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Much of what's written about successful Ecommerce sites focuses on the big brands we all know like Amazon, Argos and Asos. But within each sector of retail, there are many Ecommerce outfits outside of the spotlight - some very successful, some looking to improve practice. With this in mind, I have been looking for a while to hook-up with an Ecommerce specialist who understands the ingredients for success.
In this interview, I'm pleased to introduce Dan Barker who manages Ecommerce for two companies (B2B and B2C) operating in the Children's products sector.
Some of you may know Dan for his willingness to offer detailed advice via Twitter and digital marketing blogs - he's also a regular contributor on Smart Insights and also writes his own blog. We're republishing this post from March 2010 as a refresher for Jan 2012 as part of a series of posts related to "New Years resolutions".
In a big nutshell: I'd segment this by channel and, within each channel, segment further by new vs existing customers, then further still if necessary by types of customers. The reason being, when you can do that, you can get a much better picture of ROI.
At that point, you can then find the balance between growing the channel (spending more money to acquire more customers) and keeping it efficient (making sure you make at least £1 back for every £1 you spend).
I think that puts you in a nice position too: If you decide you need to grow faster, you can use the excess money from very profitable channels to subsidise others that aren't profitable. Or if you decide you need more margin, you can then change your ROI targets to say "I want £2 back for every £1 I spend".
When trialling new tactics, it's useful to categorise them by things like:
Trial the easiest, least risky, highest ROI potential tactics first. Trial them as small as you can, and then "if they work " scale them up as much as you can & measure ROI the whole way.
Yes, one thing I like to do that's absolutely key is to set up a big grid for regular reporting. For example, across the top I may have key segments and channels including things like:
And then down the side a long list of metrics, including some key ones like:
So if I want to see if Non-Brand PPC is doing ok in terms of ROI & year-on-year sales, I just look at its column, scan down to those cells, and the info is there.
A nice extension of that is to include graphs over time so you can look for peaks & troughs by channel, asking the question "why has that dropped?" or "why has that gone up?". Including multi-point attribution is nice if you can (eg. Looking at sales where the "first click" came from a particular channel, vs sales where the channel contributed "last click").
Reporting sometimes gets a bad name, but I think if you can get it to a point where it's actionable it's so useful. At a glance, you can see which channels are over/under-performing, where you can allocate extra budget, and where you need to dig deeper.
"Conversion Optimisation" is interesting. A lot of the information out there around conversion rate optimisation has come from membership sites, information product sites and the like "who are all about driving traffic to a single page for the first time and "converting" those visits immediately into sales.
That gets muddy very quickly with E-commerce sites for 4 reasons:
That means immediately you have to break things down into chunks. Rather than saying "what's the overall conversion rate of the site?" and then scratching your head wondering which lever to pull to make it move, you break it down into "micro-conversion goals". For example:
So you might say "I've got 100,000 new visitors a month landing on the site on my search results pages. The purpose of the search results page is essentially to show the visitor a product they're interested in and persuade them to click it for more information". From that point you ask "what can I change about my search results pages to make that more likely to happen?". And then you trial that change, measure to see the impact, and repeat if it works.
Though working to increase conversion is hugely important, there are a few caveats that don't get mentioned much:
It's perhaps a crude analogy, but in any user journey and on any page, there are various levers you could pull to try and change the way visitors behave: words, images, layout, price, trust factors (reviews, testimonials), links to other pages, among many others.
The hard bit is putting together a process to identify where to pull those levers & which ones to pull. Digging into analytics and gathering user feedback are the two best ways to start that.
Surveys are also great from another angle: They can give you metrics to focus on other than just direct sales. Eg, "Customer Satisfaction" which you can benchmark and work to improve.
Something I once heard which highlighted why we should always ask our visitors questions: Walking round a shopping mall, we'd never assume we could guess what all those hundreds shoppers were thinking, yet we routinely do exactly that with our own websites.
Yes, definitely. I'd say it's one of the most important things to work on. Most visitors come to ecommerce sites to buy products. Working to improve where you place key products on the site should be a given.
(A couple of "offline" books I love in this area are Paco Underhill's "Why We Buy" & Richard Hammond's "Smart Retail".)
If you're merchandising totally manually on your site, the trick is to set up a process for continually updating featured products that (firstly) keeps the site fresh for regular, loyal visitors and (secondly) shows your most likely to sell items as early as you can to new visitors.
An easy starter for that is to refresh your homepage/category pages weekly, and run them on a 3 or 4 week cycle. Each week, feature products that sold well last week, but haven't featured in the prior 3.
One simple metric for tracking that is "performance of merchandised products vs site average". (ie, what was your site average increase/decrease in sales vs last week, and how did your merchandised products compare to that).
And a few extra things you might want to look at online are:
Moving on from that there are plenty of interesting automated tools for this, but that's a whole article in itself!
By Dave Chaffey
Dave is CEO and co-founder of Smart Insights. He is editor of the 100 templates, ebooks and courses in the digital marketing resource library created by our team of 25+ Digital Marketing experts. Our resources used by our Expert members in more than 80 countries to Map, Plan and Manage their digital marketing. For my full profile, or to connect on LinkedIn or other social networks, see the About Dave Chaffey profile page on Smart Insights. Dave is author of 5 bestselling books on digital marketing including Emarketing Excellence and Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice. In 2004 he was recognised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have helped shape the future of marketing.
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