Four mistakes retailers are (still) making with online

By: Lauren Smartt

20th November 2020

In October, Cheil UK’s ecommerce strategist Duncan Howe shared his insights with Retail Week on some of the biggest mistakes retailers are still making online. Below, he shares his further thoughts:

With physical retail closing its doors once again just as we head into the peak holiday retail period, online is a more important channel for retailers than ever. This year has been a trying time for many retail businesses that have shifted to online, only to find stiff competition from existing and new players vying for precious consumer spend.

Online can offer huge opportunities for retailers, especially those who are able to go above and beyond to serve a truly unique and seamless experience for consumers. But for most, it’s just about getting the core basics right to survive. Here I’ve outlined the four most common mistakes retailers can make online and how they can avoid them.

Mistake #1: Assuming ecommerce only means your website

A big mistake that retailers make online is thinking that ‘ecommerce’ only means your website. It actually encompasses many different traffic sources (PPC/SEO/Affiliates/Social), and retailers need to consider which source works best for their product categories, and on which devices. They should also think about which entry pages get the best conversion rate from each source and whether it’s possible to test PPC entry to various pages. Finally, make sure to think about the communications strategy that’s in place post-purchase. Email, social and push often provide a more personal feel to after-sales communication.

Mistake #2: Setting vague or unrealistic goals

Another common mistake that retailers make in relation to their online strategy is setting goals that are too vague, rather than SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound). So instead of saying, ‘I want to create more sales,’ define how many more sales, and from which customer set. To take this even further, decide which devices to target, by when and whether you may need, for example, more units, add-ons or loyalty subscriptions. ‘12% revenue uplift’ isn’t specific enough as a goal – but “increasing your add-on percentage from 10.5% to 15%” is.

Mistake #3: Focusing too closely on lagging statistics

Too many retailers focus too closely on lagging statistics, rather than leading statistics. Trying to improve conversion rate in isolation without considering the components that make up a conversion journey will be almost impossible. Instead, concentrate on improving elements like dwell time, page load speed and the payment process. Improving each of these leading statistics will improve your lagging statistic, conversion rate. The key here is to understand your weak points. Highlight your highest drop off points within your funnel, by device and then come up with a strategic, methodical approach to improving them through testing. Each step will improve and your overall conversion rate will improve accordingly.

Mistake #4: Using ambiguous product names 

In terms of site merchandising clarity is key. The most common mistakes are, using ambiguous product names or leading with product codes. Particularly in Q4 when you will see more gift-driven customers on your site, this will irritate customers as they don’t know what these codes/product names are. Using internal phraseology on site is something else to avoid – it might mean something to the person signing off the project, but not to customers. Say what you see; this is especially important if you plan to sell your products on a 3rd party marketplace. Finally, remember the importance of personalising your booking funnel.

Other examples of poor online experience:

Bullet points – What have we learned about this product, other than its name and colour? ‘Regular fit’, ‘End use: Hiking’. Look at the page space that has been given over to payment. The cookie message overlays the product description and is duplicated. The product description beneath is just a product code. Nothing in all of this information tells you whether it is waterproof or what it is made from. Ask yourself, have I given my customer the confidence they need in my product in order to make a purchase?