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Your commerce platform must ‘know’ your customers, but how?



February 6, 2014

It’s the consumer, and not your marketing team, who is setting the agenda in today’s retail world. With social media channels, review sites, and discussion forums at their disposal, consumers’ opinions are displacing those of big retail, and big product brands. Now, consumers are the tastemakers and trendsetters.

Commerce Platform

Bringing traffic to your site, and converting more of that traffic into sales, is a two-fold challenge that requires a deep understanding of the consumer that can only come from hard data -- not from assumptions based on your marketing team’s understanding of what works in a bricks-and-mortar store.

At the top of the e-commerce sales funnel, prospects may bail simply because a landing page takes too long to load. The closer we get to the checkout, the more interesting the challenges become – it could be a cost issue, a brand-availability issue, a search-and-sorting issue, or an accessibility issue because of the device the consumer is using to browse your site. Driving dynamic customer experiences with solutions such as Oracle Commerce is critical.

It’s impossible to know in advance, or even at the first level of interaction, which of these issues are most important to the customer, even if the customer is well known and logged in. An effective e-commerce site must allow customers to tailor their search efforts and hone in on what’s most important to them, quickly and intuitively. The good news is, even for retailers with little background in data analysis, there are pre-built tools and platforms, such as Oracle Experience Manager, that can be customized to provide the search refinement your site needs to ensure more traffic converts to sales.

But first, you have to invest in the empirical research and data analysis that will yield a true understanding of the customer.

Take a walk in your customer’s shoes

For example, a major auto parts retailer wanted to revamp the application used at the parts counters of some 6,000 outlets. RealDecoy discovered a number of issues that head office had not factored into the function of the new app, such as the computer literacy and spelling skills of staff, and the repair shop conditions under which the app would be used. With this intelligence in hand, we were able to develop a new e-commerce app that improved staff efficiency, customer service, and order fulfillment.

In the B2B market, RealDecoy engaged with a distributor of healthcare products for hospitals and clinics. We discovered inconsistent patterns of user behavior in their interaction with the distributor’s e-commerce application. Each client location had only one account login, but the client’s users could vary between stock clerks who only scanned bar codes, and clinicians who wanted to research and cross-reference meds by name. RealDecoy improved the usability of the system by broadening the available search parameters, so that each user could access the system in the manner that suited them best.

Ask yourself these questions

If your e-commerce site is struggling with traffic, conversion, or usage issues, consider these questions before you embark on any kind of overhaul:

  • How many of your functional requirements were identified in the field, rather than at head office?
  • How sophisticated is your analysis of your site’s performance? Do you consider the impact of weather, competitor’s activities, and web analytics?
  • How are you filtering the different ways your customers are trying to speak to you? Are you screening social media and other online channels for useful data?

Before you can implement any e-commerce solution intended to provide a more targeted user experience, you must first achieve a broader understanding of who your customers are, how they want to interact, what they want, and what is driving them to jump out of your funnel before making a purchase.