the two markets. Understanding basic statistical concepts goes a long way towards enhancing site visitor data.
5. Avoid the trap of linear funnels. A linear funnel is best understood as a logical progression of a visitor's path on a website. The idea behind looking at a linear funnel is so that you can easily tell what percentage of visitors end up making a purchase. The problem with a linear funnel analysis is that web visitor patterns are anything but linear. Visitor A can come to the homepage first, directly enter a product page and exit via the "Contact Us" page, whereas visitor B can come directly to the Contact Us page and then back to the homepage. In other words, applying a linear funnel to this scenario is likely to result in false metrics.
A better way is to understand which web pages sustain the most visits or result in the most conversions on a particular goal. This concept is known as persuasiveness. The idea is to understand which pages on your site are key influencers that aid business goal achievement — i.e., getting users to the payment page.
These best practices will set you on the right path towards creating a data-driven, decision-making ethos. Sustain these best practices over time and you'll be well on your way towards spearheading a faster website year-round, including peak shopping seasons.