A colleague and I just returned from Internet Retailer Web Design ’10. We were part of a large team of user experience professionals enlisted to provide advice to attendees on issues of concern about their online presence. During the two days filled with site reviews, we fielded questions on every possible topic, but two themes emerged that highlight two hard realities of eCommerce.
The first is that there’s a heightened awareness that no matter how long or how hard we work on the launch of a new web site, we never launch with the complete set of functionality we dream of. It’s a hard reality to swallow, and daunting in some cases, considering the work doesn’t end with a launch but rather just begins. And in this economic environment, retailers sense all the more urgency to build out the capabilities that had been de-scoped from the first release. Several very large retailers I spoke with who had re-launched in the prior 18 months and were looking for advice on polishing what they have, prioritizing new features based on value to the customer experience, and identifying new ways to more deeply engage audiences.
The second theme, one that’s particularly close to my own heart, was the desire to move business KPIs by building better online experiences. The retailers I spoke to were enthusiastic but weren’t sure how to connect the dots in the online retail channel. In practice, I’ve seen good experiences move billions in online sales, deeper brand engagement and loyalty, and captured greater share of lifetime wallet. And fundamental to nurturing happy customers, I believe, is offering them something of value – in fact, smart merchandising is something customers find valuable (and something I bet Amazon would agree with).
The role of smart merchandising as a value-add service for customers can move three of the most important retail KPIs: conversion, average order value, and average units per order. By efficiently managing product content to cross-sell at the right time, to up-sell at the right time, and to persuade customers to convert at the right time, retailers can create experiences that customers will value, will respond to, and will recommend to their family and friends.
So my advice to retailers is twofold: embrace the “always beta” nature of online retail and take pleasure in creating good customer experiences that drive business results. As a former boss of mine would observe, they’re good problems to have.