Today, a retailer’s website is more important than ever. With the coronavirus pandemic dictating where consumers make purchases — increasingly online — retailers have no time for “moving target” projects like website redesigns. As studies show that one-third of marketers are unhappy with their most recent website redesign, it’s time for progressive retailers to improve website performance by adopting the growing trend of an iterative design approach.
Iterative Design Doesn’t Make for Flashy Headlines
Although it doesn’t make for great clickbait material, making iterative changes to a website over time, based on a solid experimentation program, is nearly every retailer’s best bet to increasing revenue and lowering customer acquisition costs. In today’s world, experimenting and iterating based on learnings is one surefire way e-commerce teams will see the results they desire. Until a few years ago, the traditional approach by retailers to drastically improve website performance was undertaking complex and costly website redesigns. How did that happen?
How Website Redesigns Became the Go-To
Historically, the directive for redesigning an e-commerce website has come from two sources: management or an e-commerce director. In too many cases, leadership demands a website overhaul from its e-commerce and IT teams with the wrong expectations. It’s also justifiable to partially blame technology for the boom of website redesigns, thanks to accessibility and “shiny object” features that are promised to eager marketers. I urge retailers to ask and clearly define with redesign partners and stakeholders, “What customer problems are we solving through this redesign and what return on investment can our business realistically expect to see?”
Ways Experimentation Empowers Online Retailers
A/B testing and personalization enable retailers to be adaptable and prevent websites from being “done for good.” Being able to react to ever-evolving customer behavior, traffic and even seasons comes from having a strong experimentation program in place. Just as the placement of product collections shouldn’t be based on gut instinct, nor should website enhancements. In the time it takes for one retailer to tackle a website redesign (with zero promise of a return), another retailer can run 30 to 100 experiments, optimize its navigation for desktop and mobile, improve checkout, and increase conversion rates. And unlike website redesigns, which often launch late and over budget, iterative experimentation comes at a fixed cost, with a reliable delivery date and the added bonus of clearly measurable ROI.
Where Retailers Begin With Experimentation Programs
All successful experimentation programs start with a strategic discovery phase to determine the real problems a retailer needs to solve for its customers. Is a confusing onboarding flow decreasing sign-ups? Is the mobile user experience leading to decreased transactions? Next comes a review of customer data within Google Analytics and other analytics platforms. After establishing baselines, it’s time to pinpoint who the customers are; retailers must intimately understand their goals, motivations and problems. The final step is to map out customer pain points, commonly discovered through customer research and additional data analysis. Here, retailers mine gold that can be used to pinpoint relevant, high-leverage experiments to test.
The Best E-Commerce Websites Are Never Done
Retail marketers who treat their e-commerce websites as a living, breathing thing are most likely to succeed in whatever form the “new normal” takes. As consumer behavior continues to rapidly shift, retailers that embrace iterative experimentation and quickly adapt their websites will endure and emerge ahead of their competition.
Laura Stude is co-founder of surefoot, a boutique experimentation and personalization agency helping e-commerce brands and SaaS companies better understand customers and boost revenue through strategic experimentation programs.
Laura Stude is co-founder of surefoot, a boutique experimentation and personalization agency helping ecommerce brands and SaaS companies better understand customers and boost revenue through strategic experimentation programs.
Laura gives a damn about helping ecommerce brands grow. She cut her A/B testing teeth as a developer and strategist for clients like Keurig, Adidas and Patagonia before packing her bags to run optimization at Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016.