Every year we review benchmark indicators for the retailer ecommerce websites we support. This is a valuable routine for us to catch outliers who are lagging, stores that should be doing better than their performance suggests. We need to find out whether the problem is technical or design related, or it might concern store personnel or a lack of focus by the store. Reviewing these indicators we advise stores where they sit vis-a-vis their peers and make recommendations for taking their online business to the next level.
Of all these conversations there are two that are the most common; the first is with a store that has been online for a while but the sales and activity on the website don’t seem to move off a baseline. We’ll call this store “The Coaster” because it largely operates on auto-pilot; letting the website inventory update automatically and filling orders. The second conversation is with a store that has mastered the discipline of promoting to their core audience but has also plateaued albeit at a higher level. We’ll call this store “The Priest” because it is preaching to the converted.
How do you recognize if you are The Coaster?
Reviewing your site analytics you can self-diagnose this condition. If over 75% of web sales are coming from organic search, wine directory listings or feed submissions you are probably inflicted with this stagnant malaise. Benchmarks for conversion rates and order size are probably about average, and while there are sales coming in they are typically from new customers. The store is making no effort to pursue repeat business. Depending on inventory and pricing strategies a store like this may be covering their costs and even making a little money but is missing out on the opportunity to promote what they do well.
Before a store can build loyalty it needs to collect a list of customers who have opted in to receive emails. Subscriptions that are more than 6 months old should be considered stale. A program to engage customers and inject enthusiasm into the site is the only cure. Set a follow up routine after each order that asks for the all-important second order. Identify someone on staff who can write a regular and compelling email newsletter. There is a shift in identity required here from relying on your store location to becoming a content creator that has something interesting to say to your customers.
How do you recognize if you are The Priest?
The Priest can be a little trickier to spot as many times the key indicators are good… almost too good. If your conversion rate has been above 5% for sustained periods of time you have likely become too insular in your audience. PageViews per Visit may also be high. You probably also recognize that sales growth is not where it could be. Don’t get me wrong, you are in a comfortable place; costs are low and your customers have basically become your friends at this point. But if you intend to grow it’s time to spread the word about what your followers believe in; this is your “value proposition” and is the key to your success. By crafting online ads around the essence of your mission that targets potential converts you should be able to sustain a rate of growth for your business that is cost effective.
These transitions are two sides of the same coin that can be measured by tracking orders from repeat customers. Repeat business is where your investment online becomes truly viable, but without new customers you will never reach your full potential online.