Does the online retail industry need to get smarter?

With the long discussed “death of the high street”, it is becoming ever more challenging for companies to attract customers to their stores in advance of December when shoppers tend to flock in their droves, make a dash to grab last minute items. With this in-mind, businesses need to be visible 24/7, 365 days a year.

If businesses fail to adapt, they may struggle and may not have the benefit of having a strong enough brand (aka Woolworths and HMV) to be brought out due to failing with their online offering.

Is merely having an online presence enough?

In the eCommerce market, it isn’t just about having an effective design; but the optimisation of content. In particular the products which require ongoing rotation, both in terms of introducing new stock and shuffling the visibility of particular items. With Google introducing Mobilegeddon to their search engine to prioritise the listing of websites based on the quality of their user experiences (ux), online stores have to achieve great ux across all device types.

Tip 1 – consider the customer experience

Businesses should no longer build websites to satisfy internal stakeholders, or based on the assumptions that that the customer will accept the outcome. Assumptions can often lead to website changes being made based upon opinion over fact. This leads us on nicely to our next tip.

Tip 2 –understand your customer journey

Having the user central to the design process of your online store can help achieve the desired outcomes. This approach considers factors such as user experience design and conversion rate optimisation (cro). Both ux and cro require insight based on existing customer journeys, something which cannot typically be achieved through traditional analytics alone. Analytics data provides facts around performance, but typically poses more questions than answers such as, why is my bounce rate high? Why aren’t my customers adding my products to basket? Insights can prove to be particularly powerful. See an example of a heatmap below for Danish audio powerhouse Bang and Olufsen, currently maximising the level of insight attained from how their customers behaviour.


Visualising the customer experience can help to achieve effective design decisions as well as reaching the all-important “light-bulb moments” which contribute towards ramping up conversion rates. Heatmaps such as the one pictured above can help online stores to comprehend what content (products) are being engaged with. Moreover, other features such as visitor replays can help to provide deeper level insights.

Tip 3 – attain the tools of the trade

If you have an online shop, you may already be thinking about ways and means of understanding how to make more sales this Christmas. With competition in the online marketplace rife, getting a headstart on competitors throughout the summer and autumn months is crucial, and could leave less to chance heading into Christmas. Having a website which provides a great user experience across desktops, tablets and mobiles could prove to be a mere dream without the knowledge of understanding customer behavior through complicated analytics data. This understanding is supported through attaining a toolkit to subsidise the improvement of conversion rates.

Examples of eCommerce stores already embracing technology

Having an understanding of which online stores already look beyond traditional tools such as Google Analytics certainly helps us to understand why many of these stores often hit the headlines for their seasonal sales successes. Many of these tools are affordable, but are less obvious to those not already operating within the digital landscape. Let’s look at a few examples below:

  • Not on the High Street & Debenhams (Maxymiser) – personalisation & testing tool
  • Boohoo & Size – (Monetate) – personalisation & testing tool
  • Asos – (Decibel Insight) – customer experience (CX) analytics tool
  • H&M & Net A Porter – (Optimizely) – personalisation & testing tool

What can these stores attribute their ongoing success to?

In a nutshell – insight. Understanding how their customers behave and a willingness and capacity (in-house or agency side) to maximise the user experience for their customers across their online store, using resources such as the technologies listed above. Over 50% of business websites use Google Analytics, mostly as it’s free and provides data on site performance, however very few step outside of the box to truly understand the customer journey.

The value of understanding the customer journey

Where a high street store would have staff welcoming, supporting and understanding customers on their pathway to conversion, the sales process through online stores is often very much left in the hands of the customer. Ecommerce stores therefore have a responsibility to do their utmost to understand their online market, and customer journey; ensuring customers are catered for virtually by means of researching and resourcing the best available tools and resources. This saves head scratching, time and money in the long term, not just for Christmas but throughout the trading year.

Original post appeared here