Navigating unchartered waters
However you feel, this wholesale shift to ecommerce has introduced opportunities as well as challenges. Despite retailers taking an early hit during lockdown, online revenues are now topping pre-pandemic levels – even though most bricks-and-mortar stores have reopened, albeit with greater safety and social-distancing measures in place.
It remains to be seen whether current shopping patterns will persist in a post-Covid world. No doubt, businesses with extensive high-street holdings will already be having serious conversations about the sustainability of their property portfolio.
Right now, though, the battle for hearts, minds – and wallets – is happening online. Retailers need to leverage their most effective sales and marketing channels – as well as ensuring web performance is up to scratch – if they want to forge robust and enduring connections with their customer base.
The power of email marketing
It’s reassuring to know that email remains one of the best and most measurable marketing channels – even in these unprecedented times. Far from seeing a drop in revenues recently, open and click-through rates have actually been up 4%–30% on usual numbers.
Perhaps more of us are spending longer at home and can more readily engage with emails. Or, maybe we’re just living less hectic lives and have more time to become absorbed in longer-form content. Whatever the reason, retailers have a rare window of opportunity in which they can connect more meaningfully with their audience: winning new fans; rewarding loyalty; and creating enthusiastic brand evangelists.
Prioritizing the user experience
No matter how good your email game is, it’s all for naught if you’re driving customers to a website where slow-to-load pages, broken links, payment errors, or unbuyable products are the norm.
In our ‘always on’ virtual economy, ecommerce operations live and die by the quality of their user experience (UX). It’s not enough to have a website that works OK most of the time – only when footfall levels are steady and predictable. You need to know what happens at peak periods. When a well-crafted email campaign hits tens – or hundreds – of thousands of followers and your site experiences a sharp spike in traffic.
Prioritizing the UX means delivering an error-free, fully functional site – every time all the time.
Customers who encounter sluggish load times, tripping over bugs and glitches as they navigate your site’s pages will quickly lose patience. And, not only will they switch to one of your competitors – having been nicely primed by your email to purchase something – they’ll also be inclined to take a dim view of the brand that’s handled their custom so carelessly.
What does a fully functional website look like?
Simply put, a fully functional website is one where everything works as intended, offering browsers and buyers a smooth, flawless end-to-end experience that makes it easy to view, select and check out chosen items, even during an email-driven surge in demand.
In practice, this means that:
- Available products are buyable
- Payment process is frictionless
- Third-party products are operational
Often, we recommend that ‘lighter’ optimized pages are used where they form an essential part of the customer’s purchase process. This removes friction and increases site capacity, allowing sales to be completed without hindrance.
Enhancing your UX for good
Optimizing the UX is challenging. The more content you enable – especially if it includes multiple third-party components – the more difficult it is to deliver a smooth UX. It’s the same when it comes to personalizing the experience: customers love it, but not if it impacts progress.
Our experience shows that taking a 24/7 approach to performance monitoring is essential if you aim to maintain a rich, wrinkle-free UX. A regular testing schedule will help you stay ahead of the curve – but only if performance is monitored in a way that tracks if, how, and where the UX is being adversely impacted.
The ThinkTribe approach replicates the customer experience by engaging in hundreds of real-life journeys to deliver actionable insights that can be used to improve performance. It picks up glitches and ensures third-party products are working as they should. We believe it’s the logical way to put the customer front and center in a rapidly changing, consumer-led economy.
Start a conversation
At ThinkTribe, we’ve made it our mission to help brands attract and retain more customers by delivering a seamless online journey 24/7 – and we make it easy to effectively monitor your website’s health, stability, and capacity. Check out our guide to navigating the perma-peak and see how, with our help, leading brands leverage their online assets.