From retailers to gaming companies, travel firms to banks, online failure is now headline news. Whatever the cause, from the repeated outages at RBS that left customers high and dry to the 8.1% drop in sales attributed to the new Marks & Spencer website, a bad online experience affects not just individual customers but brand reputation and shareholder value.
So why are companies taking such huge risks with current ecommerce re-platforming activities? When companies have spent years honing the existing site, improving content and journeys to optimize every aspect of the customer experience, it makes no sense to risk turning on a new site without testing any aspect of the user experience at all.
As Nick Keating, VP EMEA, Maxymiser explains, when it comes to re-platforming, risk mitigation is key – and that means measuring, testing and optimizing as much as possible before, not just after, the event.
When Marks & Spencer (M&S) announced that the 8.1% drop in sales and resulting share price dip was due to the launch of its new website, Ecommerce Directors and UX teams across the world took a collective deep breath. But M&S is far from alone. The catalogue of disasters – or near disasters – that litters recent website development history makes sorry reading.
But how did this situation even arise? A website increasingly underpins every aspect of the business and companies in every market are spending millions on capturing customer data in order to create that perfect, personal and relevant customer experience. It makes no sense to launch a new experience without understanding how it will impact the end user; or invest heavily in a new online platform and fail to include the learnings from the last platform.
Optimization has become a strategic component of incremental website development activity over the last few years, with companies continually using A/B and multivariate testing to check the response to new content, calls to action, even key business strategies. Waiting until an entirely new checkout process has been designed leaves a company with few options if the worst happens and customers give a wholehearted thumbs down. It is so much more effective to apply the principles of website optimization that have become standard in recent years and test each aspect of that process incrementally.
Of course, many developers argue that it is impossible to test a new site when there is no traffic. True. But, it is more than possible to test aspects of the new content, processes and journeys on the existing site.
Even if there are some aspects of the new design that cannot be tested on the old site, organizations need to be ready to test the new experience as soon as possible. This will identify problems fast and enable proactive remedial action, rather than ill-targeted fire fighting.
Optimization is not just about looking for a sales uplift – it is about mitigating risk and avoiding disaster. Building in testing and optimization as part of the process radically reduces the risk associated with major website change and redevelopment. When a company will not so much as change a call to action button without testing it first, how on earth can any Ecommerce Director sign off an entire untested website? Fingers crossed anyone?