Every business goes through a slow patch. It's how you react that determines your long term success. It could be the current pandemic climate that's causing you problems, or something else more general. Regardless of the cause, there are still plenty of actions you could be taking right now to get your business set up for success in the long run. So in this post, we go through what those actions are. We cover a checklist of five ecommerce housekeeping tasks to improve your store when sales take a dip. Here's a quick one-page over view of the checklist: Click here to download this as a PDF. Once you've downloaded the checklist, let's dive into it in a bit more detail.
- Your ecommerce website
As an ecommerce operator, there are two main aspects to your website operations (broadly speaking!)
- Front-end user experience
- Back-end website administration
When was the last time you made a purchase or actually used your website? If you are asking site visitors to follow defined journeys and take specific action at certain points then you should know this process inside out and back to front. Quite often, features and functionality get added over a period of time and things get tweaked and evolve. In the current climate, additions will likely have happened through necessity. However: If this isn’t kept in check, it can quickly get out of hand without even realising it and the UX is deteriorating as a result. If visitors get frustrated, they will leave, it is as simple as that!
- Visit your website on both mobile device(s) and via desktop in incognito, and go through the user journey to purchase to see exactly what a user experiences.
- Make sure you do this for the customer account process (more on this later).
Back-end website admin
Taking a step back and looking at your website administration, and its integrations, is essential for giving you the tools you need to operate efficiently. Integrations:
- What integrations do you have and are they working?
- What are you getting for your licence fees/rates?
- Do they provide you with the support you need - are they quick at fixing bugs?
- Do they make your life admin heavy or could they be streamlined?
(This is where you consult with the experts and take advice - speak to your developer or support agency, they should be able to provide you with options depending on your requirements and budget.) Extensions & apps:
- What have you got on your site and what does it do? Do you actually need it?
- Removing redundant apps and/or extensions can not only save you subscription/license fees but removing redundant script from your site is only ever going to help with optimisation and site speed!
Use caution and ALWAYS consult with your website support agency/developer before removing anything from your website - sometimes things can look redundant but they are actually vital
- For the apps/extensions you need to keep, are there better options out there?
- Competitor websites
It's relatively easy to see what a competitor is up to from their marketing activities by following them on social media and subscribing to their newsletters. But how do they measure up for things like customer experience and customer service? If you operate in a saturated market then it is important to stand out, particularly if your products are similar to your competitors - take Boohoo, Misguided & PrettyLittleThing for example, their target demographics are similar and their products are of a similar quality and price point so how do they differentiate?
- Customer Experience - PLT offers a Royalty plan for shipping £9.99 for the whole year as well as a clothing recycling scheme that turns unwanted clothes into money off your next purchase. Both of these things encourage repeat purchases and increase lifetime value.
Competitor website checklist
Note: View the site on both mobile devices and desktops, using an incognito browser. Overall user experience:
- Review the navigation, is it easy to navigate through to the products…..and find your way back again?
- What information is presented where?
- What are their contact options, do they have online chat? Start a chat, ask a question about a product - were they informed/helpful or were you chatting with a soulless bot?
Make a purchase:
- Are you presented with all of the information you need to complete your purchase?
- Are you presented with any up/cross-sells at checkout?
- What payment options are available? Buy now pay later? Klarna, Laybuy, Clearpay etc
- What are your shipping options (standard/express/next day)?
- How easy is it to ship to a different address - important with gifting!
- Can you select a specific day/time slot?
- What email communication do you receive as part of your purchase journey?
Sign-up for a customer account:
- Can you view your order?
- Can you amend/cancel your order?
- Are there other features there that are of benefit? One click repurchase, for example.
Await the delivery:
- Did the item(s) arrive on time and in good condition?
- Did you have to sign for the item or did you find a card 2 (with no details on it other than a tracking number!) days later tucked under the doormat?
- Was the order correct?
- What was the packaging like - was there additional collateral included such as a % off your next order code or some extra information about the products or brand?
Return the item:
- How easy was the process - are return labels provided, is postage already paid and can this process be handled in the customer account section?
- What are the options for physically returning the items?
- How long did it take for the amount to be refunded?
Customer experience and customer service can literally be a game changer. The hard work has been done to get the customer “through the door” so it is vitally important to keep them happy so they come back. Customer lifetime value is a term that is often banded about but its importance cannot be underestimated.
Keep in mind a couple of things…
- Just because your competitor is doing something, it doesn’t mean you should too - exercise caution and cherry pick the best bits for consideration within your offering.
- Look for gaps - what annoyed you about any of the processes, what would you like to see as part of your purchase journey?
- Changes you introduce don’t have to be big, the smallest of things can surprise and delight your customers - a refer a friend offer or just a simple thank you note!
