Mid-Year Health Assessment [Whitepaper]
As we come to the start of Q3, are you on track to grow your business? Can you list your potential blockers? The halfway point of the year is a good time to analyze your performance, re-adjust your strategy, and ensure you reach those goals by the end of the year. In this whitepaper, we’ve outlined concrete steps to assess the health of your business and increase your bottom line.
Revisit your Goals for the Year:
The best laid plans from the beginning of the year do not always make sense for your business come mid-year. Shifting customer needs, new industry trends, and updated technology can all impact your business goals and change their course throughout the year. As part of your mid-year health assessment, it is important to revisit the goals you created in Q1. Decide if they still align with the work you are doing and where you want your business to be by the end of the year. Make sure your goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. If not, it's time to recalibrate for the second half of the year.
This process should take place at every level of the organization- from your C-suite to individual departments and employees. Each goal that an individual made should be tracked and re-examined against department goals and overall business goals. Ensure that you are all working towards a common target that will grow the business.
Assess your Customer Experience:
Customer needs and tastes are constantly changing, and adapting quickly to those changes is how savvy retailers will survive disruption. The value of a positive customer experience is undeniable. Research has shown that 86% of those who receive a great customer experience were likely to repurchase from the same company. Additionally, engaged and satisfied customers buy 50% more frequently, spend 200% more each year, and are five times more likely to display brand loyalty. Your customers are crucial to your business, and ensuring their satisfaction across the entire customer journey (not just individual touchpoints) is critical.
There are multiple facets of the customer experience that you should be assessing to ensure the overall health of your business. Know your customer and gather insights on what they want and how they shop. Knowing your customer’s pain points and anticipating their needs is the first step to shaping a strong CX strategy. Identify all the touchpoints where they interact with your brand, and track feedback at each point. When customers reach your site, are they finding what they need to make a purchase or are they bouncing right away? When customers contact customer service, are they leaving positive feedback because their issues were resolved quickly or do they have to call multiple times to get an answer to their questions? Everything from your responses to customers on social media to your return policy is a customer touchpoint; each affects a consumer’s perception of your brand. It is also important to remember that now, more than ever, customers expect an omnichannel experience from brands. Whether searching for coupons on your mobile site while shopping in your brick-and-mortar store or browsing your Instagram page on their laptops, customers expect a consistent experience and a clear path to find what they are looking for.
The return policy is one of the most commonly overlooked aspects of the customer journey, but it is a crucial one. At least 30% of all products ordered online are returned, as compared to 8.89% in brick-and-mortar stores. The returns process is filled with customer touchpoints and-more importantly-opportunities to engage and delight customers. Your return policy should be easy to find in the site navigation and footer of your site, where customers are likely to look for it. It should also be accessible from within the checkout experience. With some product types, prominently displaying a generous return policy can ease customer purchase concerns and help conversion. The policy should also be easy to understand, with a FAQ section that includes options such as how to return an item bought online in store as well as easy-to-follow instructions on how to ship a product back to the retailer. 67% of shoppers check return policies before making a purchase, and 95% of online shoppers said that they would shop with a retailer again if the return experience was positive. Do not overlook this opportunity to build brand loyalty with your customers.
There are three customer experience metrics you should measure every year- your Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Satisfaction (CSAT), and your Customer Effort Score (CES). NPS asks customers how likely they are to recommend a product to a friend or colleague, and is a powerful measure of customer satisfaction. CSAT is a measure of the degree to which a product or service meets a customer’s expectations. It is generally measured by asking customers to rate their satisfaction with a product on a scale from very unsatisfied to very satisfied. Finally, CES measures customer service satisfaction by asking customers to rate how easy a company made it for them to handle their issue. Together, these metrics allow you to recognize how well you meet the needs of your customers, and will help identify opportunities for improvement. More and more, customer experience is driving purchase decisions. It is important to get it right.
Review your Digital Marketing Strategy:
The first step in reviewing your digital marketing strategy is to evaluate your goals. What metrics are you tracking against in terms of social media, email marketing, blog content, and other digital channels? Look at sign-ups to your newsletter, inbound traffic from your social media channels, or click-through rates on your email promotions. Your digital marketing strategy is a crucial part of your eCommerce business and, if utilized correctly, can help engage your customers and eventually lead them to checkout.
The metrics that you track against will largely be based upon your target customer profiles. These profiles will help you understand where your customers shop, what social media they engage with, and what types of content they use to help them make a purchasing decision. If your organization does not already have these profiles in place, you can easily create one using a free tool like MakeMyPersona from HubSpot. Taking the time to segment your customer list and target different personas in a unique way leads to more personalized solutions–a crucial component of today’s customer experience.
You also want to determine the quality of leads you are receiving from the different digital channels. Maybe you have thousands of followers on Twitter, but most of those people never visit your site to make a purchase. Or maybe you received a lot of click-throughs on an email marketing campaign, but they bounced as soon as they reached your site. Tracking how consumers engage with you online is a good litmus for how engaging your brand is, and how effective your marketing strategy is at driving inbound traffic.
Review your Operational Processes:
No matter the focus or size of your business, running a review of your operational processes at least twice a year is crucial. The main objectives in this review are to identify areas for improvement, set in place standards and processes for continuous growth, and to ensure you are up to date with the latest industry standards and regulations.
