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Hey Ecommerce Merchants, What’s Your Plan for Next Year?

Congratulations on a terrific Cyber Week! It was another banner year for most ecommerce merchants. So much goes into ensuring, managing, and taking advantage of holiday traffic spikes that the natural inclination is to look at the numbers, take a victory lap, and go on vacation. However, we urge you to consider this: our most successful clients have already been planning for next year and are in the throes of finalizing their 2017 initiatives.

If you’re behind, or don’t even know where to start, here are some ideas:

Think about your traditional funnel KPIs (traffic, average order value, and conversion rate).

Planning discussions should start with the store’s key performance indicators (KPIs). These variables are a part of every conversation, and—coming off the holidays—you can probably recite them on demand.  Assuming you want to do better next year, set aside time and money for the RIGHT initiatives that increase these metrics.

Review your conversion rates at different points in the funnel.

Sometimes you have to look beneath the surface and beyond site wide conversion rate. Set up analytics to review rates in specific locations, and the data will offer insight. First, differentiate between desktop and mobile and ask yourself how the rates compare. Then, look at different points along the customer journey.  Look at email, organic search, paid search, and retargeting to see how conversion rates compare by referral channel. Look further into specific campaigns, pages, or days to determine what might have happened to affect things. How is your search conversion, cart conversion, even checkout conversion? If you want to be smart about where to focus, conversion rate comparisons can make you feel like a genius.

Take an objective look at your email strategy.

Even the savviest email marketers regularly scrutinize their campaigns.

– Are you using the right email service provider (ESP)?
– Have you tightened the messaging and triggers for your transactional emails?

Assess the headlines, frequency, styles, and content of your campaigns over the last year. Identify which efforts generated the most revenue, and fit more like them into your marketing calendar.

Take an objective look at your acquisition campaigns.

No doubt, you’ve engaged in several initiatives to increase traffic—search engine optimization (SEO), AdWords, social campaigns, affiliate marketing, and even traditional advertising.

– Are you clear on attribution and how to track?
– Which campaigns were most effective and why?
– Do you know your ROI for individual campaigns?

No two merchants are the same, but all require a mix of efforts to be successful. Like any investment, your campaigns should have some diversity. Consider that preferences and habits of your customers constantly evolve, so if one type of ad works well one year, it doesn’t mean the success continues forever. Adjust your acquisition marketing mix like you would your stock portfolio.

Don’t neglect your pricing. 

Pricing can be tricky and should be evaluated with some regularity.

– Are your customers willing to pay your price?
– Where are your prices relative to your competitors?
– What REALLY differentiates your products and justifies your price point in the marketplace?

Ask yourself these questions, then consider whether you might increase revenue (and maintain profitability) if you adjust prices or offer more promotions. Remember, online shoppers are strategic and have lots of choices. We now see a whole new set of pricing rules that merchants must accept.

Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Your ecommerce store is a fluid—often delicate–piece of technology. There will always be bugs, performance issues, content errors, and customer service problems. Resist the urge to make all things equal. There isn’t enough time or money to expect perfection. Instead, consider the impact of your moves. If your KPIs are healthy, maybe focus on some technical debt. If certain customers are experiencing an issue, understand the magnitude and impact of the issue before you throw resources at a fix. If an issue occurs sporadically and has little to no effect on revenue, you may want to focus on a new revenue-generating campaign instead. These choices can be tough, but you will be successful if you stay disciplined about making them.

Don’t get sucked into spending where you have no business doing so.

‘Tis the season–every product or service that targets merchants knows this is your budget season. They amp up their sales efforts to convince you how much you NEED their product. But there are no magic beans that grow your revenue. Be smart about your approach. Most merchants have no business being early adopters. Make sure all products and services come with a track record for success in your industry.  Also, consider your own limitations. Do you have the money or the people? Many products are terrific, but they come with a high cost for integration, or they require staff to operate.

It all comes down to a plan. Culturally, we understand that no two organizations are alike, but the common thread among our clients is that some advanced effort yields better results. For all suggestions—whether you take mine or anyone else’s—we recommend you do some cost-benefit analysis before diving into any initiative. But don’t take too long to complete—your 2017 planning is happening now.

Let us know how you do your planning by sharing thoughts with [email protected] We’re always looking for anecdotes, data, and new ideas.

 

Written by: Jon Klonsky, Principal and Founder of Something Digital – 4 minute read