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Data essentials for on-line business success

Over the last few days several leading companies with e-commerce sites have said that e-commerce is here to stay.  The uptick in on-line sales that happened during lockdown is expected to remain.

For on-line retailers this is both a blessing and a curse. 

It’s great to have operating costs that are a fraction of those of a bricks and mortar outlet, and be accessible by anyone in the world. 

But barriers to entry are also very much lower – meaning that competitors can set up stores on a platform such as Shopify and, in a matter of hours, be reaching out to your customers.

Nevertheless, whether you have a bricks and mortar shop or an on-line store one key factor remains the same – customer experience is everything.

Give someone a bad experience, they may never return.  Give them a great experience by going the ‘extra mile’ or stepping in quickly to solve a problem, people will come back and be happy to spend more.

This is where e-commerce sites struggle.  How do you deliver that experience when your site is simply a shop window with a shopping cart and a payment service?

As with any retail outlet it involves spotting the problem or the opportunity to help and taking action in time to make a difference.

However, because you are on-line, you need to have data that can tell you what’s happening, and the confidence to use it.

The 5 ‘s’ datasets for on-line business success

1.  Site:  data about how your site works.

E.g. visitors taking unusual routes between pages, spending a short time on pages, never returning to pages.

2.  Search:  data about how people reach you.

E.g. Google and Bing search words used and how they translate into where visitors end up and how long they spend there.

3.  Sentiment:  data about what people are saying.

E.g. the range of positive and negative sentiments expressed, and how visitors respond to key events such as stock shortages or price changes.

4.  Service:  data about the purchase experience.

E.g. proportion of delivery promises kept, sentiment about the item delivered, speed of response to queries and issues.

5.  Sustainability:  data about you doing the right thing.

E.g. how environmentally friendly your supply chain is, how your customers’ tastes and requirements are changing, what your competitors are doing that might affect you.

Each set of data can provide useful information.  But combined together they can provide invaluable insights.

E.g. site loading times will indicate how long customers are waiting to access a page.  Site bounce data and customer sentiment data will flag the moment that waiting times become too long and that customers opt to go elsewhere.

To get to this point you need the confidence to extract the data you need and put it to work.  The skills can be learned and simple systems can be set up to make the task as easy as possible.

Once you are there you won’t look back.  You will have the ability to know the moment that something important has happened.

And when you step in to put it right you will quickly build a reputation for being there when your customers need you most.

Paul Clarke