Expert Insight: Five tips to optimize digital performance
The coronavirus has accelerated the slow demise of Main Street and is shining a spotlight on retailers that have failed to pivot to digital.
J. Crew. Nordstrom and Stage Stores were the first wave of many retailers expected to file for bankruptcy in the coming months. With digital likely to remain the sole channel for the foreseeable future, retailers need to fully embrace digital and optimize websites and applications to meet the changing needs of consumers.
Despite the slow easing of restrictions, consumers look likely to continue to depend on digital with recent research from Cap Gemini, identifying that in the next six to nine months, only 39% of consumers expect a high level of interaction with physical stores. This dramatic shift in consumer behavior saw U.S. e-commerce sales jump 49% in April. With the appetite for online shopping and convenience set to continue, retailers need to rethink how they optimize technology to ensure that, at a minimum, they meet customer expectations.
From digital natives to legacy retailers, every brand must understand how to optimize their digital properties and also the potential warning signs to look out for. Here are five steps to help brands optimize their website and apps.
1. Eliminate gaps in the supply chain
Retailers need to connect their digital apps directly with their back-office logistics and supply chain management systems to give users up-to-date, accurate information. As sales are reliant on digital interfaces, the supply chain must be connected and updated in real-time so that front-end apps and websites convey precise information. You can't sell products on your app that you can't fulfill.
This only adds to customer frustrations and will drive them to sites that have accurate information. With the surge in demand for essential items, another tactic for grocery retailers to consider is allowing customers to book a delivery slot before filling online baskets. Retailers can't afford to mismanage expectations as once a customer shifts allegiance to a competitor, it's tough to win them back.
2. Understand customer journeys
Websites and apps have millions of possible paths and hundreds of customer environments (e.g., different mobile devices), but only a small number actually matter and generate revenue. Retailers need to obsess about understanding the different customers and paths that generate revenue and then focus solely on optimizing those experiences. Otherwise, optimizing your app is akin to trying to cross a busy road with a blindfold on.
3. Performance matters
Retailers need to understand where issues are occurring for customers. For example, if a customer clicks to view full product details and the page fails to load, it will undoubtedly cause frustration. Therefore, brands need to continually check and optimize the performance of online channels.
If retailers don't adopt this mentality, they run the risk of their site slowing down or falling over and customers moving to a competitor's website. Some keys tips to improve performance include not prioritizing design over performance. By reducing page sizes, optimizing images, minimizing text files, and removing irrelevant content, website speed improves, and retailers reduce the risk of frustrating and potentially losing customers.
Retailers need to include third-party content as it can also negatively impact the performance of digital properties. Retaining customers is critical as retailers try to weather the current uncertainty and making sure digital channels are optimized is essential.
4. Website red flags
There are some KPIs that retailers should track rather than waiting for software and apps to have an outage. These include monitoring the length of time users spend on digital properties. If this starts to decline, it could be due to an underlying problem. Conversion rates are another indicator that retailers must pay close attention to as a sudden decline might point to a technical flaw. By tracking real-time data analytics, brands can stay ahead of issues before they negatively impact revenue.
5. It’s all about conversions
Retailers need to ensure that all development is focused on increasing conversions. If it’s not clear how a new feature will directly increase conversions, and by how much, then it should not be worked on. When a new feature is released, retailers must measure the impact it has on conversions, learn from that, and then review the development backlog.
Going all-in on digital is no longer a choice; it's the only way retailers can survive. With the rapid pivot to digital, continually monitoring the performance of technology is mission critical. By adopting these tips, retailers will be able to optimize the digital experience they are delivering during these turbulent times and beyond.
Antony Edwards is COO of Eggplant