3) Data accuracy
Check that the data being reported, particularly in Google Analytics, is as accurate as it can be:
- Check that the data recorded matches (as far as possible!) your website.
- Are all transactions being recorded? Cross reference transaction IDs with your website as a double check using a full date period e.g., a full week.
- Are the traffic sources being recorded correctly? Add payment gateways to your referral exclusion list.
- Make sure your GTM tags are firing the correct information to GA
Enlist help from your website support/marketing agency or developer if you are unsure about the complexities of the data layer requirements for ecommerce! Tips for good Google Analytics management:
- Use the ready made “Home” dashboard for easy/quick views of the most recent data.
- Demographics settings - make sure these are enabled!
- Create dashboards for your most frequently reviewed metrics.
- Create custom reports and schedule them to be emailed weekly/monthly.
- Spring clean your traffic channels
You should also be looking at each of your main traffic channels and looking at what you can work on and improve.
- Are your profiles and bios on brand?
- Profile images - think of this as your signage above the shop door so ideally this is your logo and would only change if you re-branded.
- Cover images - think of these as your shop window, changes seasonally.
- Are all of the links correct and using the full secure URL (https) - what happens when you hit the CTA button on your Facebook page cover?
- Do you have the correct features for your brand/products?
New features and functionality are added to various social channels all the time. So keeping up to speed with what the platforms offer is key.
Email as a traffic channels is far more than your newsletter: Transactional emails:
- Anything sent as a result of a customer placing an order, including shipping confirmations.
- When are these sent and what do they contain - are they clear and on-brand?
- With the highest open rate of all emails, transactional emails serve a very clear purpose so it isn’t recommended that the next special offer is included here, far from it, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities for improvements.
- Are your social icons detailed on your order confirmations?
- Do you provide contact information/links within these emails?
Abandoned cart emails:
- Do you have an abandoned cart email workflow set-up?
- How long before you receive an abandonment email?
- What is the messaging in the title and in the email itself - are you compelled to complete your purchase?
- Do you have double opt-in?
- What messaging is presented at each stage of the subscription process?
- Do you receive a welcome email or just a subscription confirmation?
- This process offers a multitude of touch points so making sure they are on-brand and make sense to someone being asked to follow the process for the first time.
- Are there other automations that you can take advantage of?
- Automating email communication based on number of purchases or value of the purchases over a period of tie would all
- How does your visibility compare with your competitors?
- Using 3rd party software such as Moz, SEMrush, Ahrefs, etc. will allow you to track your domain against your competitors.
- What keywords do they rank for and where are the opportunities?
- What content is available on your website to capture search queries? If you don’t have any on-page text content on your categories, do you have optimised metadata elements?
- Review your on-page content and metadata in line with your keyword analysis and optimise accordingly!
- Add key terms to your site.
- Review your landing pages.
- Do you have a blog or community section of your site? What additional information are you providing.
- Review your landing pages and all pages - are your articles even getting any traffic?
- What sites are referring traffic, and more importantly sales, to your website?
- Are there any entities listed that could present a business opportunity - this could lead to a collaboration project such as a competition or stories takeover.
- Are there any entities that you don't want to be associated with? Contact the webmaster and request removal if this is the case.
- This is also an opportunity to review your link profile. Review toxic or potentially toxic links and request these are removed. Also review your competitor's link profile to look for any opportunities.
- Looking Forward
Planning ahead is something that has been, and continues to be, difficult to do given the uncertainty surrounding dates and the very nature of the situation. But it's still possible.
Whether you are one for planning or not, you now need to be:
- Plan in week blocks - this can then be easily shifted depending on the dates applied to the phased opening of business by the powers that be.
- Plan for your brand and your individual properties. If you have retail properties in different locations, they will be impacted by different phases so this needs to be taken into account.
- Content can be written in advance and await publication. Once dates are known and confirmed, these can be scheduled to be published according to your plan.
- Communicating your plans with your existing audience is key.
- Keep them informed about your situation and let them know the steps you’re taking to make sure they are safe if shopping in store and your team are safe processing their online orders.
- Pin posts to the top of your profiles (where applicable).
- For retail outlets, opening will only be possible if social distancing can be adhered to - request feedback from your customers, ask them to let you know if there are things you could improve upon.
- You can also Publish the visiting rules for your property on your social profiles, send them in your next email communication.
Some online retailers are seeing sales go through the roof right now. But others are struggling - whether it be operationally, for sales, or both. If you're the latter, use this as an opportunity to prepare for the future. Use checklist in this post to make sure you've got all your bases covered to be in the best position possible when the 'new normal' hits.