Performance is the Fifth ‘P’ in Online Retail Marketing
Traditionally, retailers’ marketing teams have been responsible for brand awareness and increasing market share through typical efforts such as email campaigns, ads and promotions. The emergence of the digital business era, marked by a sharp uptick in shopping online, has rocked marketing teams to their core. They must now expand their focus to consider IT obstacles and complexities that can hurt the customer experience. For online retail sites, digital performance is the fifth “P,” joining price, product, promotion and place, as the key elements of the marketing mix.
The Digitalization Effect
Today’s online shoppers have extremely high expectations when it comes to quality of experience. Poor web performance can have a negative impact on online sales, but just how much does one stand to lose? According to industry statistics, the average online retailer stands to lose 7 percent of conversions for every second their web page response time slows. This is a perilous situation for online retailers whose websites, mobile sites and applications are typically heavy on marketing content and value-added features, and thus more prone to slowdowns. Today’s marketing teams must stay ahead of the game by carefully factoring performance considerations into their content and strategy decisions. Here are three key steps to adopting a performance-centric marketing strategy:
1. Understand the business value of new technologies. Technologies like end-user experience monitoring platforms can provide critical visibility into how marketing content impacts the user experience. Typically, however, it’s a hard sell to get executive-level players to agree to new tools because of their high costs and complicated installment processes. The good news is most organizations are beginning to understand the importance of the user experience and the bottom-line impact it has on the business. According to a recent Gartner survey, 46 percent of enterprises cited end-user experience monitoring as the most important digital performance management dimension, and 49 percent cited "enhance customer service quality” as their first choice for rationalizing digital performance management purchases.
In the future, user experience monitoring must continue to evolve to enable not only better understanding of the end-user experience, but also demonstrate the direct business impact of poor performance. This will be key to driving future investments, and by playing an active role in these discussions, marketing teams can demonstrate their forward thinking and gain executive-level support for the types of solutions that will make their jobs easier.
2. Partner closely with IT. Traditionally, marketers haven't been conditioned to consider the IT and performance implications of the online campaigns they’re proposing or rolling out. They've been focused on creating impactful, engaging collateral and materials — i.e., their core job. The era of online shopping forces marketers to also consider whether a particular marketing element (e.g., video, online product tour) is worth using if it's going to slow the web page down and ultimately drive visitors away.
For these reasons, marketing teams must build a connection and foster ongoing collaboration with IT departments, always understanding the performance impact of content decisions before particular campaign elements are added online. This type of collaboration will help marketers hone priorities. For example, they may discover that a video is not worth the end-user performance impact, while other forms of advertising (which require less bandwidth) are preferable.
3. Give IT the tools they need to deliver world-class online experiences. Marketing teams, and organizations overall, should expect a certain standard of performance for their websites and applications. This includes keeping a close eye on speed, availability and reliability. The key is to do this without requiring IT teams to make monitoring their 24x7 jobs. Here it can be helpful to implement automated synthetic monitoring, which enables IT teams to keep track of digital performance around the clock, from multiple geographic regions.
Synthetic monitoring can provide valuable peace of mind, and when combined with deep analytics, can help IT teams see developing trends and issues that can be remedied quickly — before customers are impacted. This helps IT teams stave off problems quickly and accurately rather than chasing them after the fact, which is a much more efficient use of time. Going a step further, real user measurement shows IT teams what users are doing and experiencing once they enter a site. This can help organizations identify the most common landing pages and conversion paths, and where performance issues may be frustrating shoppers, helping to further prioritize areas for improvement.
Online customer experiences can be quickly tarnished by performance problems of any kind, such as slow page loads and lagging transactions. These are direct customer provocations to click away from a site and head to a competitor’s page. While customers’ stringent expectations apply to all types of companies today, e-commerce sites are particularly vulnerable. Poor web performance, whether on a mobile device or a desktop PC, can damage online retailers’ revenues and brand reputations, with the blame ultimately falling on marketing teams’ shoulders.
Over time, the customer experience will define the retail industry’s winners and losers and become a primary competitive differentiator. Performance will be akin to pricing, product, promotion and place, and retailers’ marketing teams must understand the key stake they have in this game.
Yancy Oshita is the chief marketing officer of Catchpoint Systems, a web performance monitoring solution provider.