The most successful web and mobile businesses deliver a superior customer experience, fail to do this and your profits will suffer. Follow these five web and mobile best practices to gain market share for your business.
One of the best ways to understand online customer expectations is to think about the equivalent metrics for a brick and mortar store or a physical business location:
· Will customers wait if a store doesn’t open when the owners say it will?
· Will customers wait in long checkout lines (or pause for extra long response times) to the point of frustration?
· What if an entire department shuts down temporarily?
Any business offering this level of service would soon lose customers and this is exactly what occurs online when web or mobile site response times and availability lag behind customer expectations. The correlation between page load times and sales conversions is solid: Make customers wait and sales will suffer. Speed things up and you will have an opportunity to grow revenue.
The most successful web and mobile businesses deliver a superior customer experience. They manage to achieve this because typically their business and IT departments have a mutual understanding of performance metrics. While they may approach things differently, they have a common language as well as shared goals and responsibilities. In addition, almost all successful web business follow five essential principles. More than just a simple to-do list, these are “best” best practices for creating a corporate culture tuned to delivering highly profitable web performance.
1. Represent the voice of the customer
Just as business managers are not focused on the technical considerations, an IT manager’s mindset may not be primarily customer or marketing focused. Therefore it’s important that the direct connection between performance and profits is made clear to all concerned. Better still, the voice of the customer should be illuminated by sharing data such as customer segmentation, user behaviour (i.e., traffic, page views, page abandonment and conversion rates), online advertising revenue, average order size and online revenue. It’s the interaction between business and IT departments that makes it possible to correlate business metrics with performance data, and to obtain a clear sense of how performance problems may impact customers.
2. Understand the impact that site design and marketing promotions have on performance
IT executives become frustrated when others in the business fail to understand technical realities. This happens when Marketing delivers projects that saddle IT with near-impossible challenges such as a new site design that significantly increases the time required to load a page. Another common woe is the unexpected launch of a promotion that drives additional traffic to the company website. Rarely is the potentially site-clogging promotion discussed in advance with IT.
A good web business structure requires an integrated business-IT approach whereby promotions and changes are properly planned from the start. Forethought will enable IT to prepare extra resources for activities such as load testing to ensure the site can function through the increased traffic. Given most web sites and applications are constantly being revised or expanded, and with traffic surges the norm, this holistic view of the performance impact should occur on a regular basis.
3. Benchmark to ensure customer expectations are being met
None of the above matters unless the company understands the expectations of current and future customers. This is where benchmarking – the measurement and tracking of web site performance statistics – is critical.
If your home page response time averages 5.2 seconds you may feel positive, especially if last year it was 7.2 seconds. However, without a point of reference it remains a subjective assessment. If your competitor’s site loads in under four seconds, you’re unlikely to continue to feel so good. Now you have context and you know exactly what the audiences served by your particular industry expect performance-wise.
The context that benchmarking provides is shown clearly in the graph below. Using data pulled from Compuware’s Gomez Benchmarks, it shows the response time standards across various industries, with average, best and worst metrics clearly detailed. Once you know how the leading companies in an industry are performing, you can identify the standards that customers have come to expect, placing you in a much better position to gauge where your organisation stands. The importance of continual benchmarking is to ensure that you always have objective comparison points, resulting in better decisions and the ability to effectively prioritise which performance areas require the most support.
4. Establish shared goals, metrics and actions
When the business/technology silos have been removed, the next step is to put the performance metrics into a plan of shared goals and actions that unite all areas of the business in a common focus – the customer and their experience
5. Aim for continuous improvement
Most web and mobile web performance management projects begin as a reactive measure. They are set up to confirm and address a suspected problem, or they begin in response to customer complaints. Along the way awareness develops which in turn spawns even greater customer knowledge and further improvements to inter-departmental communications. Performance becomes an ongoing, multi-division business priority
From there it is a small step to creating a fully optimised web business and automated performance monitoring processes. The benefit? As performance metrics improve, the customer experience gets better and better, providing the competitive differentiation that every organisation seeks. Because just as customers are aware of chronically slow or crash-prone sites, they are equally aware of the consistently stable and fast ones. This is the advanced stage of organisational performance maturity, and it’s where the “Best of the Web” companies live.
- Rafi Katanasho is the Asia Pacific Director of Application Performance Management at Compuware.