A blueprint for eCommerce success

Become a champion of simplicity

Complexity is the enemy of an effective eCommerce operation. Challenge it in every aspect from processes and tools through to reporting performance.

Search out the voice of the customer

Ensure the customer is heard directly and responded to fully. Do not accept any proxy (however 'expert') and do not confuse focus-group outputs with real customer feedback given to your business at point of purchase or departure from your online store.

Look for hypotheses not theses

Hypotheses allow an eCommerce team to fail yet succeed. If they are built from a range of customer-authored inputs they are the most potent way we know of learning more about the customer in the market or about your own customer. Challenge theses when you see them: they are built to be endorsed. Often they drive individuals to adjust their parameters in order to ensure they are proven right. They drive tests that look to confirm, rather than tests that look to understand.

Test and learn at every stage

Every interaction with customers in the market and your own customers in the digital channel can be put to the test and in testing alternatives so you can learn more. Test to prove or disprove a hypothesis, not to find out whether one or other 'expert opinion' works best.

Place function over form

Whilst a beautifully designed website is aesthetically pleasing, it isn't a guarantee of commercial success. Indeed some very beautiful websites we have seen performed very poorly. Your website has to work for customers in market and your customers – not just for your designers or user-experience specialists. If it is not converting effectively then think about the customer agenda and how to meet it rather than a re-skin or a complete re-design.

Never think you've got it right

As soon as you think you cannot learn from others, you will start to lay the foundations of under-performance. The world of eCommerce is one that is changing fast and new tools, practices and methodologies will evolve and supplant current ones. Keep a firm link to the outside world and don't rely on your agency relationships – they could well be out of date.

Stay ruthlessly commercial

Demand performance in commercial terms not technical ones. Be clear about revenue and margin and about return on investment for the channel. Link pay to commercial performance and recognise customer-centric behaviour. After all this will be the single most important channel for virtually every business over time, even if your customer chooses to transact with you in an alternative one.

At the heart of our thinking is the importance of testing to learn what works and what will be less effective in a fast-changing market. We believe that what you test should be based upon insight generated by engaging customers as they engage with you: in your sales funnel. Building a competitive edge in generating insight and testing effectiveness could create and sustain a significant competitive advantage. This is an organisation challenge – aligning people, processes and technology in pursuit of growth.

Effective leadership in business creates an organisation that stops guessing about its customers and starts learning from them.

From January 2016, we will be examining in greater depth the themes and issues which we believe are most relevant to digital strategy in 2016. The first of these articles will concern the effectiveness of social media and why revenues are consistently rising, in spite of hard evidence for return on investment.

This is the sixth extract from Leading Digital Strategy, a comprehensive book on the challenges of digital leadership, written by Professor Chris Bones and James Hammersley. Essential Retail is reflecting on the main themes from the publication, via a series of articles written by James.

Click here to read article one, 'Why are you so far behind in the digital revolution?

Click here to read article two, 'Customers are key to your growth: just ask them'

Click here to read article three, 'Make certain that your retail proposition sticks'

Click here to read article four, 'Are you wasting money on digital?'

Click here to read article five, 'Is your eCommerce team best in class?'