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GUEST COMMENT The ecommerce industry’s biggest mystery

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Shopping online is now universal – we all do it. Marketing and ecommerce teams use a range of technologies to ensure a good, quick and easy shopping experience. Most consumers simply don’t know just how much is going on behind their screens.

The problems for ecommerce retailers occur when their teams know equally little.

Many for example, simply don’t know why their customers behave as they do online.

The ecommerce industry’s biggest and most shameful mystery is the large number of teams that don’t really understand why and how they sell – or fail to sell – their products.

Any ecommerce team worth its salt will be able to tell you about decreasing traffic or which web pages get the most clicks. What too many can’t explain is why these changes occur. For most businesses, this type of insight is too difficult to access.

Customer behaviour may baffle many but it’s easier to clear up than you might think. Here are a few suggestions that should bring valuable insight to your analytics and help you understand what your customers are thinking. With this, you’ll be able to provide a much richer customer experience and increase sales.

UX is the crux of all ecommerce sales

If you’re not sure why your customers are behaving in a certain way on your website, one of the most productive things you can do is start thinking critically about the experience they’re receiving from your products and services. If you start to think about and measure your website’s user experience (UX) in a more rigorous way, you’ll shed light on that all-important question of why. According to Walker, UX has become such an important part of ecommerce, that it will overtake price and product as the key brand consumer brand differentiator by 2020.

UX should be a concern for every team, not just marketing or product. When a company becomes larger it’s easy for teams to become siloed, making sharing insights with each other inherently more difficult. This is hugely damaging from a UX perspective, as improvement depends on different teams sharing intelligence with one another.

There are several things you can do to help your business handle UX issues more effectively. Consider setting up an internal awareness campaign: UX is difficult to understand so it’s important that everyone has common aims. Widespread data literacy is also essential – you never know where the next invaluable data insights might come from, so ensure that all your employees in relevant teams know what to look for and what to do if they spot an interesting pattern.

Remember floor managers? What about journey managers?

Physical retailers spend a large amount of their budget on creating the best in-shop experience for their customers. They employ dedicated floor managers to orchestrate things so that the customer-facing aspect of the store is as polished as possible. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case in ecommerce. Too often ecommerce managers neglect to think about the customer journey in qualitative terms, and that’s where they go wrong. I believe we should bring the ethos of the floor managers to ecommerce with “journey managers”.

What would a journey manager do? A journey manager would have a laser-focus on online user journeys. Anticipating and planning for the various journeys that consumers take around your website is almost always more complex than businesses think. Journey managers would work proactively rather than reactively to plan user journeys properly. By thinking seriously about the user experience of common website journeys as a whole, journey managers will ensure overall customer experience will be stronger, and online revenues will look healthier as a result.

How is this achievable? Ecommerce teams need to invest in proper tools that allow their journey managers to segment by behaviour rather than demographic. Not every millennial, woman or Brit behaves the same online: segment by the behaviours that unite people and eliminate this element of guesswork. Metrics like hesitation rate, the time before first click or how likely a user is to read terms and conditions will tell you much more about their expected spending habits than basic analytics metrics and traditional demographic behaviour. In the future I expect brands to customise their online experiences based on these behavioural traits much more than demographics.

Google Analytics isn’t the only answer

By now we’ve established that user experience is a key part of ecommerce, but in order to get the most out of your analytics, you need the right tools to give you the insights you need. Many companies are using Google Analytics and similar free tools, thinking this will provide them with all the data they need. Many ecommerce teams aren’t aware that there are other teams out there that can help deliver more actionable insight on user experience.

The insights that software like Google Analytics provides is limited. Measurements such as new/returning visitors or clickthroughs aren’t going to provide you with the insight you need – you need to know what’s happening on the page itself.

Luckily, there are a variety of tools on the market that can provide the metrics that you need. Among these more valuable metrics are activity rate (the time a customer spends interacting with elements on a page), click repetition (amount of clicks in a row on the same element on a page), and time before first click. While these may seem self-evident, they should be monitored, and most businesses tend to forget to do so, despite the fact that they are vital health indicators of your user experience. Businesses that track these KPIs, like L’Occitane and Kenzo, have reported far stronger business performance over short periods of time, increasing mobile sales by 15% and boosting conversions by 150% respectively.

By following these suggestions, the mystery of customer behaviour should no longer be a problem. Making UX a priority, creating journey managers, and investing in the right software will put you at the top of the ecommerce pyramid, creating the best experience for your customers, and increasing your sales.

Duncan Keene is UK managing director of ContentSquare

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