The start of the new year always brings with it a healthy exuberance for what's ahead. This holds true for a businesses desire to drive the performance of the eCommerce channel. But the exuberance is halted because of three questions which become difficult to answer...
- Where do you start?
- Where do you focus?
- What do you invest in?
Every business is the same. There is a strong desire to apply change to the eCommerce channel that will activate significant lifts in online revenue and positively influence the performance of the entire business.
But due to the unknown, a business becomes paralysed in decision making. Hence the halt in exuberance.
This "Top Tips" story is not meant to provide a guide as to where to start, what to focus on, and where to steer investment to get businesses moving in the right trajectory for 2024.
These tips have come from two sources...
- The culmination of the hundreds of questions I received from the business community throughout 2023.
- The approaches that prove to be working for businesses (business data showing performance increases from specific applied changes).
There are five topics covered in this Top Tip Guide...
- Fixing underperforming eCommerce channels
- The eCommerce Platform Selection process
- Digital Marketing Agency relationships
- Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
From the hundreds of questions fielded throughout 2023, they all can be grouped in the above 5 topics.
#1. Fixing Underperforming eCommerce Channels:
If you are not replacing your eCommerce Platform but have a focus to drive it's performance to new levels, consider the following…
#1. Use data to define performance issues:
There is a high volume of data at your disposal which can define issues. Guessing is no longer the right way to activate change to repair underperforming channels.
There are two types of data to look at...
- Behavioural (see Google Analytics below).
- Qualitative (read what your customers are telling you when they call to complain or ask questions that your online channel did not answer).
#2. Don’t add new stuff:
One of the most common tactics when trying to fix an unperforming eCommerce channel is businesses adding new features and functions to the existing Platform or ecosystem.
This is the worst possible approach.
99% of the time online channels underperform because the experiences they are exhibiting to consumers is not in alignment to how he/she wants to engage (see Qualitative above). This means the retailer or B2B has not configured the “Digital Salesperson” in a way that adds value to consumer information gathering and buying.
When a business introduces a new feature or function, it to will be out of this customer-centric alignment. In essence, the business is compounding the issue and introducing new problems.
**Fixing the eCommerce Channel Top Tip**:
Nail the basics. Only once you are 100% confident the foundation experiences and journeys are working to a high standard, do you consider moving on to the next thing.
For example, just because you have a Site Search Box clearly visible on your site, does not mean its performing to a high standard.
Over 90% of the things I first repair are foundation experiences, which always produce big increases in online revenue performance.
The presence of AI in Retail and B2B is for real and needs to be considered. But it has been for quite some time. The only real difference lately is the “AI PR Machine” that has recently been activated in full force around the world.
For the Retail and B2B sectors, recognise a couple of key points about AI and how it can contribute to value in 2024…
#1. Recognise what feeds AI:
While one of the appealing features of AI is its “self-learning” capability, this self-learning needs to come from something: context. It’s ability to learn does not just magically appear from nothing. This "context" comes from rich and accurate business-specific data.
To gain value from AI requires connectivity to business systems to feed the right types of data into this system. And because many businesses do not have rich “clean” business data, they are not ready to benefit from AI.
This is one of the reasons why pure-play (online only) retailers surge in growth. Their business model starts with clean data.
#2. Embedding AI natively into eCommerce Platforms:
Many of the larger enterprise eCommerce Platforms are investing in embedding AI into their Platform. Moving forward this should be part of the Platform Selection Process (see below). This native connectivity to AI enables the rich source of data needed.
#3. AI is not the silver bullet:
As always, the “AI Pundits” preach the use of AI will solve the problems of producing personalised content and experiences. This is never the case.
Ignore these statements whenever they come at you.
#4. AI "low hanging fruit":
If there is one single aspect to AI that is producing results for Retailers and B2B’s right now, it would be how AI can influence and enrich site search experiences. This is significant when considering over 43% of all online experiences incorporate a site search at one point of a person’s journey on your site: validated by Forrester Research.
**AI Top Tip**:
Do not ignore AI, but at the same time do not become caught up in the buzz and hype of it. There are a high volume of businesses who are investing in AI and getting it wrong. Take your time with it.
