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4 Shocking Truths about your eCommerce Site

by Justin Palmer - April 26th, 2011

#1 – Barely anyone sees your homepage

Far too many online businesses worship at the alter of the homepage. While certainly important, homepages today carry far less importance than in years past. When I review the analytics on most of the sites I work with, the vast majority of visitors never see the homepage. (When you have a moment, take a look at not only how many of your visitors never see the homepage, but also what percentage of overall pageviews your homepage represents, you’ll probably be shocked at how low it is.) This is due to a myriad of reasons, one of which is that people simply search for specific content, and Google does a pretty decent job of landing you on the specific page you’re looking for. There’s just no reason to pass through an overly generic destination like a homepage.

I believe one of the biggest sins in web design is promoting mission-critical products and promotions only on the homepage. I typically see sites where an email signup or free shipping promotion is highlighted only on the homepage. This is a tragedy, because there’s very little leverage in the homepage, compared with other, more frequently viewed pages. The time you spend redesigning and testing is much better spent on your product, category, or shopping cart pages.

#2 – Most of your Web Marketing is a Waste

In reality, most web marketing rarely pays off in the long run. Once you account for the cost of goods, the direct cost of marketing, and the cost of internal resources, you might be shocked to realize how little you profit. The point here is not to suspend your marketing, but rather to track long term results and impact.

This is a lesson we learned at C28 the hard way. For years we believed that the PPC ads for our jewelry line were performing well. The ROI was far superior to the ads that promoted our clothing category. But once we analyzed the lifetime customer value of each category, we realized that the jewelry shoppers rarely ever made subsequent purchases. Over a period of 1 to 2 years, the ads with the lower short-term ROI produced the best long term results. Don’t be overly short-sighted when tracking your marketing ROI. Shoot for acceptable short-term ROI, and exceptional long-term ROI. Also, don’t forget to count the cost of goods and the cost of internal resources in your ROI calculations.

#3 – Google Analytics is Lying

Open another browser tab, go to the e-commerce section of your analytics. What percentage of  sales come from Google? What about Facebook or your email marketing? If you’re like most online retailers,  your analytics will tell you that well over 50% of your revenue comes from the big 3: search engines, email, and facebook. But do they really?

When was the last time you discovered a new business from an email? I’ll wager to bet not recently. When did  you last use Google to search for a brand you already know and love? Probably today. The point is that the big 3 frequently get credit for sales they don’t deserve because Google analytics gives credit the source of the last click. This means that revenue generated from a person who clicked on your banner ad, visited your site, and later return via a Google search is ultimately attributed to Google.

Marketing attribution is a complication subject. While the big 3 certainly deserve credit for assisting with conversions, they certainly should not always get credit for creating demand in the first place. Google analytics is a good first step, but ultimately you need to track all the variables involved with generating a conversion. When you begin looking all of your customers’ behavior prior to a purchase, you’ll be surprised at how your marketing campaigns work together. You’ll see that a banner ad generated demand, an email created a follow up visit, and a remarketing ad finally closed the sale. When you calculate ROI, it’s important to understand that the last step doesn’t deserve all the credit.

#4 – No one cares about your design

Now let me qualify this. I’m not justifying creating intentially ugly designs, or enganging in lazy web design. I’m arguing that all the ooo-ing and awe-ing your team is doing about fonts, colors, slideshows, etc is probably overkill.

People arrive at your website with a goal. It’s not like visiting an art gallery, where people stroll and savor the beauty of the art and the skill of the artist. People will judge your site on how easily they can complete their objective, not on how your design stimulated their senses.

Can you add anything else to this list? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.


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3 Responses to “4 Shocking Truths about your eCommerce Site” by Justin Palmer

  1. Meredith Says:

    Justin, I always love your posts! I talk about what I call “secondary conversions” a lot because I think small ecomms undervalue them. (I mean Facebook likes, newsletter sign ups, Twitter follows, RSS follows, etc.) I also talk about the importance of building brand awareness a lot, because it’s another thing I think small ecomms don’t get.

    Analytics isn’t really lying, but yes, it has the last click problem. I read that they are releasing assist data on beta right now to a small group of GA users. I am hoping they release it to all users really soon because I can’t wait to talk about it more, but feel like it does little good to explain attribution management if there’s not a tool widely available to SMBs to track it.

  2. Justin Palmer Says:

    Hey Meredith, thanks for the feedback on my post! Secondary conversions are definitely something we should pay attention too.

    I’d love to see assist data in GA, that would be great!

  3. Paarami Business Solutions Says:

    Hello Justin, you are absolutely right, functionality and easy navigation is very important for any e-commerce website. But we can’t ignore soothing appeal of website. Only we need to more concentrate on functionality. Thanks !


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