Lost sales – not anymore

Date: 1st May 2009
Author: Deri Jones

It sounds like it should be the first metric we all want from our website – what’s the money value of Lost Sales due to problems on the site this month? And how do we fix them, and not lose the same again next month?

I’m talking about problems in the final delivery – the website platform itself – where we’ve brought buyers to the site and then let them down through any number of root causes: sporadic technology glitches, treacly slow experience for maybe 10% of users, code upgrades that killed functionality for a few precious hours and so on.

Taking the old management adage ‘if you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it’- I’ve just seen how one marketer helped their London HQed retailer do just that – and show the ROI of a bite-sized project within 8 weeks.

‘Not my department, not my problem’ a marketer may say when the word technology comes up.

But these issues hit the company bottom line, and do affect brand and likelihood of repeat visits, and do make it hard to work out campaign returns – maybe high drop-out was the result of a treacly slow site that week.

Marketing success inevitably causes traffic peaks, and every site has it’s capacity limits – 10% extra visitors per minute at peak, can translate to maybe 30% more errors, and/or be 30% slower on the major shopping journeys.

Having finished just this process with a major retail site this quarter – the resounding praise the team are getting internally tells me that the process we went through with them was a first, and is giving them an edge they didn’t have before.

And it wasn’t hard or expensive to do.

We had already put in place 24/7 website monitoring of the core Dynamic User Journeys – multi-page routes where our electronic ‘mystery shopper’ would visit the site every 5 minutes and perform the money_making tasks of:

  • CheckOut
  • Add to Basket- via navigation
  • Add to Basket – via search

With the help of a little cleverness in our web monitoring engine, it was able to plot the Lost Sales each day.

Bob’s your uncle – real-time indication of the lost online sales due to web site overload, technical hitches, planned maintenance etc.

Suddenly, those graphs became hot news – several of the commercial managers requested portal-logins so they could see for themselves. “This is what web monitoring should be about,” commented one “with all the data feeds we get and graphs that I’ve always ignored… at last something that makes business sense…journeys we relate to”

Having those graphs with Money (£) as the Y-axis, made it really easy at the monthly meeting between the business and tech teams; all minds focused on the bigger losses.

And of course, the ongoing graphs gave the tech teams quick feedback, as or whether the problem was resolved.

All in all, a nice ROI story of website availability metrics that makes sense even (or especially) in a credit crunch year.

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