Make Your Web Site a Commerce Laboratory
By Jim Watson
Research can offer customer insights and boost Web site success.
Ever wonder why the milk is always in the back corner of the grocery store, why Nordstrom always has cosmetics and women's shoes on the first floor, or why McDonald's packaged its menu into value meals? These tactics are the result of years and years of observing consumer behavior and purchase patterns with the single-minded goal of boosting sales and margins.
Commerce-based Web sites have been in existence for a decade. Will it take us decades more to reach marketing and merchandising truths in the digital space? Absolutely not. The digital world has some major advantages compared to its offline counterpart—namely better access to consumer behavioral and attitudinal data—but it's not without its challenges.
Unlike the offline world, your Web site visitors are not as captive as they'd be in, say, a grocery or department store. They don't have to walk to the back of the store to get the milk. They don't have to walk past the cosmetics counters to get to the suit department. They are one click away from your competitor's Web site. And, your competitor is conducting extensive research to improve navigation, browsing, shopping and the overall buying experience right now. It's up to you to ensure that your site is current, relevant and meeting the increasing demands of the empowered consumer.
When a marketer asks about improving its Web site, nine out of 10 times it's really asking, "How can I improve my Web site's conversion rate?" Often, companies will say they're investing millions of dollars in advertising, attempting to entice consumers to visit their site, only to fail 98 percent of the time to convert those visitors into customers.
Below are some thoughts on how, with a modest budget, you can use research to uncover insights into your customers—perspectives that dramatically can improve your Web site's ability to sell.