In "Reviewing your Ecommerce Business at Year End," I offered a framework to critique your business's performance for 2012. This week's article focuses on how to improve your ecommerce businesses for 2013.
To start, look at your business from the perspective of your shoppers.
Review Home Page, Landing Pages, Navigation
Go to your home page and see if you are presenting products and content that is relevant and compelling. Look at your navigation. Is it still optimized for your target market? Search on trendy products and see if you are taken to the pages you want visitors to land on.
Next, check your analytics to identify the top 10 landing pages and what keywords or referrals brought the visitors to them. What is the bounce rate for those pages? Is the content relevant to the keywords that brought them there? Did they take further action in your store?
It’s easy to lose focus on your home page and introduce too much information. Promotions, new products, and older products that are past their prime, and navigation that is dated, can lead your home page to lose some of its sharpness over time.
Sometimes you will draw traffic to pages that don’t necessarily present your full product offering. If you identify a page that is popular but has a high bounce rate, it may be because its content does not match the search that led your visitor there. Or, it may be dated. Consider adding fresh content to that page that more closely aligns with visitors' intent and leads them to the products they are looking for.
Research competitors' sites for the items you are focused on selling this year. Test their site-search capabilities. Sites are increasingly adding guided and faceted search to enhance their merchandising capabilities. If you are still using the default search in your shopping cart, you may be losing a competitive edge.
Use Your Cart and Checkout
When was the last time you really looked at your shopping cart? This is another area of your site that may have gone stale. Merchants often test the cart when it first launches and then assume it's always good.
Look at your competitors' shopping carts. Are they offering creative upsells or in-cart promotions? Are they using a mini-cart? Are those carts faster than yours? Can shoppers easily see tax and shipping costs?
Shopping carts matter to customers. The trend is to allow customers to add multiple items in the cart without visiting the cart itself. If your store is still designed to take shoppers to your cart with each item they add, it may seem dated. And, remember, showing shipping options and total costs is essential.
On the checkout side, do not force the creation of a login and account —offer guest checkout. Consider a one-page checkout in lieu of forcing your customers through several different screens. And make sure the speed of your cart and checkout process is acceptable.
Ask Your Customers What They Think
Ask your customers about their shopping experiences on your site.
There are many ways to approach this. I have had good results with survey links on email order confirmations, asking a few simple questions.
- "Did you find everything you were looking for?"
- "Was your checkout process fast and efficient?"
- "Did you receive all the product information you desired?"
- "Would you refer us to your friends?"
- "Would you be willing to participate in a more in depth customer survey to help us better serve your needs in the future?"
Beyond those questions, you should create detailed surveys for more in-depth information. Topics might include the following.
- Shoppers' perceptions about the products you sell and the descriptive content you present.
- What shoppers think about your site design, navigation, and overall usability.
- What shoppers think about your pricing.
- Which products they would like to buy from you if you carried them.
- What buying plans they have for the coming year for the products you sell.
- Do they prefer to shop on a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
- Where do they go for product research — social media, Amazon, Google, comparison-shopping engines.
- How often they want email promotions or newsletters.
You may also email shoppers who abandon their carts, to solicit feedback. This is controversial, but most stores find they receive useful information from respondents.
Shoppers like to be asked about their opinions. It indicates your desire to meet their needs and improve your business. Just be considerate of their time and don’t ask for too much.
Review Your Customer Support
Finally, critique your customer support function. What are the most frequent inquires? What is your return rate and why? Look for patterns and then seek solutions.
The customer experience is not just about the usability of your website. It encompasses everything from site design and navigation to the way you describe your products to the way you resolve problems.