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WEBINAR OVERVIEW Learn how AO.com increased conversion rates on mobile devices

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In a recent InternetRetailing webinar, Learn how AO.com increased conversion rates on mobile devices, we heard from Adam Warne, global IT director at AO.com and from Jason Miller, chief strategist of commerce at Akamai Technologies. Here’s a bulletpoint overview of the event.

• Adam Warne, global IT director at AO.com, started with an introduction to the retailer, which included two interesting facts: the retailer, which started on the back of a £1 bet, has its own recycling plant, and its own logistics business. “Part of that is so that we have more control over the customer experience, which to us as a brand is everything." Despite this, the company is still online-only, making the website the face of the company.

• Jason Miller, chief strategist of commerce at Akamai Technologies, pointed to some of the ways in which bad experiences might affect a retailer. Its own research found that 58% would be less likely to visit a website again, while 45% would abandon and complete their task on another site.

• AW: the customer experience is a key differentiator, and decisions made internally are with the aim of doing the right thing by customers.

• AW: "We like to get as much out of our hardware as possible" but knew there'd be significant amounts of traffic, online and from mobile, when sponsoring Britain’s Got Talent. It expected fast peaks, tailing off. “We had to cope with this vast amount of traffic," he said, adding: "You only get one chance to impress a new customer – poor performance could have dissuaded customers from coming back to us." "The website had to handle the traffic with no negative effect on the customer."

• JM: Cloud load testing technology can be useful in that scenario, especially amid rising customer expectations (49% now expect page to load in less than 2 seconds, and 18% to load instantly).

• AW: Decided to serve entire pages of content. Opted to cache information for 30s. In that scenario lots of customers hitting site when on TV, hitting the home page. Then all the rest consumed from Akamai’s platform. Meant could deal with the demand, and because content served closer to the customer, "they got a faster experience than if we just served it all ourselves".

• JM: Some of the customers on Wi-fi or 4G, while watching TV. Customers just aren’t patient. Akamai analysed more than 10m user visits and found a correlation between load times and conversion rates. "There's so little room for error: 1/10s reduces conversion by 2.4% on desktop and 7% on mobile". 1s delay has an even bigger effect.

• AW: It’s about the customer: "The fundamental reason for us to improve site speed is for the benefit of the customer. By doing that we can build trust in our brand and avoid frustration" – whether caused by the site or the network. While speed is a factor, we don’t see it as being the only driver: if there's poor stock availability or uncompetitive pricing, poor content, a fast website won’t make that much difference. If deal with basic customer needs, speed can be an important factor. Speed isn't the only reason why people transact but a strong reason why they become frustrated and go elsewhere. "Conversion is a metric you can move in a positive direction." If you do the right thing for the customer, all the other things will come as a result.

• JM: Lots of research on how Google values different websites. Would be good to build a perfect page, all know that’s not going to happen. But Google has stated factors that affect its algorithms. What its goal is to provide best possible customer experience, so customer keeps going back to Google. As long as you’re focused on providing the best possible customer experience you’ll be ok.

• AW: Conversion rate: desktop conversion doubles when loads in 3s or less. On mobile, the fastest experience had lowest conversion rate. Customer may start their journey on a mobile phone with view of completing purchase on another device. In reality they’ll move to another device. Someone at home on wifi is going to be doing that. In a multi-device journey, it's imperative that experience on a mobile device is as good as it can be.

• JM: How you make the experience as good as possible over multiple devices. 25% of cross device shopping starts on smartphone, 35% on desktop.

• AW: If conversion is the only goal, optimising mobile is a risky strategy, but if looking to satisfy customer then it makes sense.

• JM: Need to prioritise customer - ask, does this tag do anything for the customer that is worth the extra weight in the first place.

• JM: Managing bots: 40% of traffic can be from bots. If you block them, you block Google. Recommend more of a managed bot approach. Optimises the experience for good bots and customers while taking alternate actions for bad bots. e.g. price scraping, to get dynamic pricing. If you have a managed bot approach can serve them a cached page of manufacturer's recommended prices. Travel industry: brands need to show in online searches for pricing but don’t necessarily need to have them gathered in short periods of time. Can cache that request for a certain amount of time.

• AW: Image challenges: important to have the best images in order to make decisions but important to do that at the right stage. We made mistake of having huge images, making customers download weighty content onto devices where it didn’t even render. On desktop, by using Akamai technology and other improvements, managed to move customers into faster booking.

Takeaways

• Optimising the customer journey is an ongoing task

• Monitor, optimise and validate your user experience

• Performance matters - optimise the right pages - the ones most customer see, whether home page or landing page from campaign.

• Don’t use your team for something a product can do: we try to hire smart people to do smart things. “We exist now in a world where technology can do most things for us - why not use it?”

• Robustness if vitally important. As leaders in our industry, the last thing we want to do is add extra stresses to our lives with platforms and technologies that aren’t robust.

The webinar was followed by a Q&A session, covering issues from optimisation priorities through to hiring the right people. To see the webinar, slides and hear the Q&A session in full, visit the Akamai webinar page here.

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