The following is a guest contribution from Bridge Mellichamp of StitchLabs
“I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it NOW!” – Queen
In our “always on” retail reality, consumers need quick and easy access to your brand from whatever device they choose, whenever they choose to shop. And they are becoming less and less patient with you.
If you sell handbags and a customer is searching for a new purse online, not only does your site need to rank highly in that shopper’s search results, but once they click through to your site, it needs to load quickly, be easily navigable, and provide a clear path to purchase.
Gathering and analyzing data along each of these touchpoints will help your company’s dollars go further by enabling you to spend your time optimizing what matters. Likewise, insightful data analytics can help drive effective SEO and mobile strategies, as well as increase social engagement to strengthen customer acquisition and retention – so you can encourage repeat buyers.
Optimizing your site for all of those tactics can be a daunting task, but it’s much easier to do successfully when you have robust tools at your fingertips. You no longer need to debate over a preferred hero image for your website or where in your brick-and-mortar you place a rack of scarves – data can make those decisions for you. But, before you can use analytics to make data-backed decisions, you need to know where and how to access it.
The Bottomless Ecommerce Data Well
From how a shopper finds and enters your ecommerce site, to the product pages they visit and the items they choose to purchase, your online store contains a wealth of insight-rich data. It’s this data that can be used to help you design and optimize your site to make your customers’ experience with your brandas seamless and predictable as possible.
According to the National Retail Federation, search marketing – including search engine optimization (SEO) – is the most effective source for acquiring new customers for 85% of online retailers.
So, where to begin with optimizing for search?
Use solutions like Google Search Console and Keyword Tool to identify the keywords you should be incorporating into your content to get in front of the right audience.
Not only can data inform how users are searching for you, but it can literally tell you the words to write to be found through organic and paid search.
Image via Search Engine Land
Once a potential customer finds you through search, make sure the page they land on is relevant to the item they searched for initially. For example, men’s apparel retailer Jos A Bank has secured high ranking organic and paid search positions on Google.
The landing page a customer sees differ based on whether they found the website through organic or paid search. If a customer specifically searches for “men’s suits,” the organic landing page will feature a general suits page featuring various suit categories. If they click on the paid ad, they get directed straight to a product page to optimize for conversions.
i. Shopping On Your Site
Currently, over 68% of shoppers abandon their shopping cart without making a purchase. Before you optimize any one part of your site, make sure you understand where in the process people are abandoning their cart.
For example, if your cart abandonment rates are high, don’t immediately jump to offering free shipping. Perhaps 90% of cart abandonments are actually a result of out-of-stocks, which tells you the money you considered investing in shipping might be better spent on an effective inventory management solution. Using data to understand the customer’s path through your branded site will allow you to make smarter business decisions and deliver on what your customers actually want.
ii. Leveraging Mobile
If your ecommerce site isn’t mobile-friendly, you’re putting yourself at an immediate disadvantage. Google has declared responsive web designs for desktops, tablets, and mobile phones are now an industry best practice.
Not sure if your site’s mobile-friendly? Check your site with Google’s free tool. Luckily, Shopify Plus offers a variety of responsive design templates out of the box that brands can choose from.
While it’s true mobile sales are soaring, it’s important to understand how your customers are interacting with your mobile site before spending time and money on drastic changes.
With mobile shopping accounting for more than 20% of ecommerce sales this past holiday season, it’s clear that many customers are choosing to shop via mobile. However, plenty more are using mobile to search, redeem rewards, and even navigate in-store, while doing the actual purchasing either in-person or from a desktop. So before you focus entirely on a speedy mobile checkout, use web traffic data to understand exactly which point(s) in the mobile customer journey should be optimized specifically for mobile.
iii. Load Time
Similar to understanding how your customers are using their mobile devices to shop, it’s important to consider load time when determining which features, designs, and experiences you include on your branded website. Before you add every bell and whistle to your website, use data to help guide you to what matters to your customers.
On average, over 30% of customers will abandon a webpage that takes 10 seconds to load. Additionally, a one second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions. Don’t overlook critical technical stats like this when optimizing your ecommerce site.
iv. Understand Buying Habits
Saving customer data not only allows for a much more pleasant customer experience, but provides you with critical information about your target demographic, bestselling products, how customers are finding you, and so much more. Knowing what people want to buy and when can help you increase email click through rates and improve on-site conversions.
Pulling Digital Analytics from Your Physical Store
Even if your brick-and-mortar has been around for years longer than your online presence, you can still use technology to drive sales within your physical retail space.
Tools like Prism and Beaconstac allow you to aggregate anonymized data on how customers shop: from the path they take once they walk into your store, to the display tables or shelves they linger at the longest.
Technology can also enable an omnichannel experience by notifying customers about deals as soon as they enter the store. Macy’s uses shopBeacons to provide customized rewards by linking customers’ online shopping accounts with their in-store visits. If a customer has a particular pair of jeans in her online shopping cart, she might receive a coupon for 10% off that specific pair of jeans when she physically enters Macy’s.
Image via Venturebeat
Macy’s has hit on omnichannel branding in a big way, as the experience of shopping online versus in-store is becoming more and more intertwined. Sixty-eight percent of adults check the Internet on a smartphone while shopping to enhance their in-store experience, and 55% of shoppers say they use a retailer’s app while in the store.
Optimizing for Return Customers
Say you’re shopping on a branded website, and you click on a pair of sandals. It’s almost inevitable that those shoes will follow you everywhere you look on the internet afterward due to the brand’s remarketing efforts.
But what about once you cave in and purchase them? Often you’ll still see the sandals everywhere you look – which is a waste of the retailer’s money and efforts.
The more beneficial opportunity lies in the retailer’s ability to use data – the knowledge of when the customer purchased the sandals and machine learning to inform similar products – to serve that customer additional targeted ads. Since sandals indicate warm weather, why not show the customer swimsuits or spring dresses that would go perfectly with the sandals she’s already ordered? Smart retailers should use their data not to annoy customers who have already made a purchase, but to turn them into loyal, return customers.
And why should the focus be on return customers?
Over the course of a year, the average return customer spends over 120% more than new customers. Not only are return customers valuable because they shop more than once, but they also spend 15% more on any given order.
Taking into account the value of return customers, you should leverage the data you get from any customer who makes a purchase to retarget and promote to them effectively. This will help you to win their loyalty and receive subsequent orders.
Make Your Data Work for You
Your digital presence is an important component of a customer’s overall experience with your brand. Data can inform best practices, as well as provide you with feedback to make better business decisions.
Don’t be afraid to make drastic changes – these are most likely to show you a difference in conversion – so long as the changes you’re making are based on something more concrete than a hunch.In part four of our series, we’ll be talking about how data can inform new product development. Be sure to come back and learn more about the actionable insights and tactical improvements you can implement through smarter data reporting and intelligence.
About The Author
Bridge Mellichamp is the Director of Data Science and Special Projects at Stitch Labs. Numbers excite her more than you can imagine; at the core, she’s driven by helping Stitch and its customers make sense of their data so they can make incredibly smart business decisions.