Michal Harel
Michal Harel 6 June 2018

Hey, e-commerce vendors: some words of caution before you redesign your website

It seems every other month we hear of another website stepping up its game through a massive, million-dollar personalization initiative.

While you may not get a second chance at a first impression, in the world of e-commerce, a redesign is an opportunity to improve the way in which visitors engage with your website. For many companies, the fresh feeling that follows a redesign can help alter the perception people have of a brand. A new sleek and savvy design, intuitive and easy-to-use, can revitalize a previously staid digital experience. Before we get carried away, however, I’d like to issue a few words of caution and provide some advice.

When a company concludes that commissioning a redesign is the best approach to its website’s issues, it should be the result of careful consideration. In order to maximize the potential benefits, businesses should do their due diligence and conduct all necessary research beforehand.

To solve your current issues, you first need to understand what’s causing them. The best way to achieve this is to analyze the customer experience and understand how visitors interact with your website. It can help you answer difficult questions, such as: What do visitors see when using the site? How are they using it? Are there areas that cause confusion? If so, what pathways are taking them there?

The use of in-depth analytics allows businesses to access a more precise portrait of the customer experience. A business can’t evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of its website without understanding the customer journey. And it can’t begin to know where the problems lie without first analyzing how its site is used. To make the best decisions, companies need the most complete data.

An updated, modernized website can prove to be a missed opportunity if, for the customer, the experience remains fundamentally the same. By tackling questions such as the above, businesses can ensure that they get their redesign right.

When businesses have access to the tools to analyze and evaluate customer behavior across their websites, it becomes easier for them to implement changes in their redesign that improve and enhance the online experience they offer.

A prime example of the influence of analytics tools is the deeper understanding of the function of the homepage – of which there are several varieties, serving different purposes. Some are purely navigational, others educational, while there are those that provide discovery and brand awareness. In terms of a redesign, companies should have a clear idea as to what purpose their homepage will serve. It’s important to define where on the spectrum of navigation versus content the homepage will reside.

As this spectrum is highly fluid, brands should ensure that they are well versed in the ways in which their websites’ usage can fluctuate across different devices, marketing channels and even whether a customer is logged in or out upon arrival.

In-page paths and visitor behavior patterns

To illustrate the importance of the homepage, one of Clicktale’s clients committed significant investment into its redesign. The brand decided to make the move from a navigation-based page to a content-led approach. Upon completion, results struggled to improve, and they weren’t reaping the benefits of the redesign. Our analysis found that, for their customers, the homepage was still almost exclusively being used for navigational purposes. In fact, only a handful of customers were bothering to scroll down below the fold – and those who went down to the footer did so in search of a specific link, buried at the bottom of the page.

Once we’d analyzed customer behavior and identified what it was visitors were looking for, we presented our client with a solution: simplification. We reduced the size of the homepage (eliminating the need to scroll) and concentrated the above-the-fold content on two key themes. This resulted in visitors engaging with the content on the homepage for longer periods of time, transforming a previously static navigational page to one that encouraged customer engagement.

The deep-path analysis of the site also brought to our attention that visitors using in-page content often did so after opening the mega-navigation tab. This meant that the content was a secondary choice, masking poor navigation.

It’s highly likely that, without the use of analytics tools, such as the sequence of in-page interactions, this would have continued to present as high content engagement, disguising the design flaw causing customer frustration.

The key to personalization

When it comes to a redesign project, customer recommendations and catered personalization can help brands make a strong start. But, as with most marketing technology solutions available to e-commerce sites, they’re of little use if you don’t fully understand how to implement them. A website redesign is a bold move – one that possesses the potential to revitalize tired branding and improve site functionality – but to ensure businesses reap the maximum reward for the investment, it’s critical they first understand visitor behavior and the customer experience. To be able to best serve visitors (and potential customers) it’s necessary to know where in the sales process they are – whether they’re in the mood to browse or to buy.

Those who arrive with the intention of browsing are unlikely to want to encounter targeted product recommendations, preferring instead to browse a variety of categories and merchandise. Meanwhile, those who have arrived to shop a specific product may appreciate similar recommendations.

The importance to businesses in being able to measure the customer journey – to map the mindset of a site’s visitors and conclude the number of positive and negative experiences – cannot be overstated. The use of advanced psychological modeling and observation technology enables brands to quantify the customer experience at multiple touch points. This provides brands with invaluable insight and intelligent, actionable data on the customer experience.

The trend is for brands to make shopping a more personalized and tailored experience, supplanting the previous one-size-fits-all model. To provide the best customer experience, and to increase conversion and retention rates, businesses need to analyze and understand all relevant aspects of the customer journey. By digging deeper into the way visitors use your website, it’s easier to provide potential customers with more of what they want, and less of what they don’t.

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