Posts tagged ‘Ecommerce’
Beware shiny things
October 15, 2022
After a round of meeting great new vendors, exploring cool new tools & tech, I always think about how much room my clients have in my budget for these fun, experimental things. We’re all attracted to fun, shiny things. But as business leaders, are these always the panacea we want them to be? When we’re thinking about how to allocate precious budget $ to improving our websites, there’s push-and-pull between the foundational and the fun.
There are always new tools that promise better engagement, conversion or order value. Innovations that will increase brand value and improve the customer experience. Some of these are truly a value add.
But what good is a fun or beautiful front-end, if the underlying experience is bad?
The same is true in our personal lives. That shiny new buy isn’t going to change your life, though it may make you feel great in the moment. When the excitement wears off, you still have the same issues to deal with.
Last summer, I was planning a few home renovation projects. Not my favorite thing to do, but I love the result. It’s so much work: the planning, the product, color, and materials. The contractors. The coordination and disruption. Whenever we’ve talked about these bigger projects, I joke that I’d rather buy a new house that someone else already fixed up.
After two years of work-from-home, and daily visibility to the deficiencies of our laundry room, the main entry to the house from the garage, I was ready. Picture old, low-quality cabinets peeling at the edges, no longer flush, unpleasantly aged beige particleboard- yuck. It was dated, ugly and in disrepair. Our downstairs bathroom also needed an upgrade- tiles that keep pushing out the caulk, ugly striped wall-paper, and out-of-date everything.
But then while gardening out back, we noticed a deep foundation crack. One that used to be a hairline. The crack extended 15 feet, and was big enough that you could see sunlight from inside our furnace room, and feel outside air if you put your hand up to it.
For context, we live on a hill that descends into a creek. To protect the house, it’s a constant fight to keep erosion at bay. And after 25 years, the house was showing the wear.
We had to deal with it.
So we fixed the wall. It took 4 weeks of back-hoes, concrete destruction and reconstruction, leaving deep trenches through our back-yard and dust everywhere. During the tear-down, they told us that moving our old A/C units was a risk. Since they were ancient, decrepit, and inefficient, they recommended we buy new. They couldn’t guarantee that they would work if disconnected, moved and reconnected. But in light of the fortune we were investing in the foundation, we had little appetite for replacing those NOW. Let them hang on for one more summer.
When the work was finished, neither of the A/C units could be saved. One had been dropped. The other needed repairs so expensive, it wasn’t worth doing. So now, two days before the first 95 degree weekend of the year, we needed new A/C units. That was fun.
All in, we spent $20K on the foundation, then another $12K or so on the A/C’s. My renovation budget was gone- and then some. I really wanted that updated entry for the house. We were going to tear out a closet and make a more modern mud-room with a bench. And nicer downstairs bathroom.
But what good is a beautiful entryway to the house, if the house might slide into the creek? When we try to sell the house, what’s going to drive more value? A solid foundation, or a nicer mud-room? Shoppers might love what they see walking through and make the offer, but when the inspection is done- the foundational issues come to light, and many shoppers opt to simply back-out.
The same thing happens on your website.
Consider this as you plan your commerce & technology budgets. If you keep investing primarily on the superficial- the entry-ways, the cosmetic and feel-good moments, your technical debt gets bigger and bigger over time. Eventually, you’ll feel the pain. Conversion will stay flat or down. Only your most loyal or sale-conscious customers will persist.
We all love a little bit of fun. Branding matters. But customer experience is everything, from the beginning to the end. If a shopper loves shopping your product, but has trouble signing-in or checking out, your brand value takes a negative turn.
If your underlying foundation is cracked, all that good will just opts out.
Customer Centricity: how to make it count.
March 20, 2022
Is your brand as customer-centric as you think it is? Most leaders will say that the customer is at the core of everything they do. Yet, so many websites fall short on creating exceptional customer experiences. Creating a culture of customer-centricity involves every aspect of the customer journey: before, during, and after the sale.
Is your brand as customer-centric as you think it is? Take the quiz and see where you stack up:
- Is it easy to shop the site? Shop on the device most of your customers use, and score yourself against your most aspirational competitors. Is the site mobile optimized? Is it easy to contact customer support? Do you take mobile payments? Are returns easy? Hint: all those annoying things you haven’t had time to fix? They are friction points for your shopper. Friction=lower conversion. Removing friction points=opportunity to “wow” the customer. Getting the basics right matters more than the shiny new things.
