Biggest fuck up?
For a number of months in late 2015 and early 2016, I found myself uncertain about my future, and, with hindsight, I can see that my unrealistic sense of entitlement regarding career progression gave me itchy feet. I had spent 5 good years learning my trade in Ecommerce managing a website optimisation team, and there was a sense that, surely, I’m entitled to the next step up. So I started to let blind careerism take grip and turned the job radar up to maximum; without giving the next move the proper level of thought. I was chasing the job title rather than the challenge.
So, in March 2016, I got the move I asked for, moved out of my comfort zone of managing a small part of an Ecommerce department and into the new challenge of running an entire Ecommerce operation for a UK-wide retailer.
But quickly, my lack of research into my new challenge led to the chickens coming home to roost in some style; to be tactful, this here was a business whose values & beliefs were a world away from my own. A quick chat with any recruitment agency would have warned me off, but I was too quick to take the plunge with the first job that was offered to me, and I was needing a life raft.
My life raft came in June, and would you guess how it was thrown to me? I got fired. I had to confront my manager about what I felt to be unworkable conditions, and the next day I was shown the door. Thankfully another opportunity in Ecommerce was just around the corner, but a valuable career lesson was given – if you are thinking about your next move, do your homework. Take your time, speak to people in the industry, and you’ll be better off for it.
When I was first taken away from my role in web development and into Ecommerce, the idea of A/B Testing was in its relative infancy, but there was a strong desire to try and leverage as much benefit as possible from it for our business.
Our commitment to A/B Testing, whilst commendable, was a bit too focused on volume, and this resulted in us really having no strategic view of testing. Consequently, the results we got back were a bit wishy-washy and didn’t really inspire confidence throughout the business in our efforts. There was also a focus on two separate ideas – Tests and Projects – which meant I was leading a team that was fighting a battle on two fronts and was struggling on both.
The eureka moment was stunning in its simplicity and helped to eradicate a lot of the uncertainty in our testing approach.
It was this; Test Everything. There is no requirement to have traditional ‘A/B Test Ideas’ existing in a vacuum within Ecommerce – every change you make is (or should be) designed to improve a business performance metric. If it does, you need to test & measure its effect. If you choose not to, you might have a big orange Add To Basket button, but you’ll be running blind in many other aspects of your website operation.
Don’t worry so much about your conversion rate, as crazy as it sounds. My experience of working within Ecommerce has shown that there’s too much focus on the end goal, and as such, there is a massive demand for Product improvement & A/B Testing strategy that solely delivers improvement to that single metric (or, if they are feeling saucy, Bounce Rate is thrown in as well). Whilst understandable, there’s a more effective way to look at it.
Rather than a focus on one metric, there needs to be an understanding of the myriad of steps that take place prior to even considering the checkout. At its simplest, there’s a core journey within your website that the majority of your customers will go through; if you start measuring the micro-conversions for each of these stages (including each stage of your checkout), then you can expect, if they all improve, your top-level conversion rate to naturally increase.
Also, speak to people within your business; what do they feel is most important to growing the business? Are you focusing your time on developing products to improve the online purchase process, but actually, you should be looking at getting customers into your stores? Build your website development around these events, and deliver meaningful growth.