What CEOs of eCommerce Companies are Thinking This Holiday Season?

“The reason it seems that price is all your customers care about is that you haven’t given them anything else to care about.” – Seth Godin

It’s that time of the year again. As Halloween slips by CEO’s of eCommerce and consumer internet-focused companies may be forgiven for having some scary visions of their own. There is so much at stake for these companies in the period between Thanksgiving and through till Christmas and the New Year, that some may wonder why this is called the Holiday Season. Don’t believe me- look at the numbers. The National Retail Foundation has reported that retailers could make as much as 30% of their entire annual sales in this short period. The number for online sales could rise this year to touch $117 billion, according to the NRF. Clearly, you cannot afford to have any problems slowing you (or your site) down at this time – your whole year could be a wash if something like that happens.

So what are these CEOs with scary visions thinking of at this time? Based on the conversations I have had with people like this over the years, I can narrow it down to 4 areas that seem to be the top priority.

  • Performance and Scalability:
    This is a serious issue considering the site is going to be hit more frequently and in much larger numbers at this time of the year than at any time in its lifetime before that. There is a very real impact if the site slows down, underperforms or crashes at this time. Kissmetrics has reported that each delay of 1 second in page response causes as much as a 7% reduction in conversions. The analysis is that for an ecommerce site selling $ 100,000 per day, this delay of 1 second could cost a whopping $ 2.5 million in lost sales annually – not a hit you want to take. They also report that customers have high expectations of speed, 47% of them want a web page to load in less than 2 seconds and as many as 40% of them will actually bail on the page if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.

    The CEO’s concern thus, is the site should allow for the greatly larger number of users, potentially in concentrated bursts and within a reasonably small time-window. Performance and load testing of the site and every component on it thus becomes critically important. Testing the site so it doesn’t pack up under the pressure of the sharp scaling that it will encounter at this time also becomes key.

  • Security:
    The enemy is at the gate – at least that’s what the consumers think. The highly visible coverage of credit card fraud, data loss, and identity theft has made consumers wary and this is impacting their buying behavior. A 2015 study by Bizrate Insights found that as many as 60% of consumers surveyed believed that online stores were just not doing enough to protect their card and personal information. This lack of confidence reflected in 34% of them expressing a hesitation to buy online.
    Those leading online retail companies have security front and center on their list of priorities. The cloud that hosts their site, the technologies their site is built on, the payment infrastructure, the individual components of the site, and even all the bells and whistles the site employs have all to be designed to be secure and rigorously tested to validate that they are, indeed so.
  • Usability:
    We live in an age of busy people with short attention spans. A famous book on design principles actually propagated the maxim “Don’t make me think.” This is the age of the impatient consumer and the “ease-of-use” factor of the website is an overriding concern. The Baymard Institute’s “Ecommerce Checkout Usability” survey from last year found that over 1 in 4 consumers abandoned their shopping cart without completing the order because they found the checkout process overly long or complicated. It’s not just the loss of revenue due to lost sales that motivate such sites to improve usability – there’s money to be made too. Defaqto Research has reported that 55% of the consumers in their survey wanted a better experience so much that they would be willing to pay more to get it.Taken together this represents a powerful motivator for the CEOs of these eCommerce companies to invest time, money and design effort to make their sites more intuitive, easy to navigate, and friendly. Testing of the UI, obviously plays a big role in that process.
  • Mobile:
    This is almost a foregone conclusion that your consumers are on the mobile. Statista has reported that over 75% of US internet users access the internet from their respective mobile devices. These users are spending money while online too, already about 28% of total online spending is from tablets and smartphones – projected to touch $ 200 billion in 2018. Then, there’s the consequence of not being on the mobile bandwagon. MoPowered found that 30% of all consumers abandoned their transaction if the experience was not optimized for the mobile.The challenge for the CEOs of these ecommerce and consumer internet companies is how to stay in front of this mobile game? There are some many mobile devices out there, multiple operating systems (well, at least 2), device capabilities, form-factors, and other such factors to worry about. Testing whether your site performs well across all of these options has to form a significant time of the testing strategy.

Conclusion:
These CEO’s of consumer internet and eCommerce companies obviously believe Seth Godin, that’s why they worry about the entire consumer experience on their site and the value they have to deliver. Given the importance of the holiday shopping season, it’s issues like those listed here, that could well be occupying their hearts and minds, on that quest.

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