- Is customer service empowered to make your customer happy? Can they solve the problem in one interaction? Can they make exceptions to policy without management approval? Your customer’s experience with the contact center will make or break her perception of the brand. Lose her trust here, and she’ll buy from a competitor next time. Delight her here, and you might create a customer for life. Empower your teams to do what’s right for the customer. Every time.
- Do you recognize and reward your best customers? Does everyone get the same treatment, or do you personalize based on shopping history, interests and activity? Do you have a loyalty program? Do you create value beyond promotions to inspire loyalty? Do you meaningfully support the causes she cares about? Do you recognize VIP customers when they call, chat or email?
- Do your customers shop with you again? What’s the average lifecycle of a customer? How many times does she buy per year, and what’s your LTV? How healthy is your email, SMS and organic traffic growth? If you’re buying new traffic without cultivating existing customers, you’ll be running on a very expensive (and unsustainable) hamster wheel.
- Do you listen to your customers? Do you ask your customers what they think? Are Voice of the Customer learnings shared regularly? Consider creating a customer panel comprised of your most loyal shoppers. Do you analyze the shopping funnel to understand drop-off points, and use both VOC and funnel metrics to drive your roadmap?
If you can’t say yes to all of these questions, it’s time to think about how you’ll begin to level-up. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Rule #1: Everyone in senior leadership needs to be shopping the brand as a customer regularly.
Rule #2: Create a customer-centricity report card and make sure you know where you stand.
Rule #3: Create a customer experience manifesto and make sure everyone across the organization exemplifies it at every touchpoint.
Rule #3: Don’t chase the shiny things at the expense of getting the basics right. The ratio should be basics: 80%, shiny things: 20% or less.
Customers have more choices than ever. Give them a reason to choose you.
5 must-do’s to improve site conversion
January 21, 2019
A few key things you need to know about improving site conversion:
- It’s about what NOT to do, as much as it is about what TO do.
- You have to know who you are (as a brand), and what your customer wants.
- You give it to them.
Sound simple? It is. Some of the most fundamental things you can do to improve conversion are the simplest. And yet, so many brands are missing out on fixing these key friction points in the shopping process. Here are the five key areas of focus you should get right before you consider anything else:
1. Navigation: This is where you need to take off your marketing hat, and put on your customer’s. Shop your own site. Make sure everyone on your team is doing it. Get feedback from everyone- especially real customers. A few must haves for your checklist:
- A prominent search box, with predictive results.
- Top navigation categories that are easy for a new customer to understand.
- Refinements and filters, to allow a customer to quickly drill down to what they want.
- Inspiration, by way of content, new products and/or solutions on your homepage to inspire the ‘browsing’ shopper .
2. Site speed: If your site is slow, it will hurt performance both from a conversion perspective (high bounce & exit rates), and from an organic perspective- a slow load time will affect your Google ranking, especially if your site is slow on mobile. A few checkpoints:
- Check your mobile site speed using Google’s free tool, here. It will tell you your average load time for mobile- and your estimated visitor loss based on load time. Now see how your competitors stack up.
- Use your analytics tools to see page load time for key landing pages, and look at your top exit pages. This will give you some priorities for where to start.
- Work with your developers to optimize clunky code, pixels and functionality to improve.
3. Product info: There’s a time and place for everything. Provide the right info, in the right steps along the shopping path, to enable the next click. A few for your checklist:
- Crisp images, with zoom and alternate views.
- Thorough product descriptions, with practical info about how to wear, how it fits, how to choose a size, how to use and care for.
- Links to ‘live chat’ and ‘shipping’ info.
- Price: clear sale or promo info.
- Prompts to remind customer of value-propositions that will inspire confidence, i.e. “Fast, free shipping” or “Our guarantee” or “Easy returns”.
4. Shipping: Free and fast. Don’t give your customers a reason to buy it on Amazon. Enough said.
5. Checkout: Don’t get in your own way. Take a look at the metrics around your shopping funnel to see which pages of checkout are seeing the most attrition. Consider:
- Clear, uncluttered first page of checkout that offers Guest Checkout as well as Registered user checkout.
- Mobile payments: if the customer has to get out their wallet while shopping on a mobile device- you’ll lose momentum- and potentially the sale.
- Standard, fast, and faster delivery options showing cost and expected delivery dates.