When it comes to retail, logistics along the supply chain are a major piece of the eCommerce puzzle. How you manage your inventory, how you communicate with transportation to ensure timely delivery of goods, and everything in between needs to be reviewed for optimal efficiency. If the backbone of your business is not strong, none of the front-end work you do will matter. If customers aren't getting their products, or the operations behind your site are malfunctioning, your customer experience and brand loyalty will start to decline. One of the first things to evaluate mid-year are the mechanics of merchandising. For example, could the process of stocking your virtual shelves be more efficient? Are each of your teams getting the support they need to work at optimal speeds? Your eCommerce platform should automate as much of your operations as possible. We found efficiency increased after a recent update to our marketAgility platform that added merchandising automation
Shipping and returns also play a large role in your operational processes. Customers are becoming increasingly demanding when it comes to shipping speed and efficiency. While not every organization can achieve same day product delivery, pushing toward the fastest and most accurate pick, pack and ship process is an investment in customer retention and satisfaction. Communication of accurate and detailed order statuses and setting accurate expectations for the order process can also help customers feel engaged in the post-order experience as well as reduce calls to customer service. Remember the keys to positive customer experience during returns: an easily-accessed returns policy and clear terms that cover multiple situations. Consider your returns process- is your policy outlined clearly on your website? Are you including multiple ways for customers to return items (for example including return labels in packages or allowing for in store returns of items purchased online)? Employee training is also a crucial piece of this process. Because retail stores tend to have high turnover rates, employees should be refreshed on policies every few months to ensure the team is working well together.
In reviewing operations, it is important to consider the big picture and assess how all the different pieces of the business are working together. Behind an eCommerce site there is the platform, implementation team, CDN provider, warehouse management system, email service provider, ratings and reviews platform, and more. Each of these pieces needs to be recalibrated halfway through the year.
Assess Third Party Vendors and Technology:
The third-party vendors you work with are a representation of your brand to your customers. Just as your organization should prioritize compliance with industry standards, you should ensure your vendors do too. Your site implementer, warehouse management system, and other third-party service providers can all extend the capabilities of your eCommerce site, but they can also increase your risk and exposure if their processes are not properly vetted. A good rule of thumb is that whatever security and privacy standards you put in place in your organization should also be prioritized in the organizations you work with to mitigate risk.
In reviewing your vendors, it is also beneficial to include an audit of all the technologies that you are currently using. Even if you have been working with a certain software or vendor for a long time, that does not mean that something more efficient or less costly is not out there, and a mid-year health assessment is the perfect time to make sure you are utilizing your budget strategically and working with organizations that expand your capabilities instead of increasing your risk.
Ensure Compliance with Industry Standards:
With the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on May 25th, retailers are under increasing scrutiny when it comes to their privacy policies and handling of customer data. When reviewing your mid-year performance, it is important to include compliance with GDPR, particularly when it comes to your customer experience. If you are still using third-party data or tracking cookies without the proper opt-in options available, you are at risk for major fines and legal repercussions. Make achieving compliance a top priority.
Additionally, the recent Supreme Court decision on taxes will force online retailers to reevaluate their regulations and how they may or may not be taxing their customers.
Another important benchmark that is often missed by retailers is compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). WCAG is a standard for web content accessibility that makes web content more accessible to people with disabilities, including natural information such as text, images, and sounds and code or markup that defines structure, presentation, etc. WCAG is difficult to enforce, but lack of compliance can lead to significant penalties that will cost more time and resources than simply building in compliance from the start.
The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of security standards designed to ensure that all companies that accept, process, store or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment. This applies to any of your third parties or vendors that may store, process, or transmit data as well. Learn details for your vendors' compliance. For example, Virid prioritizes data security, and is PCI Level 1 Certified to ensure the data security of our clients. We have contracted a PCI Council approved security firm to run security vulnerability scans on our clients’ sites, admin tools, and even staging sites, at least once every 30 days. Data security is absolutely critical in today’s digital environment, and ensuring this level of compliance is not simply a best practice but a must for a growing eCommerce business.
Review Site Performance:
Obviously, your online site is a critical part of your eCommerce business. Performing some form of UX (User Experience) Audit is a helpful way to see what pain points your customers may be facing when they interact with your site. Slow site speeds, lack of mobile optimization, a confusing navigation- these are all seemingly small pieces of your overall eCommerce business, but they can make or break the customer experience and mean the difference between making or losing a sale.
Site performance metrics will vary based on your business, but there are a few key fundamentals that retailers should be benchmarking against. Mobile optimization is without question the most important aspect of your site performance. It is no longer optional to optimize your site for mobile. In 2018, there will be 198.8 million mobile shoppers in the US alone, and researchers predict that mobile commerce will account for more than 50% of total eCommerce sales by 2021. Your site should not only be fully responsive on mobile, but it should also be operating at the same speeds, if not faster, than your desktop site.
Conversion rate is a measure of your website’s effectiveness in persuading consumers to take a particular action, whether that is making a purchase or simply signing up for emails. The higher your conversion rate, the better your website is performing against that goal with the visitors it has. However, it's important to view conversion rate holistically. If you have a notable upward change in the volume of traffic coming to the site from a less qualified source, your conversion rate could drop, but your net revenue could actually increase. Not all traffic is created equally, so assessing conversion rate, sliced by visitor source, can help you understand where to invest more marketing dollars as well as what audiences are not being converted as effectively on your site.
Traffic is simply a measure of how many people are visiting your site and engaging with it in some way, either by clicking through to a product page or signing up for emails. It speaks to the effectiveness of your marketing strategy in drawing people to your site. Metrics like time on site and page depth are the simplest and most effective way to track how consumers are responding to the usability of your site. Are customers staying to look around and for how long? While metrics based data is key, User Experience can be subjective and the richest information often can be best gleaned from asking your customers directly. There are many user experience assessment companies that will run usability tests for you with real customers. When done well, this can yield powerful insights into your site experience and your consumers themselves.
As we enter Q3, we are faced with new challenges and opportunities for growth. Utilize this mid-year health assessment to ensure you can take advantage of those opportunities and meet those challenges head on. And be sure to reach out to our team at firstname.lastname@example.org or schedule an appointment below for more information on how Virid can help grow your eCommerce business.
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