This 2020 holiday shopping season will be like no other. Global online shopping trends have dramatically accelerated due to increased consumer demand fueled by changing needs in this pandemic. Whether for safety or convenience, the shift from face-to-face transactions to online experiences is profound. This shift is placing more pressure on companies to quickly improve and expand their online experience, to provide a better customer experience–or risk losing customers to competitors providing a better digital experience.
Here’s a must-have digital experience shopping list to help prepare for the holiday push.
Consider the broader picture
When we talk about digital experience optimization, we’re not just focused on better design aesthetics, button placement, or content choices. We’re talking about the cumulative human experience a website or app provides. The design is absolutely a big part of that experience, but more critical, is evaluating how intuitive it is for a user to navigate, what roadblocks or errors they encounter, and how informative, helpful, and inspiring the experience is. Implementing positive changes to continually improve these aspects of the experience will have the biggest positive impact on sales.
While there are a number of different tactics you can use to implement these experience improvements, we refer to the process as Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). Let’s further examine this iterative test-and-optimize process and how to approach it.
Identity and fix revenue leaks ahead of the holiday season
Our analysts dig in the data to identify underperforming areas and then share those with our strategic designers to review the design/customer experience and form a hypothesis for why the performance is less than desirable. Conversely, we also have the strategic designers evaluate the experience, forming hypotheses for weak areas that are then shared with our analysts to confirm these are indeed problem areas. This two-pronged approach is an effective way to identify trouble areas from a heuristic standpoint (often benchmarking our reviews from an ideal customer journey or persona). Once these pain points are identified, we then come up with a design fix or A/B test to validate the best improvement option. We recommend continually conducting these evaluations.
Any weak areas of your digital experience will be amplified with the increases in traffic and holiday demands. In order to make improvements, you first have to have an idea of how your site is currently performing and identify areas that can be improved. When looking for optimization opportunities, we always examine both the data and design perspective.
Enlist the help of insightful analytics platforms
To get analytics data, you need an analytics tool installed on your site or application. Much of the primary data we look for upfront can be surfaced using a tool like Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, or in some cases, an e-commerce platform like Marketo, WooCommerce, Shopify, etc that provide native options for capturing and analyzing user behavior. What’s great about most of these data tools, is the set up is easy and initial implementation can be as simple as installing a small snippet of code on your site.
Once you’ve installed an analytics platform, it’s important to make sure it’s properly collecting data for the behaviors you want to capture. With data flowing properly, you may still need to do some customization. For example, you may need to configure a tool like Google Analytics to collect information about pricing, so that you can see Average Order Value, and even calculate potential lost revenue from users who left without converting.
Beyond basic analytics, tools like session replay, click maps, heatmaps, and funnel visualization found on platforms like FullStory, Heap, and Hotjar are really powerful ways to analyze not just what users are doing on your site, but also how they are navigating and where they are finding success and frustration.
The sooner you can get these technologies in place before the busy season, the better position you’ll be in to not only capture more data but also document a solid baseline to measure success and identify those seasonally unique behaviors.
Keep up with the Joneses
Congrats! Data is flowing, you’ve made a few improvements and sales are flowing in. But how do you know you’ve done enough? Are there areas that can still be improved? How does your site stack up?
While your analytics platform is the home for analyzing current and past performance as well as a tool for validating how well site optimizations are performing it doesn’t provide all the answers. Particularly when it comes to performance expectations and industry benchmarks.
There’s actually plenty of industry-specific information available on “what’s a good conversion rate” or “what’s a typical average order value” for many different types of retailers. These are helpful starting points, but just because you hit or exceed an industry-standard does not mean your optimization opportunities are over. We focus on building cultures of continuous improvement. Just because an industry-standard conversion rate might be 2%, doesn’t mean that we want to hit 2% and then call it quits on optimization.
Start at the point of purchase
If you’re not sure where to look first, the steps in your checkout flow is a great starting point. Customers who make it this far have already picked out the item(s) they want, added them to their cart, and are likely ready to hand over their credit card. By evaluating what, when, and why they are bouncing, we can introduce fixes that address these issues and keep them from jumping out. Often we find there is a lack of clarity/context around add-on services or policies that cause users to pause or leave the page to do more research.
You can use your analytics, session playback, and heatmap tools to identify errors or pages that are too long or slow loading. These tools will also identify confusion around shipping options or billing details.
Once your check-out is triaged, you can then look to optimizing experiences that drive more purchases through your higher-performing check-out flow.
Don’t forget to test
A/B testing is a powerful way to improve your website. It removes subjectivity and allows you to test new ideas before fully implementing them. It’s a perfect way to evaluate the effectiveness of holiday campaigns and enhancements before the busy times when capturing holiday revenue is critical. Start small with basic copy, styling, and CTA tests focused on one key area of your site. Remember, not every test will be a winner, but you will always learn something valuable that will share future design and optimization decisions.
We hope these insights help you prepare for what is certain to be a very busy online buying season. Keep in mind the changes you make now will pay off big during the busy season when customers are even more demanding and have even more choices of where to shop. May the best sites win!