Before Redesigning Your Site (Again) Focus Digital Budget on Improving its Performance

A website can be simultaneously beautiful and totally ineffective; focusing on performance ensures that its beauty is more than skin deep.

If you’re in charge of managing your brand’s e-commerce site, improving online sales is always on top of mind. The best way to invest your digital budget is to focus on continually improving the site’s performance and content.

Align with your customers

Customers have no patience for, and pay very little attention to, anything that gets in the way of finding the right product for them. Potential obstacles are everywhere from your content to the time it takes for a page to load.

It’s easy to get distracted from helping customers complete their goals by focusing on the latest internal marketing campaign, or trying to keep the design looking fresh. As technology changes, your site may need to be rebuilt on a new platform, but for the most part improving the site that exists now should be your highest priority. Your first step is to evaluate the shopping experience across devices.

Customers have no patience for anything that gets in the way of finding the right product.

Design based on data

Screens are all around us in various shapes and sizes, and this trend will only increase over time. Far too many websites are designed for the one screen that people are spending less and less time in front of, their desktop monitor. Customers want the same content on a mobile device that is on any other version of your site, and they don’t want to zoom in to see it. Responsive design is an excellent way to handle this problem, and should be the starting point for every online store.

Make a thousand $100 bets instead of one $100,000 bet.

Whether you work with an agency or an internal team to build and manage your site, the decisions you make should be based on customer data, not group consensus. How long does it take people on average to find a product and add it to their cart? What is the average checkout time? Which pages cost you the most potential revenue? Is the product content actually helpful and readable, or was it just copied over from the print catalog?

When it comes to improving online sales, make a thousand $100 bets instead of one $100,000 bet. There are far better metrics of success than cool factor and even if your marketing team isn’t comfortable at first, they will get used to it when the numbers come in.

The decisions you make should be based on customer data, not group consensus.

Implement Calibration into your digital process

Online success has little to do with how well you’re telling your brand story. It has everything to do with how quickly your customers succeed at what they’re trying to do. Of all the ways to determine what is working, the best way we’ve found is to just watch people use the site.

Analytics can help point you in the direction of where your site is failing, but making sense of the numbers requires observation and a desire to help. Once you have an idea where things are breaking down, write up a list of tasks for a test subject to complete and see how they do. A starter list might include:

  1. Navigate to snowboarding jackets and select two products to compare, adding one to your cart
  2. Search for a snowboarding helmet, and add the one you like to your cart
  3. Find a pair of goggles that will work with the helmet you just chose and add them to your cart
  4. Begin the checkout process, but remove one item from your cart before completing a purchase

Make small changes over a long time

We calibrate our sites on a monthly basis by setting goals for content and performance improvements, and running content experiments to determine which changes are most effective. This process typically involves tasks like:

  • Ensuring top selling products are easy to navigate to
  • Testing and evaluating the site’s search results for top onsite search terms
  • Evaluating page cost/value beginning with important pages with high exit rates
  • Updating and removing old or ineffective content
  • Running user testing on the most common customer paths to ensure ease of use

You wouldn’t plant a garden and expect anything to grow if you didn’t tend to it. The same is true on the web. Too many brands invest their entire digital budget on a brand new design every few years, only to find the new site is just as ineffective as the last.

Continual focus on improvement is the only way to get a return on your investment.

Invest in positive change

The Conversion Growth Program™ process opens up your digital toolbox so you can use more than the redesign sledgehammer to create change. Instead of constantly making new sites, imagine spending your digital budget speeding up your current site one month, then improving product content the next. Continue improving search performance, navigation paths, category names, product images, ratings and reviews — these all add up to a higher and higher conversion rate.

By implementing this process for our clients, we’ve consistently seen performance improvements in all areas — in some cases sales have gone up by 650-850%! The payoff is absolutely worth the effort, and it’s a much safer bet than spending your entire budget on a new site.

Evaluate all the traffic inputs to, pathways through, and exits from your site, then devise a plan to plug the leaks and improve the experience for your customers. This continual focus on improvement is the only way to get an actual return on your digital investment.

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About the Author

Shaun Tinney