I do a guest lecture each semester at the University of Texas and this time I was asked a great question by one of the students. She asked “What is the biggest mistake you see with eCommerce companies?” I started to think through (and ramble to the class about) the different types of problems I’ve seen and initially mentioned basic usability mistakes that prevent users from completing key flows (e.g., checkout, etc.) I then talked about companies not properly using any type of web analytics (e.g., Google Analytics, Omniture, etc.) to gather real data on how users are using the site. That one is definitely low hanging fruit that provides tremendous value. I also mentioned that the order management and fulfillment processes create an incredible operational challenge (and increased costs) for many organizations.
Ultimately though, I landed on a lack of focus from a product management standpoint to identify and prioritize the best initiatives to truly improve site performance. I believe this is the biggest mistake or problem because every eCommerce site has holes and the continual need to improve, so a lack of focus will cause you to lose ground over time instead of plug whatever hole you might have.
So often, eCommerce projects are pushed as someone’s pet project or done to keep up with a cool new fad – without proper analysis to determine if the implementation of that feature will actually contribute to increased sales. I also see a lot of companies operating without a clear roadmap of where they are trying to take their eCommerce over the next 1-2 years.
It is critical to create a list of possible projects you could undertake and then do some basic analysis to determine the relative cost of each of them and the relative business value you expect. From that you’ll have a prioritized list and can begin executing.