The 3 Golden Rules for E-Commerce, 20 Years On
We’re three-quarters of the way through 2017, which means, extraordinarily, that e-commerce has been around for 20 years. The online marketplace today is wildly different from the one we started with, and even from the marketplace of 10 years or even just five years ago.
So after two decades of business conducted online, what have we learned? What myths have we busted, and what truths have held steady? When I speak with other chief marketing officers, there are three golden rules we agree on:
1. It’s Not All About Conversion
For years, we’ve heard the mantra: Convert! Convert! Convert! Of course conversion remains important, but online retailers and banks, amongst others, are slowly and steadily relaxing their once laser-sharp focus on conversion rates.
Why? Don’t they care about making money at the end of the day?
Of course they do. All businesses do. However, conversion, it turns out, actually tells us very little. It’s one tiny one-dimensional piece of data in a world that’s huge and three-dimensional. It’s easy to measure conversion rates. It’s a piece of hard data. But conversion tells us nothing about experience. For every visitor who comes to a site and converts, there could be three dozen more who come, get frustrated by a confusing call-to-action button or overwhelmed by a complicated search feature, and close the browser, never to return.
You could have 20 percent of your customers converting on the very first site visit, and a whopping 80 percent who are only converting after multiple visits. This is why understanding whether users are having positive or negative experiences and interpreting the intent behind every interaction is infinitely more valuable than cold, flat data on conversion rates.
This was the predicament that 1-800 Contacts, the largest retailer of contact lenses in the United States, found itself in. Before customers can order, they need to supply prescription information for their contact lenses. 1-800 Contacts aims to make this step as convenient, smooth and easy as possible by providing visitors with options on how they can enter their prescription. Quantitative analytics showed that most visitors were making use of these options, yet one option had a surprisingly high incompletion rate among visitors.
Taking advantage of drill-downs from the web analytics and site optimization segments into Clicktale heat maps and session replays, 1-800 Contacts investigated this mystery and found surprising insights into points of visitor friction. 1-800 Contacts leveraged Clicktale’s focused insights and tight workflow integrations to dramatically enhance the online customer experience, across all channels. This not only directly impacted top-line revenues and customer lifetime value, but also delivered outstanding 115 percent annual return on investment.
2. It’s Not All About a Site’s Functionality
According to a recent eMarketer report, we can expect retail e-commerce sales to reach an impressive $4.1 trillion by 2020. However, owners of online shops face a very serious problem on their road to success: competition. The number of e-commerce websites is growing consistently. So winning new customers, and keeping existing ones, keeps getting harder.
It’s great if things on your site work well and run smoothly. Glitches are truly the kiss of death for online enterprises. But the bar for website design also needs to be set higher. A site needs to do more than look pretty and run smoothly. It has to loop visitors in, make them loyal, and in an ever-crowded field, stand out from the competition. So be creative and think outside the box. For example, use music, creative copywriting and posts that are inspiring and based on current events. Another report on customer loyalty published by Access Development states that personalization is a driving factor for loyalty for about 50 percent of customers, so don’t be afraid to be different. Fifty-six percent of people claim they would improve their perception of a brand if provided with a personalized incentive. Different is what can make or break you in the world of digital experience.
3. It IS All About Data
“Aren’t you a CMO?” you’re asking. “Why do you care about data?”
I’ll tell you why: The IT side and the business side of things have always shared space, but today, with data mattering more than ever to both the tech and marketing teams, the two are more intertwined than ever.
Big data has given businesses more insight into its customers than ever before. And this is good, because today’s customers are more demanding — they require better service, more personalized responses and a broader, more complete experience. Even the biggest corporation knows that at the end of the day, customers expect the same kind of gracious, personal treatment they would receive at a local mom-and-pop store. As a CMO, data allows me to gain insight into the practices, styles and profiles of customers. It helps me understand which outreach strategies work and which fail, and the reasons behind this.
In fact, data, and its giant influence, is the key to points one and two on this list as well. It’s never just about the numbers, but if you can understand the story behind those numbers and then act to improve experiences based on the insights those numbers are pointing to, there isn’t anything that matters more.
Geoff Galat is the chief marketing officer of Clicktale, an enterprise experience analytics company.