Retailers can win online...inch by inch

"We’re in hell right now, gentlemen. Believe me. And, we can stay here, get the shit kicked out of us, or we can fight our way back into the light. We can climb outta hell… one inch at a time.”

With the NFL in full swing across the pond, I couldn't help but think about one of the all-time great American Football movies, Any Given Sunday, in which coach D’Amato (the legendary Al Pacino) delivers an inspirational pep talk to his team before the final big game – a great piece of rhetorical script-writing that has taken on a life of its own.

Without being too dramatic, retailers could use a Pacino-esque pep talk right now. The struggles of high-street retailers are plainly laid out in the national business press every day and felt in the impact on jobs and share prices.

But the sophisticated, mature and highly competitive UK market retailers now find themselves in means that finding growth is not as easy as it used to be. To reference another great Pacino movie, eCommerce businesses are feeling the heat. 

The explosive growth of mobile commerce, in particular smartphone sales, over the last five years, provided an engine of growth and now represents more than half of all eCommerce transactions. However, no-one knows whether there is another amazing technical innovation lying around the corner to revolutionise retail but giant leaps are few and far between. We see that with every new Apple iPhone unveiling – marginal improvements to functionality to keep Apple fans loyal but no ‘wow’ moments.

The days of soaring double-digit jumps in annual revenue for online retailers are becoming a fading memory. Both players and investors are having to adjust expectations of what growth means and the smart ones are zoning in on those areas where they can boost their bottom line – either by driving more efficiencies into their operations and processes or winning share of wallet by delivering a better shopping experience than the competition.

Customer expectations are rising all the time, so huge efforts are needed just to maintain the levels of customer loyalty and current revenue. To return to Pacino’s speech, he spits out:

“In any fight it’s the guy who’s willing to die who's gonna win that inch. And I know, if I’m gonna have any life anymore, it's because I’m still willing to fight and die for that inch, because that’s what living is, the six inches in front of your face.” 

My message to retailers is to take a realistic, practical strategic approach to the next quarter. Here are three guaranteed performance boosts taken from the hundreds of metrics IMRG tracks across over £25 billion in online sales:

  • Customers that use site search convert at a far higher rate than those that don’t. If retailers ensure they have open search bar on the homepage it is highly likely they will see sales grow.  
  • Do not put a feedback option at the check-out as this adds significant friction and leads to cart abandonment.
  • Green is the best buy button colour to nudge the consumer to purchase.

It may not be big picture stuff, but success will come from driving marginal performance improvements in eCommerce metrics across the business. Minor tweaks to these areas can be the difference between winning and losing, so it’s vital to knowledge share, upskill internal teams and work with providers that help you achieve improvements at a granular level. 

It’s time for retailers to start fighting for those inches. 

Ecommerce Expo takes place at Kensington Olympia on the 25th and 26th September 2019