I get it. The pressure of running a commerce business has never been greater. Retail is challenged, Amazon is crushing, customer behavior is changing and expectations are greater, technology options are more complicated than they’ve ever been.
And yet, businesses still can’t answer rudimentary questions about their customer base. They still have trouble executing campaigns. They still talk about the same concepts we talked about 10-15 years ago — from how to optimize a landing page and how to do a valid A/B test to which segments to focus on and how to lower acquisition spend and get increased dollar and margin efficiencies.
Somewhere between the flip phone and the iPhoneX, we seem to have lost a decade or more of commerce learnings regarding what worked and what didn’t. We seem to be starting all over again, often answering (or not) the same questions, but tweaking them just slightly for the day (hello, AI). There’s no doubt that times have changed and commerce leaders would be foolish not to take into account the considerable changes in customer behavior and the technology shift that has occurred in the last 15 years. But they also need to pay attention to the foundation of the business.
It’s time to finally master these 5 commerce basics.
1) Hire a good analyst. An experienced, dedicated analyst will bring you actionable insights that you should listen to and use to optimize your strategies—everything from your promotional cadence and offers to which customers, channels, pages, products, and terms to focus on first and what to try next to drive conversions. A good analyst spots trends, anticipates issues, finds opportunities. You need one. Probably many more than one.
2) Work your budget and your strategy. Budgets and strategies are not immovable objects. They live. They breathe. They are made to work for you, not the other way around. Focusing on basics does not equal not changing. Be willing to break with tradition. Upend those so-called “truths” or “rules” in your business that keep you from trying new things (“Oh, we don’t do that.”). Or worse, keep you from trying new things more than once (“We did that a year ago and it didn’t work.”).
3) Optimize your key touchpoints. Again, basic. When you are planning your commerce marketing and merchandising calendars, you should account for all of your key touchpoints across the customer journey and determine how those should change (or not) for new campaigns. I don’t mean just your online or website touchpoints. These should span channels and devices, and ideally customer segments as well. This should be a key component of your ongoing, proactive messaging and communication strategy to drive engagement, loyalty, conversions, and a stellar, differentiated customer experience.
4) Listen to your customers. This should certainly include ongoing user testing and interacting with customers in real settings (ie: call center, email customer service, chat, retail stores, social media). It should also ideally include heat map and other visual analysis tools. Whatever you do, do what works more often and incorporate the learnings into your business tactics and strategy. If you are worried about making changes too quickly or with too small a customer data set — run A/B tests against the changes. Most importantly, this should not be a once a year event.
5) Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. Where you can, forecast or model anticipated value of new efforts, but leave room for innovation and trying new things that your gut tells you is the right thing to do, but that you can’t put a number value to. That said, numbers help. One year, I put all efforts into driving conversion for the business — that was the number one goal, the number one metric to drive. All other work didn’t stop, but if you want to talk about focus, that was it for one whole year, and our strategy, our tactics, our marketing, merchandising, customer approach, web development efforts — everything — was built around driving that rate up by at least 10%. We grew it over 30%.
To learn more about mastering the commerce basics, read “All About That Bass(ics): The Importance of Getting Your Commerce Groove On“.