Last month, Sydney once again played host to the Online Retailer Conference. An extensive list of speakers from home and abroad presented future trends in technology and customer behaviour. With our future thinking caps on we discussed a range of topics, from building a lasting brand to digital entrepreneurship and how to be more innovative.
Listening to some of the presentations, I was reminded of a talk I’d seen last year, given by Russell Davies, Director of Strategy at Government Digital Services (for a little while longer anyway) in the UK. For those that don’t what GDS is all about:
“The Government Digital Service is leading the digital transformation of government, making public services digital by default, and simpler, clearer and faster to use.”
This is no small task, but it has been met head on by the team at GDS. The work they’ve done over the past few years is often sighted as the benchmark for simplifying the complex and providing a great customer experience as a result. They’ve won awards for their work (which is open source) is currently being used by governments and organisations around the world. Some of the team members are even making their way to Australia (back home in this case) to assist the newly formed Digital Transformation Office (DTO) in a similar task.
Back to Russell’s talk: He described how having a fantastic product without any marketing has always been better than having a parity product with marketing. That problem is that it was traditionally a lot easier to spend money on marketing a sub-standard product than creating an outstanding one, but this imbalance in the division of labour can’t withstand the dynamics of our increasingly digital world, in which the product is invariably the service and the service, in turn, is the marketing. Amazon and Google are obvious examples of this. Neither company spends big on marketing or advertising. They focus on providing the best product possible and making it is simple and easy to use. Their respective market shares suggest they’re onto something.
Key lessons for every e-commerce business
One of Russell’s guiding principles is “no innovation until everything works”, and it’s this thought that I left the conference with and wanted to pass on here:
No innovation until everything works.
While there’s certainly value in considering what the future will look like, in order to be relevant in five years’ time there are some basics that we need get consistently right today. You can’t bake a cake without knowing how to make the batter and you won’t likely reach your e-commerce goals if you don’t have a steady foundation for your online retail business.
My practical takeaway for online retailers is in the form of a very lucky 13 questions:
- Does your website work as it should?
- Is it easy for customers to buy from you?
- Is your shipping and returns policy clearly visible?
- Does your site search return relevant results?
- Is the content you have on your product pages unique?
- Do you have a customised 404 error page with navigation?
- Do you have unique title and description tags on each page?
- Do you have an XML Sitemap?
- Are your Adwords campaigns as granular as they could be?
- Is your Google Shopping feed working?
- Is Google Analytics set up properly?
- Are you tracking every element that you should be tracking?
- Is your agency getting the basics right?
If you can’t say yes to all of these, you’re not alone. There are plenty big brand websites that wouldn’t get a tick in the box for all of these questions. The important thing moving forward is to prioritise these elements and guarantee that you have every aspect of your e-commerce site in order. Closely monitor channels like Adwords and Google Analytics and adjust your approach and strategy over time as necessary.
We all want to be innovative, and innovation is what drives businesses forward, but – to steal one last line from Russell – you have to ‘get the basics right before you have an away day’.
Oh, by the way, if anyone from the Online Retailer Conference is reading this, the Speakers button on your website leads to a 404 error page.
To improve your PPC and Google Shopping campaigns, contact the team at Croud Australia.