Is your website optimised for COVID-19-induced traffic changes?

website traffic covid-19

New Republique co-founder Nima Yassini.

Thanks to COVID-19 and the changes that have occurred with people acting exceptionally, I’ve spent the last few days in talks with clients about their web strategies.

It’d be fair to say these meetings have ranged from ‘panicky’ to ‘disaster recovery mode’.

A few things have become clear that I’d like to share.

Reactive thinking

It’s still early days so many businesses are reacting by cost-cutting, trying to save jobs. I don’t believe they are trying to maintain profits — that would be ugly — I do believe they are genuinely trying to save jobs.

However, panicked decisions mean there’s a distinct lack of strategy. There are two ways this will go for online channels: either they’ll invest heavily in their websites or they’ll pull back. I suspect most will pull back, at least at first, but I hope they will come around to seeing their websites as an asset. 

The brands I’ve seen pull back are doing so because of logistics as they are not sure if they can deliver to the last mile. To be honest, some may be better off shutting down for a while to save costs. When there’s more certainty on this front, brands will feel more confident to re-invest in their digital environment. 

Online traffic will behave differently

Depending on which industry your business is in, traffic may explode or it may drop. One of our clients is a large health insurer and their website chat function has now become a really important channel for people interact with their organisation, an alternative to having to run a large call centre or people visiting a branch. Their staff can work from home and answer customer questions.

On the other hand, we have a travel client whose traffic has understandably flatlined, so conversion rate optimisation is less effective without the volume. They’re still taking bookings, but visitors are looking for risk-free travel deals, such as fully refundable trips later this year or next year. 

And don’t think you’re immune if you’re an online-only business.

While streaming services are seeing a surge in sign-ups, everyone is hoping the network will be able to withstand the higher demand on bandwidth, which has also increased because more people are working from home.

Change what you test

For organisations that are running experiments and conversion rate optimisation tests, I advise you to refocus your testing plan on activities and channels that have the highest possible impact.

The online experience is critical. I would suggest looking at the following.

1. Investing in chat or optimising the chat function.

People have questions and companies with a massive call centre team are going to need to let them work from home. This a prime area for conversion.

2. Optimising the cart experience.

How easily can people shop and checkout? How easily can they find all the information they need? People have time to shop around now and they’re going to want to know your refund and return policy. It’s a buyer’s market.

3. Double down on your email.

Converting existing customers is going to much easier right now than introducing new customers. Using experimentation principles in EDM will be the difference between selling and not selling in this period

4. Managing expectations around delivery.

People are looking at this more closely than usual. You need to manage expectations around delivery timeframes if you know there will be delays. If you use a postal service or a courier company, you need to know what’s happening with their service.

5. Focus on average order value and not transaction rate.

Depending on what category you are on your AOV will be important. Given most people are self-isolating the need rate will drop, so focus on findings ways (via experimentation) that will increase average order. 

Whoever is now investing in optimising their web experience, whoever has their online channels performing, is going to be best placed to survive and thrive in this unprecedented environment.

Be strategic

Martin Sorrell says you can’t cut your way to success. When you’re in panic mode, you’re going to cut costs to survive, but this is not sustainable. To grow you have to plant a seed and be strategic about your resources. Any company ready to strip down bureaucracy and be agile is going to win.

What’s happening now is unprecedented because it’s affecting everyone, not just some industries.

We’re staring down the barrel of a recession and we’re months away from any sign of relief.

Now is the time to be strategic and get your online channels in order. Is your website ready?

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