With an increasing proportion of retail purchases now being made online, shoppers have high expectations when it comes to the experience they will receive. Sites need to be well designed, intuitive to navigate and provide all the product details that visitors will expect.

Well-designed e-commerce websites also generate a lot of valuable data about customers. The way they navigate the site and the areas in which they spend the most time can reveal a lot about their needs and buying intentions.

Understanding data for better business decisions

For retailers, the metrics generated by site visitors can be used to fine tune everything from the items stocked to pricing and marketing. Rather than presenting a single view for all visitors, content and presentation can be tailored to better match the needs of each individual customer. Indeed, research conducted by Salesforce found 97% of marketers experienced an increase in business outcomes as a result of personalisation[1].

Metrics are also important for guiding any changes to site design, as well as more strategic decisions including order forecasting and accurate order estimation. This is particularly powerful when the online store has been integrated with a retailer’s existing ERP platform.

Such integration also ensures that customer data is readily accessible and available to the variety of tools that can generate actionable insights. These tools can help to predict future orders and ensure that stock levels can be closely matched to anticipated customer demand.

Other data can include factors such as traffic levels, sales volumes and sales by product, abandoned cart metrics, and search keywords. The retailer can also gain insight into where traffic is coming from and how many visitors are actually converting into paying customers.

Data can also be gathered that shows how customers interact with the retailer on social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. This can provide visibility of metrics such as click-through rates and levels of engagement.

Achieiving a holistic view

With customer data coming from a diverse range of sources, the retailer’s goal then becomes combining it to achieve an overall view of the customer and their interactions. This view includes data sourced from the ERP platform, the webstore itself, and analytics data captured from other sources.

It’s common practice for retailers to duplicate the data found in their ERP platform to be utilised for their online store. There are plenty of downsides here as not only does it mean your teams have to edit two sources of information whenever there’s a stock change or product update, it means you no longer have a single source of truth. ERP-integrated e-commerce is a simple solution to that problem.

The same holds true when using analytics tools to gain insights. Those tools should work with a single copy of the data held centrally. This will ensure they are always working with the most up-to-date data and will therefore return accurate results.

Delivering key business benefits

Putting data to work in this way can deliver some significant benefits for online retailers. This understanding can guide future investments and changes and have a direct positive impact on the bottom line.

One of the biggest benefits that can be achieved is having an up-to-date understanding of customers. By knowing how they have found a retailer’s website and where on the site they spend their time, retailers can better tailor and enhance the online experience.

This, in turn, makes it easier to establish a lasting relationship with customers that will encourage them to return and make future purchases. It also increases the chances that customers will share details of their positive experience on social media.

How to use customer data responsibly

Data can also help a retailer to gain a clearer idea of when and why visitors to their e-commerce website are converting into paying customers. The retailer can gain visibility of how they navigate the site, which resources they consult, and at what point they actually place an order. This will allow more strategic decisions on what pages need optimising for better conversion, and establish the best practices that can guide the rest of the webshop.

These insights can be used to fine tune everything from site design to order placement and payment processes. The efficiency of each can have a significant impact on order volumes and the likelihood of repeat sales in the future.

It’s clear that having access to accurate data can help to significantly improve the e-commerce experience for all customers. By taking the time to gather all relevant data and use suitable tools for analysis, retailers can be much better positioned to deliver exactly what customers are seeking.

Ruben Mink is CEO EMEA and APAC at Sana Commerce.

[1] https://www.salesforce.com/content/dam/web/en_us/www/documents/reports/researchscape-evergage-2020-trends-in-personalization-report.pdf