Shop Construction: The Power of Intuition
22nd November 1 Comment
Yesterday, good ole ecomPunk has visited one of those industry events for the sheer fun of it. Reconnecting to people, listening to a couple of presentations (and once more being surprised how boring and uninspiring some people try to get their message across) and eating pretentious-looking food in a pretentious-looking lobby of a fancy hotel. Thematically, it was all about conversion and the question, how the ratio of people visiting an online store and actually ordering stuff can be measured, interpreted and improved. Basically, everybody on stage was singing the song of songs of web controlling, identifying KPIs and relating all these parameters to each other. And this made me wonder. And each time this happens – the most faithful readers might know – I go and pester everybody with this topic to get some clarification. So here goes.
In 2012, the methods of gathering statistical data about what happens within an online store in terms of visitors, their path through the site etc. seem endless. There is a wide array of tools and concepts supporting merchants by extracting relevant information and making it available. Many knobs which can be twiddled in order to reach one common goal: increase turnover. And if this wasn’t complex enough, all speakers agreed that all those parameters are somehow intertwined and one had to see the big picture to be really successful. For example, tweaking the layout will be useless if astronomical product prices keep customers from buying. And if you’re offering products nobody cares about, nobody will purchase anything even if your shop won the bloody noble prize of usability optimisation. From own experience I can say that many SMBs don’t have enough money, technology and personnel – and Enterprise businesses have too much of everything – to be able to address this complexity. Fortunately, there are service providers and agencies offering all their wonderful products and providing the raison d’être for events such as the Conversion Rate Forum.
A young marketing lady from O2 (she filled in for someone else, I cannot find the name, it was quite an exotic one and – if you read this, please let me know) told the audience how tests for their platform were conducted. With A/B testing, they can increase the conversion rate of certain pages by more than 10% – which, given the amount of orders they’re getting each day – paid for more than the testing efforts. (NB: I appreciate the fact that those practical examples were delivered in such an open and straightforward way, making this presentation one of the most inspiring that day.) But I kept wondering: if everything is measured so tightly and the users’ preferences on the site are as closely mirrored as possible, what does this lead to? If more companies follow suit, will we see more standardisation, is there a tendency for web stores to resemble each other more and more?
Different twist: In her presentation of controlled conversion optimisation, Nora Beiteke from eTracker showed an example of how, based on transactional data, a fictional product manager can identify popular products and have the UX and technical departments come up with ways of presenting them more prominently in the shop. The same logic applies: interpret your data and make your website address the customers’ needs. Track the status quo and listen to what the people want. But if everybody focuses on products are already popular, what about products that might be popular in the future?
From a customer service point of view, this is a great story. Finally, Enterprises start listening rather than arrogantly doing their own thing (and often misunterstand their own audience). On the other hand I’m wondering whether relying on data alone leaves enough room for innovation. If demand is only satisfied, where, how and when will new demand be created? Steve Jobs’ famous quote: “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.” applies here.
Working with a lot of agencies taught me that in many cases, it’s good practice to use empirical data rather than pure gut feeling to base one’s strategy on. However, if you only rely on these data and current customer behaviour, it makes it harder to think about future developments and tempts companies to come up just with … The Homer.
(Image by Idaho National Laboratory, CC BY 2.0)