#3. eCommerce Platform Selection – Planning a Replatform:
There are a couple of things to be aware of for 2024 if you are embarking on an eCommerce Selection Process...
#1. Know what YOU Need:
You are incapable of having a constructive conversation with an eCommerce Platform provider and/or an eCommerce Agency if you do not have clarity around two things...
- What your strategic future looks like
- How the online channel is to support and enable that future
Answering these two questions gives you clarity on your needs and wants of the eCommerce channel.
#2. Know what you need NOW:
Understanding your long term needs helps you unpack and define your short-term needs. When you understand your short term needs you can plan a Phase 1 Replatform project that will add immediate business value.
#3. Know what your Customers need from you:
If you understand your customers and what they want from you (see Qualitative data above), this becomes the guide on how to define needs. This creates a "customer-centric" planning process.
#4. Not all eCommerce Platforms are created equal:
When you begin to assess eCommerce Platforms based on needs, you will quickly realise the eCommerce Platforms are very different.
If you base your decision on build costs, license costs, or the strength of an eCommerce Platform brand, you risk selecting the wrong Platform. The results in little to no ROI and another replatform in (approx) 3 years time.
**eCommerce Replatform Top Tip**:
Do NOT start a selection process without knowing your own needs. Once you have this clarity you control the narrative when engaging with eCommerce Platforms and eCommerce Agencies.
#4. Getting more from your Digital Marketing Agency in 2024:
One of the biggest business pain points found in 2023 was the conduct of Digital Marketing Agencies and the complete misalignment between business goals and Agency conduct.
This is not a reflection of actual Agency conduct, it’s more about Retailers and B2B’s not knowing how to leverage these organisations to their full potential.
Below are some tips on how to turn this Vendor into a key contributor to business success in 2024:
#1. You Own Your Strategy:
Digital Marketing Agencies claim they are “strategic” but let’s unpack this term. Agencies are strategic in the sense of understanding your business-wide strategy, and then activating software tools and tactics to support your key growth pillars.
This is an important distinction. And as a result they must be micro-managed to ensure they adhere to what's important to your business.
#2. Use business data to define Agency performance:
While it’s common for Digital Marketing Agencies to produce reporting of their performance, the risk is bias. There needs to be an unbiased method of defining their value in the context of the overall strategy: ownership of this data is key (see GA4 below).
**Digital Marketing Agency Top Tip**:
Recognise the differences in decision making at the strategic and tactical levels when dealing with your Digital Marketing Agency.
Also appreciate their strengths which is driving the right type of "online eyeballs" to your eCommerce channel through various means.
#5. Google Analytics 4 – Own your data:
“First Party Data” is the information a business has that defines all the interactions between itself, its customers, and people who tried to engage with the business but did not buy.
It’s not a new thing to acknowledge the power and importance of owning your first party data, but 2024 should be the year you construct a “Measurement Plan” to capture the right first party data to inform future decision making.
GA4 forms the foundation to this “Measurement Plan”.
GA Universal (the old version of Google Analytics) was the most underutilized business tool in the world. It held (and still holds) behavioural data that provide businesses with insight as to why people are not buying online from them.
With the introduction of GA4, there is risk of Google Analytics becoming even more underutilized because of GA4’s new data-capture philosophies. It's far more complex than GA Universal (thanks Google!!).
This means, more planning, more investment, and more work is required to track and monitor online behaviours and turn this data into actionable insights to drive an eCommerce channel's customer centric evolution.
**GA4 Top Tip**:
Before engaging with GA4 specialists, first document what behaviours you want to see and why you want to see it. The GA4 Geeks are brilliant at capturing the information you want to see, but what you want to see and why you want to see it, is strategic and needs to come from the business.
Conclusion - What is 2024 going to look like?
What 2024 is going to look like comes down to you and how you approach it. Business decision-making paralysis in eCommerce now directly correlates to a stagnation in growth.
Many businesses reside within the realms of insanity where they do the same things and expect different outcomes of their eCommerce channel. Don't be that business.
Take some (or all) of the learnings above and start the evolution of your eCommerce channel.
Please share if you feel this guide will benefit others.