- A minimum of interference- don’t get in the way of a customer’s intent to checkout. If you’re up-selling services or products- keep it simple, and keep it outside of the customer’s focused path.
Keeping your shopping path frictionless will take on-going care and vigilance. If you’re highly focused on these, you’ll be more likely to capture new customer sales- and less likely to annoy your loyal repeat customers. The rewards are great- for everyone. Improving the shopping experience will always serve you, and your customers well.
Oh, the things you can buy
November 30, 2011
Did you know you could buy paper towels on Amazon.com? Bottled water? Laundry detergent? I do now. My sister showed me the mom’s club, where you can subscribe for automatic replenishment to get discounts on things like diapers or laundry detergent. She buys everything online- diapers, cleaning products, hair products- the works. And with free shipping, why not save the trip?
Until now, I haven’t had much interest in buying groceries online. I dabbled with it during the initial launch of all the online grocer sites, years ago. I couldn’t stand the waste involved with all of the packaging: the laundry detergent came wrapped tightly in cellophane, sunk into a huge box four times it’s size, with loads of those foam peanuts. I ordered two grocery bags worth of stuff, and had enough recycling and garbage to make the garage look like the week after Christmas. Not to mention the size issue. I had never paid much attention to the number of ounces in the average cereal or cracker box- so I ended up with sizes ranging from Brooklyn-corner-store-tiny, to Costco sized gigantic, feed-a-family-of-eight sizes.
But now that I’m commuting again, leaving at 7 and returning after 7, online shopping has a much bigger appeal. I just don’t have enough time to do it all on the weekend.
Last weekend, my sister introduced me to Wag.com, Soap.com– and its associated sites, including diapers.com. Four sites, with a shared cart. Lots of introductory offers, and premium, free 2-day shipping for first time orders. Yesterday I ordered a 35 pound bag of dog food, a 25 pound box of cat litter, a mega-12-pack of paper towels, various organic food items and method soaps, paid nothing for shipping, and it’s all coming tomorrow. Saving the rush trips to store before the weekend is like a gift. Amazon actually owns those sites, too-having acquired the parent company, Quidsi, Inc, for $500 million back in March, but keeps the branding unique and the web design is beautiful. The sites are clean, elegant, and shopper friendly.
I never thought I’d want to buy paper towels on Amazon. But times have changed. I need easy, now. And getting big, heavy things I need delivered to my door is very, very easy. I’m a convert.
Are you shopping for groceries online? Let me know where you shop, and what you think about the experience.
mobile friendly, yet?
October 21, 2011
Let’s talk about mobile shopping. If you don’t yet have a mobile presence, you’ll fall quickly behind- as greater numbers of shoppers are browsing on their phones even while shopping in stores. According to Gartner Inc., mobile applications and social media will account for 50% of web sales by 2015.
Here are some things to think about, to get you started.
1. What devices will you optimize for? All of them? Careful…this becomes a morass very quickly. The first thing to do is to see where your mobile traffic is coming from using your web analytics program. You should be able to see very quickly which devices are browsing your site- most likely: iphone, android and blackberry, in that order.
2. Do you want your entire experience available via mobile? Keeping it simple is good, but too simple, and your customers could get frustrated that they can’t find a feature they love on your desktop site (a style-finder, or special editorial section). Be sure to include your most popular features and typical functionality- the navigation should be the same architecturally, though the steps and visuals should be simplified and customized to the smaller screen.
3. Are you going to build it, or outsource it? There are lots of great vendors out there. My choice currently is Moovweb. They are fairly new to the space- but they have quickly signed an impressive list of major retailers. Not surprising- given the low maintenance model, reasonable pricing- and great service.
4. How often will you update content? A mobile site does need maintenance and attention to align with your brand and marketing messages. Make sure that major promotions are reflected consistently across all channels. Shoppers are becoming increasingly channel agnostic- they will shop wherever, and however it’s convenient for them. So make sure that your messages are consistent, so that if she sees something compelling in your store window or homepage, it’s reflected consistently on the mobile site homepage as well.
5. Test and analyze. Be sure to try out the site on the mobile devices you’re optimizing for, so that you understand the experience, and are happy with it. Watch the analytics. Mobile shoppers may be more search directed than on your desktop site, because it’s simply easier. Make sure your search box is prominent and effective. Take a look at what’s working, and what’s not. Optimize and prioritize the site accordingly.
These are the basics you’ll need to get started. Please let me know how it goes.