The holiday rush is on for ecommerce companies, and it is vital that organizations don’t act on just hunches when developing their web strategies for the upcoming shopping season. Having the right data can go a long way in informing your decisions to ensure you balance your priorities in the best way possible. There’s a great deal to consider when planning for the holidays, but looking at these three core site metrics can help you identify the most urgent areas where your site needs work:
1. Site load time
A Radware study found users will frequently leave websites if the sites take longer than three seconds to load. Many experts throw out two seconds as a solid goal for web load times, and there is a general consensus in the industry that organizations shouldn’t try to hit just a 2- or 3-second benchmark, but instead get the site to load as quickly as possible. Faster load times tend to be tied to better customer experiences.
All of this is fairly standard knowledge, but there are a few unique elements of the holiday season that demand you take a closer look at your site load times. These issues are:
- Geographical diversity: Physical distance introduces latency as data moves from the facility where it is housed out to your end users. The holidays create a situation where many customers will purchase for others. This can mean that friends and family living far away from your usual customer bases may use your site to buy gifts for people who shop with your regularly. This can be problematic if most of your network resources are focused on getting data to areas where you have especially dense groups of customers. Be sure to consider the wider range of people who may visit your site during the holidays.
- Usage spikes: Flash sales, special events and similar promotions can all lead to huge usage spikes in the holidays. Ensure your site is able to withstand these extremes without causing any problems for end users. Stress testing your site as part of your load time evaluation can help you anticipate any problems before they strike.
Ensuring a fast, consistent site load time is not only a basic ecommerce principle, but it is also a vital consideration heading into the holiday season.
2. User devices
What percentage of your site traffic comes from mobile devices versus traditional personal computers? Perhaps more importantly, how does that percentage shift when it comes to purchases, not just browsing? Sites inevitably perform a bit differently on various devices, even when responsive design is in use. Understanding how to prioritize your design and technological decisions heading into the holidays is vital and understanding exactly how people access your web experiences is critical along the way.
A few particularly important issues to keep in mind include:
- Are people browsing on mobile and buying elsewhere? If so, where are they going? Site usage data can help you figure out if they are leaving your site to purchase from a third party that also sells your products, going to a brick-and-mortar store or switching devices because they prefer to handle ordering on a specific interface type. Analyzing the devices different user groups shop with can help you not only fine-tune your site performance, but also develop marketing, referral partnerships and content strategies tailored to the specific shopping habits of the people accessing your site.
- Are any operating systems dominant? This delves a bit beyond the device itself, but understanding the percentage of users accessing your site from Windows, iOS and Android can help you identify how to prioritize site or app upgrades. You may also be able to pin down any anomalies, such as a drop in users on one OS after you made an update, to identify a situation where a poor technical rollout in the past may impact customer experiences now.
In most cases, ecommerce companies will have enough users leveraging different devices that they’ll need to make flexibility a priority. That said, understanding the nuances of your audience will help you prioritize different options leading into the holidays.
3. How much time visitors spend on your site
Do the shoppers coming to your site tend to show up and leave fairly quickly, or are they more likely to spend a while browsing and consuming content before leaving? Tracking these metrics isn’t an exercise in just marketing – though this practice can reveal how people gravitate toward different types of content. Analyzing the amount of time shoppers spend on the site and what they do once they are there, can pay off in diverse ways, including:
- Content effectiveness: Gathering analytics data on how much time people spend on different parts of your site can reveal precisely how much time is spent on every page, giving you visibility into which parts of the site are capable of holding customer attention. This can help you see which parts of your site are particularly attractive to customers and identify if any aspects of the experience frequently turning them away.
- Browsing preferences: Understanding if shoppers like to casually browse your site or tend to look for something specific and then move on can help you identify where and how to use promotions. If you have a browsing-heavy audience, you may scatter promotions throughout the site to free up real estate above the fold on your home page. If people tend to arrive, go where the product they’re shopping for is, purchase and leave, you may need to centralize promotional materials.
Using analytics to get ahead
These are just three types of data you can gather to gain insights into how customers use your site on a day-to-day basis. You can also compare this information with statistics from previous years and holidays to anticipate how this seasonal shopping rush will impact your site. All told, visibility is the key here. Understanding how people interact with your site can help you make better decisions when adjusting your strategies for the holidays, and proper site analysis can give you the details you need.