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Is e-commerce the heart and soul of your business? Are you reliant on email marketing, click-throughs, social media, landing pages, and online ad campaigns to drive people to your site?

If so, have we got the post for you.

I mean, even if you have a pretty steady revenue stream coming in from your online marketplace, you’re probably not saying this to yourself:

I wish I had fewer customers online!”

Right? That’s one of those lines that nobody says, ever (unless you’re totally out of inventory and your logistics crash).

So let’s assume you’re part of the 99.5% that is wishing to attract more customers and turn your website into a revenue-generating machine. How can you improve what you’re currently doing, and what is missing from your plan?

Here are three steps to get you on your way.

Step 1: Analytics

Okay, so this first step is probably not news. In fact, if you’re like most ecommerce businesses, you live and breathe analytics. Keep doing that. In particular, pay attention to these metrics:

  • Margin percentages: You may have a website that’s cranking out orders, but if your margin is low, that won’t necessarily translate to profit (particularly if you’re spending a lot on online ads to convert). Understand your Average Order Value, which is essentially: Every customer that comes to your site will on average bring in $___ of revenue.
  • Google Analytics web metrics: In particular, pay attention to Unique Visits, Page Views, Time on Site, Bounce Rate, and E-Commerce Conversion Rate.
  • Tracking Cart Abandonment: How many people add items to their shopping cart but never purchase? Improving your conversion rate from 3% to 4% will translate to a boost in sales of 33%. Knowledge here is key – find out if customers are getting stuck somewhere – for example, if a link on the site isn’t working properly, if their credit cards aren’t able to process, etc. Little hang ups can frustrate to customers to the point that they’ll abandon their cart and go to a competitor (more about how to track this specifically in Step 2).
  • Marketing costs: Understand your Cost of Customer Acquisition number (CAC). How much do you have to spend on marketing to get one customer? Make sure you take into account any offline marketing, as well, as offline marketing should always include website info as a call-to-action. If you spend $100 and only get 2 customers, your CAC is $50. However, if you spend $100 and attract 50 new customers, your CAC is only $2. Marketing costs can add up quickly, so make sure you’re allocating your strategy wisely.
  • AdWords: For your AdWords, pay attention to number of clicks, impressions, Click Through Rate (CTR), Display Network CTR, AdWords spend, Conversions, Conversion rate, and the Conversion Value/Cost. See marketing note above if your online CAC is costing more than it’s worth to attract a customer – if so, it’s time to adjust your strategy.

Step 2: Real in-person research

So all of the analytics in the world won’t give you customer opinions, reasoning behind customers’ actions, or help you understand where and how customers get frustrated. You may have a brilliant A/B split testing campaign, use predictive marketing analytics, and have a team of data scientists employed, but numbers are … numbers.

You need to do some real-in person research to get into the heart and soul of your customers. Start with analytics, outlined in Step 1, so you can get a solid picture of customer behavior, and then move onto actual customer insights.

How do you do this? Well, here’s what you shouldn’t do: Send out a close-ended question survey to your customers. Poll your buddies who have been to your site. Ask your spouse/mom/best friend/dog their opinions about your site and the shopping experience.

No, my friend. Here’s what you should do:

Qualitative research. Well, actually you shouldn’t do qualitative research, because you have inherent bias about your products and service, but you can hire a third-party neutral company to do this step for you.

Qualitative research, for online commerce, can be conducted a few different ways. Here are some particularly effective tactics:

  • Customer journey mapping: Find out the process your customers go through as they navigate through the layers on your site. Where are they getting stuck? What works great? What needs to be improved? What’s missing? In-person customer journey mapping will methodically take your customers through the touchpoints (after your team is first interviewed), and from this, you’ll have a much clearer picture of how customers shop and what they’re looking for from the experience.
  • Online and mobile qualitative panels: How do customers browse your site online? On their mobiles? What other sites do they go to? In conjunction with traditional focus group research, your customers can track their online and mobile behavior, share their impressions, and provide live feedback about their process and impressions.
  • Focus groups and in-depth interviews: To really know your customers, focus groups and in-depth interviews (which are one-on-one interviews, often conducted over the phone), give you a comprehensive picture of how customers think. What are their opinions about your site? What are their online shopping preferences? Favorite sites? Do they open email marketing messages, and if so, why? Do they click on online ads? How could the online shopping experience be improved?

The data you’ll get from the in-person conversations will give you troves of insights to work from. And beyond info to transform your online shopping strategy, you’ll come away with nuggets that will inform your marketing messages, offline marketing strategy, and even your customer service protocols.

Step 3: Engage

The third and final step is to take the insights from steps 1 and 2 and turn your website into the website-generating machine it was made to be.

You’ll have your analytics. You’ll understand how your customers think and what they’re looking for. You’ll get how their shopping journey unfolds.

Take this data, use it, nurture it, and then unleash it to the world. Go back to it repeatedly. As customer preferences change or your metrics drop, revisit step 2 to figure out what customers want currently.

Your customers will tell you want they want and give you guidance on how they want to interact with your brand. Are you willing to ask and listen? Those who do are rewarded handsomely – they see their CAC numbers drop precipitously. Their customers refer their website to friends. The social media world follows the brand. And most importantly, their site becomes a revenue-generating machine.

Interested in turning your website into a revenue-generating machine? Cool! Let’s talk about how to do that. We are a leading San Francisco Market Research company, committed to turning customer insights into increased business >