Practical Ecommerce

Numbers Should Not Dictate

They say the true measure of success for an online store is based on visitor and shopping statistics and analysis of investments for driving traffic to the site. The most common reporting method is Google Analytics, and with its recent integration with LivePerson (a live chat tool), store owners will now be able to analyze ROI for chatting with potential customers online. But I have to wonder if small businesses are lending so much weight to ad campaigns, statistical services and software that they lose sight of what really matters.

For years, a key component in marketing strategy has been the study of numbers — specialists tell us what they should be and that they reveal what we’re doing right and wrong. These numbers, however, are merely guidelines, and I’ve yet to see a sell-through ratio that would make me say, “Hey, you can’t get any better than that!”

These numbers, though, often make us forget about other key components, and we wind up missing an untapped market of online shoppers and free marketing tools. There are more store owners than ever paying an unprecedented amount of attention to analytics, all the while ignoring several things that can drive eager shoppers into the doors. They forget just as quickly as they are reminded that there are millions of potential customers using older Macs and Linux machines and obscure browsers, or that people using screen reading software (which relies on proper code to tell the blind and other disabled folk) often have trouble navigating not only informational sites but shopping sites as well. They forget there are still a vast number of homes on dial-up, using computers that cannot accommodate the latest in technology.

In 2007, I found many of these online shoppers shoved to the wayside while store owners and their developers upgraded to Windows Vista and the latest browsers, and just as soon forgot what it was like to be a victim of high-end sites that required the latest and greatest.

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great that so many small businesses realize the need for change, and can afford upgrades to technology. Unfortunately, part of the business-savvy plan shouldn’t be the requirement of end-users to have to dig in their own pockets just to keep up with fast paced advancements.

I watched Dell’s holiday pitch on QVC, offering high-end computers at a bargain, ensuring the new machines would be viable for a good five years. It scares me to think that anyone has such a grasp on where technology is going to take us, and are confident upgrades won’t be necessary. The fact is, we simply do not know.

Which brings me back to my point — a plea for store owners to not use numbers as a core basis of what’s going to work and what’s not. eBay is the No.1 auction site on the Internet, and used computers are being bought there every day. Where do you think those machines are going? To people who either want to save a few bucks, or simply cannot afford the latest technology. They are people, though, you should be targeting, and in more ways than what statistics tell us. All those falling in the “lowest bracket” of users —the smallest percentage using “xx” technology, like dial up and the likes — well, they might just wind up being some of your best customers. Ignore them and you’re saying that all those numbers we use as guidelines are actual limits on how successful we can be.

Pamela Hazelton

Pamela Hazelton

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  1. Legacy User December 18, 2007 Reply

    Good point. It is and will always be about the customer! If you loose site of that then you could loose potential good paying customers.

    It is important to have an easy to navigate and information e-commerce website with an easy checkout process however nothing matters more than making a customer feel like you are working just for them and that you care about their purchasing happiness.


    — *Clint*

  2. Legacy User December 18, 2007 Reply

    Patricio is right – Google Analytics tell us what type of computers and software people are using. I'm doing the best I can to keep up with the bulk of my shoppers – 80%+ of whom are using Windows XP or greater, 85%+ are using cable modem or greater. I need to put my time where the money is, not where the pennies are.

    — *Lori*

  3. Legacy User December 18, 2007 Reply

    Sometimes numbers really help us , for example to make a site works fine with Explorer and Safari have a cost. And if we analyze navigation information We know that Safari users are less than 1 percent of our customers. For that reason, for us is not a good idea pay the cost to make our site safari compliance.

    — *Patricio*

  4. Legacy User December 20, 2007 Reply

    Lori, Pennies count too, I don't believe in leaving shoppers behind just because they can't afford the newest and the greatest. Let's not lose siight that part of the bottom line includes or should incloude pennies. It is called customer relations.
    Customer realations is going that extra mile for the customers, like if someting is damanged in shipping, Not your problem, you might be tempted to think. On that rare occasion I receive a complaint that something was broken in shipping, the item is returned, and I re-ship it at my cost, include a letter of apology as a small gift. As a business person and a wholesaler it does not cost that much. I now have return customers, who also recommend friends.
    So you spend a few pennies to make dollars.
    It counts toward the bottom line.
    And the great thing about today’s technology is you can do both, attract the customers with latest and the customer with the older technology, and still make money.
    After all it is not about you it is about your customers.

    — *Larry*

  5. Legacy User December 21, 2007 Reply

    …a plea for store owners to not use numbers as a core basis of what’s going to work and what’s not.

    This is non-sense. Numbers is king. If you don't use numbers, then you're missing out on important key-indicators that drive sales. Not knowing such indicators, may leave the vendor in the dark about certain improvements that that have the potential increase profits & margins. Here are some references from former Amazon head of data-mining, Dr. Ron Kohavi:

    "Emetrics 2007 talk on Controlled Experiments"

    "Online Experiments: Lessons Learned"

    "Practical Guide to Controlled Experiments on the Web: Listen to Your Customers not to the HiPPO" (Full Paper)

    It is well-established, that using key-metrics help alot in running an ecommerce site, and this is not my word, but it is what has been researched & published by researchers in ecommerce topics.

    — *Falafulu Fisi*

  6. Legacy User December 27, 2007 Reply

    True numbers depend on what type of audience your site appeals to. If you sell tech-savvy high-end products that the average internet user does not buy, chances are your users are on the latest version of IE or Firefox. If you are selling used PCs, chances are your numbers are not accurate. Numbers are still helpful though.

    Michelle Greer

    — *Michelle Greer*