By Jim Clear, Director, Entropy Commerce
In the midst of the “golden quarter” and with Black Friday getting closer, planning for next year may seem far away. However, 2024 is somehow only two months away (how did that happen, I hear you ask?)
And although all eyes will of course be on maximising sales throughout this crucial period, starting to consider how to further build on strong foundations for 2024, ahead of a likely new planning cycle – while also pulling in fresh, key learnings from Christmas trading – will help ensure that your business is keeping up with change and customer expectations.
In particular, an ecommerce audit can help ensure that all potential initiatives can be built into and budgeted for the next cycle and roadmap. In the increasingly tough ecommerce environment, an audit can help identify the key issues and opportunities for your business. Having a site that is converting well will also make marketing spend more efficient.
How an ecommerce audit can help
Every business is of course unique, but a comprehensive ecommerce audit will usually help with these key factors
- Ability to adapt to evolving consumer trends and behaviours
The world of ecommerce continues to rapidly evolve, as does the way in which we shop. Many UX features are now expected by consumers and one way in which an audit can help is to ensure that you aren’t losing traffic because your on-site experiences are misaligned with consumer expectation. Furthermore, if looking at all ecommerce channels rather than just DTC – have consumer habits changed? Are more people buying your products through marketplaces now, and if so, an audit may help to understand why that might that be.
- Improved website performance
An ecommerce audit will look at site performance across the entire customer journey from pinpointing areas that are affecting your site load speed, such as injection of third-party scripts, all the way through to the checkout experience in order to help improve conversion rates.
- Enhanced security and data protection
With new laws recently introduced in Europe, and many sites still borderline compliant in cookie policies relating to GDPR, the number and value of fines are increasing and it’s not just big companies that are being affected. Amongst other security watchouts, an ecommerce audit will help ensure that your customer data is adequately protected and you’re not falling foul of new data policies.
- Improved inventory management
Key to a seamless ecommerce set up is ensuring a quick turnaround from in-stock items in a warehouse to on-site and ready for customers to order. AI is playing a large part in this, alongside automations to help with back-in-stock processes and demand planning. Audits can highlight where you can make savings across the back end too.
- An optimised SEO and content strategy
An audit can also highlight where there may be gains from technical SEO and where quick wins can be made regarding content and corresponding site structure.
- Increased marketing efficiency
Alongside on-site experience, the customer journey (particularly in relation to digital advertising) from media to purchase is key in advertising efficacy. Excellent execution and perfect placement will only convert if the on-site experience allows for the best next step – whether that’s nurturing via landing pages or ease of a direct purchase.
- Scalability and growth opportunities
Audits will also highlight areas for future investment, using prioritisation matrices aligned with your P&L to help create meaningful roadmaps.
3 key tips for an ecommerce audit
- Be inclusive
Successful ecommerce audits look beyond the ecommerce, digital and marketing teams to encompass all relevant areas of your business – including commercial, IT, customer services marketing, logistics and merchandising.
Understanding any existing challenges or opportunities outside the ecommerce day to day is crucial for a holistic understanding of where you are now – and where you want to get to…
- Swim, don’t drown
Data, data, data. When embarking on an ecommerce audit, it can be tempting to think that you need to utilise all available data, and only then will you find that golden nugget, that needle in the haystack.
Instead, we always advocate taking a step back and being extremely clear about what questions you are looking to answer and/or which problems you’re looking to solve. Investing the time, effort and brain power up front can save a lot of time (and frustration!) down the line.
- Be super clear with your objectives
Although your research may slightly shift your overall scope, never lose sight of what you’re looking to learn (and then act on) with your ecommerce audit.
In particular, make sure that your audit objectives are agreed with all key stakeholders at the start of the journey – and include check-in updates where appropriate too. Buy-in here usually leads to a receptive audience rather than nasty surprises or awkward questions down the line.
What should a basic audit include?
All ecommerce audits are bespoke, tailored to a company’s wants and needs and whether they operate across multiple ecommerce channels, or are focused solely on DTC improvements; whether there is a specific pain-point or area requiring attention, or a full-spectrum audit required.
For DTC audits, the below areas are a good place to start
- Technology: ecommerce platform, CMS, CRM, tech stack, PIM, integrators
- Front-End – UX, merchandising, site structure, accessibility, SEO
- Back-End processes – Returns, demand planning, payment partners etc.
- Marketing – acquisition and retention (CRM, LTV) internationalisation and localisation
- On-site features and CX – up-sell, cross-sell, personalisation etc.
- Checkout – flows and process, localisation, accounts
- Analytics – tag management, tracking, quality, accuracy, and reporting of data.
- Customer acquisition – internationalisation / localisation, marketing technologies, effectiveness of individual channels, use of marketing budget etc.
- 3P solutions, apps & partners – across e.g., analytics, loyalty, MgM etc.
- Competitor assessment
For wider ecommerce audits, amongst other areas it is worth looking at the below as a starting point:
- Channel strategy – marketplace vs DTC
- Pricing and promotion strategy
- Best practice Digital shelf
- Technology and 3P solutions
To conclude, ecommerce audits can form a key part of the planning process for most retailers, over annual plans, or something more long-term.
Being clear about what you are examining (and why) plus gaining buy-in from key stakeholders are key to success.
Plus, as such audits can be time consuming it’s always worth considering outside help too, where you will often also get the benefit of previous experience which can help with factors such as benchmarking and external validation.
Entropy Group is a hybrid business consultancy and agency specialising in ecommerce and digital media. Our client side, agency and data science experts work in partnership with digital commerce focussed brands to accelerate delivery against their organisations’ KPIs.