Wednesday, November 20, 2019
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A few lessons from an Old Economy play

When I walked into my local grocery shop to pick up a bottle of milk, the owner of the shop was busy speaking to a customer. The moment he saw me, he dropped everything and rushed to my side.

I had been visiting this grocery for the last 10 years and knew him quite well. But at the same time I was embarrassed that he had snubbed a potential customer just to serve me. I asked him about it.

“Because you are a returning customer.” was the answer.

That made me think. If I was buying stuff for at least Dh10 a day from this shop, I would have made a total purchase of Dh36,000 over a decade.

The owner was right. A returning customer is far more valuable in the sales cycle and every time I am called in to review an e-commerce site, the first thing that I ask is if they are tracking repeat visitors in analytics.

Most companies miss this all important metric, but it is critical to use visitor custom variables to first capture if someone is a repeat purchaser and, then, via some clever server side configuration, to capture the number of purchases made.

The behaviour of repeat customers is quite different from that of first-timers. This segment usually takes lesser time to make a purchase as they are familiar with your site, but more importantly they are showing you the most desired products on your site through their purchases.

In short, repeat visitors hold the keys to the success of your e-commerce site.

When you walk into a grocery, you feel that everything is a mess in there. At the same time, when you search for bread, you can find it without difficulty and the same goes for any other grocery item. Groceries are very efficient when it comes to stocking and retrieving thousands of items in a short space.

Your e-commerce store needs to be like one — easy to navigate and find your required product with minimum hassle.

After spending a few early morning hours in the shop, my grocery store owner used to retire to his flat and then return late in the evening, just before the evening rush. He was keeping himself efficiently productive by being in the shop only during the peak hours and letting his assistant run the shop during the lean hours.

If you analyse your data, you can easily see at what hours of the day and what days of the week sales peak on your e-commerce store. Using this invaluable data, you can do day-parting for your paid campaigns and make substantial savings on your advertising budget.

While the grocery store owner uses all three metrics quite naturally, few e-commerce portals use the strategies outlined here. But I am sure things will change for the better if we try to emulate grocer.

— The writer heads WSI UAE, a digital agency.