From analytics to reliability, scalability, and even e-revenue performance management, enterprise commerce can feel like a never-ending job – but do you really need to work harder, better, faster, and stronger to achieve omni-channel retail nirvana?
- e-Commerce pros have their ears to the ground in search of strategies to help them achieve multi-dimensional excellence.
- ‘Harder, faster, and stronger’ work doesn’t guarantee a positive outcome.
- Shoppers’ preferences change over time, so our work is never over.
Around the world, around the world …
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending Demandware’s XChange Conference in the brilliant city of Las Vegas. On the (admittedly brief) return flight back to Boca Raton, Florida, I fired up the in-flight WiFi in order to draft up some top-of-mind emails while enjoying a jam-out session à-la Pandora Radio. As I flipped through my notebook to the tune of Around the World, I recalled the conversations that I had on the previous day with dozens of eCommerce professionals whose functions and industries both varied significantly, but whose revenue and conversion goals were well-aligned.
In these conversations, I sensed a feeling of hyper-sensitivity to the paradigms that defined the nature of modern e-Commerce: brands and retailers alike are no longer satisfied with the digital status quo; rather, they view enterprise commerce, social gamification, brand, and an omni-channel presence all together as a singular means for not only growth, but also market penetration in an increasingly saturated global environment. This has technology vendors scrambling to provide both all-in-one and best-of-breed solutions and also keeps e-Commerce professionals with their ear to the ground in search of ways to achieve multi-dimensional excellence.
Harder, better, faster … smarter?
Naturally, the intense complexity of omni-channel digital commerce has the potential to keep many e-Commerce professionals working after hours, on the weekends, and virtually any time (and anywhere) they’re at least somewhat conscious. In theory, if you work harder, better, faster, and stronger, you’ll achieve more positive outcomes than negative ones – right?
In the case of e-Commerce optimization, intense focus on just one page in the funnel might not guarantee overall success. The diagram below illustrates one case where focus on the category page improved conversion onto the sub-category page, but did not result in an overall end-to-end lift.
Of course, you could test each one of the pages in your checkout funnel independently, but then you’d have to consider the implications of co-variance between the individual elements on each one of your pages both independently and as a whole, once again creating a trade-off between work intensity and outcomes (not to mention, a lot of math).
The solution is a bit cliché, but still applies: work smarter, not harder.
Perhaps one of the most fundamental steps in e-Commerce optimization is understanding that even small changes to your website can affect significant outcomes – but for the reasons stated above, don’t try to manipulate too many elements simultaneously; the aggregate effect of using several positive-performing elements at once on any given page could be negative.
Also, rather than rushing to implement your ‘winners’ all at once, use the knowledge you glean from your optimization campaign(s) – however small they are – to drive future, more significant optimization initiatives. Continue to examine your results during the post-implementation phase too, as these have the potential to vary over time.
Our work is never over
That last sentence may be small, but its implications loom large. Your visitors’ preferences are changing, and the magnitude of that change is significant. This change has the potential to render the results of any traditional split- or multivariate test obsolete on day one. The graph below illustrates how time variance can cause overall revenue per visitor (RPV) to fluctuate from as much as $27 to as little as $7 over the course of a single day.
Since visitor behavior changes over time, even statistically-significant results can’t be considered valid predictors of future outcomes. For this reason, A/B and multivariate testing doesn’t work in eCommerce – measuring and adapting to shopping behavior is a complex and dynamic process; improving your results requires more than just a static (single- or multi-test) solution.
Reliably improving your revenue performance starts with e-Commerce Revenue Performance Management (eRPM). eRPM is an umbrella strategy used to describe the science of optimizing interactions across the sales funnel in order to promote predictable, sustainable revenue growth. One fundamental principle of eRPM is the notion that optimization is a continued process: because visitor preferences change from one time interval to the next, e-Commerce sites must adapt in kind, preserving or promoting those elements that are predicted to perform well, and demoting or removing those that do not lend to revenue-positive outcomes.
If eRPM assumes that change is a constant, then so too is optimization – as the song goes, ‘our work is never over’.
Whether you’re like me and enjoy late-90’s house music, or prefer something a bit different, it’s hard to ignore the connotations of Daft Punk’s famous lines on e-Commerce optimization. e-Commerce is becoming increasingly more complex, and with it, both strategies and technologies are evolving to help brands and retailers achieve excellence in an omni-channel, global marketplace.
Working smarter, not harder, is the key to realizing success in this new digital playground. Stay focused on the big picture, and don’t get caught in the weeds by performing single-page or single-element one-off tests – otherwise, you may be stuck working harder, faster, and stronger with little guarantee of revenue-positive outcomes.
Finally, testing and optimization are fundamentally different, the latter being the only way to reliably improve your e-Commerce revenue performance. eRPM is an emerging strategy designed to help brands reach their online revenue goals, but requires that you’re capable of adapting to your visitors’ preferences in real time.