Some Ecommerce Channels Aren’t Meant to Close Sales

Imagine the following scenario:

Your company launches a new line of products, you send all of your customers an email, and you ask them to check it out.

One of your customers – let’s call her Alex – is on the bus, on her way to work, as she receives and opens the email. She clicks on the great call to action that you placed in the email and lands on the mobile version of your website. After browsing through the products, she finds one she’d like to purchase, and adds it to her cart.

Since she doesn’t want to make a rash decision, she puts her phone back into her pocket, and gets on with her day.

After she gets home at night, she logs on to your main website – this time from the comfort of her own couch – and browses through your products, adds a few more items to her cart, and finally purchases. She’s happy with her purchase and can’t wait to receive the products she bought.

In this scenario, a few things would happen to the KPIs of most e-commerce companies:

  • The main website’s conversion rate would look better during the day of the campaign, since some customers like Alex logged on to it directly to purchase.
  • The conversion would be attributed to the “direct” (also known as organic) channel, since that’s the last channel the customer came in from.
  • The conversion rate of the mobile website wouldn’t increase as much as that of the main website because, while the visit was driven by an email on the mobile web, Alex didn’t purchase a product on it.

All of those metrics, as great as they are, give you a view of pieces of the fairly complex purchasing process of your customers. You should be striving for a more holistic view in which you understand what you’re optimizing for, track across all channels, and define the purpose of each channel (in the purchasing cycle) in order to maximize your marketing and development efforts.

the role of the assist in ecommerce

A holistic view of customers’ purchasing cycle.

Understand What You’re Optimizing For

As marketers, our mindset is to optimize for conversion. That’s the one metric that matters to us every day within each channel. Mobile marketers look at their conversion rates, and web marketers look at theirs.

In fact, if a marketer owned the mobile web channel, they would want Alex to purchase right away when she was on the bus, because that’s the metric they’re trying to move.

Although Alex never made a purchase on mobile web, she still ultimately made a purchase, added other items to her cart, and spent more time experiencing your brand through multiple channels, which is better for the overall business.

Although there’s nothing wrong with making sure the conversion experience is optimized within one channel, not every channel is meant to be a closer. A customer’s purchasing journey is beyond just one channel, and in order to truly optimize the process, a holistic view is needed, as some channels are meant to only assist in the conversion process.

Teams need to come together to track the right things across all channels, and understand the conversion better.

Track across Channels and Platforms

In order to understand the purchasing process of your customers, you should be looking at their behavior across multiple channels. It’s paramount to track all touch-points with your customers using tools like Google Analytics, KISSmetrics, and the like.

You should always remember that each touch-point is in a different context for the customer, both in terms of their lifecycle with your brand (first time purchaser, loyal customer, etc.) and their intentions (opening up an email on the bus to see what’s going on, looking for inspiration on an app while walking to work, etc.).

Here are some tips to help you with tracking across all channels and platforms:

Use One Account for All Tracking

If you don’t have the manpower to build your own analytics tools (let’s face it, you’re a startup and you probably don’t), then you have to take advantage of the tools that already exist. For example, in Google Analytics, you can use one profile for your website and different views for your subdomains to take advantage of the Assisted Conversion section of the tool. (Read more here.)

Use Concise and Structured Language.

For tracking events, use concise and structured language. For example, “add to cart” should be the same across each platform and channel. This is especially important if you have a mobile website that has a different codebase.

Define the Purpose of Each Channel

On the aggregate, each channel might have a different role in the purchasing process. It’s crucial to understand the purpose of each channel and define the right KPIs in your organization.

In order to evaluate if a channel is an assist channel, you can check if its percentage of assisted conversions is more than 30-40% of total conversions (assisted + unassisted). It’s a great indicator of whether a channel is meant to be less of a closer, and more of an assister.

For example, at Frank & Oak, we’ve seen that some of our channels, such as mobile web, are great assist channels (high percentage of assisted conversions). Mobile web is the first destination from our email marketing efforts, and customers use the platform to browse products they will purchase later.

If you find that some of your channels are assist channels like ours, here are a few KPIs that are useful to track for assist channels:

ŸNumber of Assisted Conversions + Number of Unassisted Conversions – This is the total number of conversions a channel has assisted in, combined with normal conversions. It’s a high-level metric that will help you track the performance of the channel over time.

ŸNumber of Assisted Conversions – This is the number of conversions a channel has assisted in. It’s a good metric to track as you experiment with providing different information to your customers and running different campaigns.

ŸAdd-to-Cart Rate – If you remember our scenario, Alex added to her cart on one channel and finished her purchase on another. The add-to-cart rate usually is slightly higher on an assist channel, and you should attempt to optimize that experience as much as possible. This metric will help you track and measure your progress.

Closing Remarks

With a little extra discipline and teamwork, you can come together (as web marketers, mobile marketers, email marketers, etc.) to better understand the multi-channel customers who so graciously purchase from your stores every day, and optimize their experience.

Remember:

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” ~ Aristotle

About the author

Nima Gardideh is the Mobile Product Manager at Frank & Oak, a menswear retailer. He also blogs about mobile, product management, and general e-commerce on his blog here.

  1. Arun Sivashankaran Mar 11, 2014 at 10:51 am

    Great post – thanks for sharing. I think in some ways the tools that we have force us into a somewhat rigid and linear view of a funnel, but in reality it can often be more fluid and cyclical as you point out.

  2. I would argue if it does not help you close a sale is it worth doing?

  3. “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” ~ Aristotle
    Some Ecommerce Channels and the real sales should progress together.

  4. Understanding your customer funnel and channels is super important. We always focus on selling to our customers when they are ready to buy NOT when we are ready to sell. But we still like to understand how and when they get to our sites.

  5. Good article! Any thoughts on companies who change prices based on device? This happened to me on the sears website going from my iPad to the computer. And each time I added it to the cart, the price kept changing.

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