In our fast-moving digital world, even the most successful enterprises have difficulty assessing new ideas.
Here’s a case in point. Back in 2012, a Microsoft employee working on Bing came up with an idea to change how the search engine displayed advertisement headlines. The idea wouldn’t require a huge amount of effort – no more than a couple of days of an engineer’s time.
But the volume of other new ideas that were filtering in at the time saw the proposal being shelved for over six months until an engineer, who recognized that the cost of writing the code for it would be minimal, launched a simple online controlled experiment to assess its impact.
Within a few short hours, the new variation of the headline was producing abnormally high revenue, even triggering a “too good to be true” bug alert. That one small tweak had increased revenue by a staggering 12%—which on an annual basis would come to more than $100 million in the US alone—without negatively impacting key user-experience metrics. It was the best revenue-generating idea in Bing’s history, but its value was underappreciated until the test was executed.
This example illustrates the value of adopting an “experiment with everything” approach.
In this article, we’ll consider how smaller ecommerce players – for example, those who use BigCommerce and Shopify – can inject some experimentation and agility into their business models without introducing unwelcome business risks (such as data loss and related downtime.)
Leveling the ecommerce playing field
The world of ecommerce is renowned for being a pond filled with big fish. When it comes to online sales, Amazon leads the pack, and it’s estimated that it will account for nearly 40% of the U.S. ecommerce market this year. Some 31% of the market will be shared by the next 14 biggest online stores (such as Walmart, Apple, and eBay). Just 29.5% will go to other smaller retailers.
Deep pockets to fund extensive R&D efforts and departments filled with the smartest tech gurus make it relatively easy for ecommerce giants to innovate, iterate, and refine their product and service offerings and gain an edge over their closest competition. For example, Walmart has invested billions of dollars over the years, including steps to revamp its ecommerce and IT departments to rejuvenate online sales.
Entrepreneurship is no walk in the park for any organization, and smaller ecommerce organizations are no exception. From product development to theme code, ecommerce entrepreneurs wear a lot of hats.
It’s often difficult to find the time and resources to focus on product innovation and website enhancements, especially when the answers aren’t obvious, people have conflicting opinions, and budgets are tight.
Risk aversion is another common barrier to experimentation in this marketplace. The prospect of losing product catalogs or store theme data is the stuff nightmares are made of for most small ecommerce shop owners. Even a minor data loss incident can lead to costly downtime. In today’s competitive market, customers won’t hesitate to click on your competitor if your site isn’t working as it should. Those lost sales (and customers!) are potentially gone for good.
The good news is that there’s a simple solution that allows you to stick your neck out, experiment, and even bend the rules while still protecting your ecommerce store from the risk of catastrophic data loss and downtime.
Enter ecommerce backups.
Ecommerce backups: more than insurance
SaaS backup and recovery applications offer more benefits than simply “insurance” against downtime caused by data loss. They also set the stage for greater levels of experimentation and flexibility, as you can always “undo” a mistake. With easily accessible backups and effortless restores, a reliable backup unlocks your potential for experimentation, growth, reflection, and flexibility.
Let’s explore some of these key experiments and how they can help you grow your ecommerce business.
1. Explore the art of the possible – without the risk
Have you ever wanted to make a change to a product description, only to abandon the idea because it’s “too risky?” Well, a great backup solution eliminates that risk. Like an “undo” button, reliable SaaS backups allow entrepreneurs to experiment and reverse mistakes.
With a good backup solution in place, you have the freedom to experiment with SEO keywords within your product descriptions. These can have a huge impact on how your pages show up in popular browsers’ search results. Or you can try injecting a little more life into your product descriptions by getting creative with your tone of voice or using more emotive language.
Product descriptions are among the most important aspects of your online shop when it comes to conversion. Compelling copy can make the difference between conversion and cart abandonment. However, it can be hard to write and your first attempts might not always hit the mark. Like most disciplines, practice makes perfect.
But if the new variants of your product descriptions don’t work out so great, you can quickly revert back to an old version of your store that was doing fine. But imagine if that product now begins to fly off your (digital) shelves. Without rapid and frequent experimentation, how could you have known you were sitting on a gold mine that just needed a few tweaks?
Backups give you the freedom to explore the art of the possible, update your theme, perform A/B testing, change product images and descriptions, play with the navigation, add a new banner, start a promo – the sky’s the limit – all with the ability to quickly revert back to the pre-test site in minutes.
2. Get the smartest people on board safely
As any experienced manager will tell you, the more cooks there are in the kitchen, the higher the chance the soup will be spoiled. Basically, the more people you include in a project, the more opportunities for mistakes (Approximately 90% of data loss incidents can be chalked up to “the human factor.”)
A good backup solution allows you to accelerate your onboarding process securely and diversify your talent pool as your store is always covered by a backup. Today, you can “go global” with your digital talent search. Many entrepreneurs regularly seek out ad hoc support from foreign candidates via platforms such as Toptal, Fiverr, Upwork, and others. Given that the U.S. dollar is the leading form of currency globally, international contractors and freelancers will often be prepared to accept lower wages in U.S. dollars because they’ll still be making more money within a foreign market context.
Of course, engaging workers through such platforms comes with its risks, as your ability to thoroughly screen and supervise candidates is somewhat limited with this model. But if the professional relationship doesn’t work out, there’s no costly mess to unravel if you have a reliable backup solution in place. New intern messed something up? The freelancer wasn’t quite who they said they were? Not a problem at all. It’s easy to restore your store to the time when everything worked perfectly. So, go ahead, hire that student; with a good SaaS backup, nothing is unfixable.
3. Meet your customers where they are
Pandemic-related lockdowns gave a boost to what was already a burgeoning ecommerce marketplace. But even now that most physical stores are open for business, many customers have become used to the ease and convenience of online shopping. This means you must continually look for new, creative ways to draw them to your online marketplace from wherever they are—and that’s often at home on the couch.
Direct to customer (DTC) selling is one tactic to consider. It allows brands to establish and nurture relationships with their consumers and connect with them after the initial sale, continuing to offer personalized products around their needs. For example, DTC selling via eye-catching product videos delivered via over-the-top television (OTT TV)—TV content streamed via the internet through devices like Roku or Apple TV—delivers content to consumers where they want it and moves the ecommerce marketing machine beyond just social media and email, opening the door to new levels of experimentation.
But, of course, bold experiments don’t always work out in business. A good backup solution provides the flexibility to experiment, grow, and change. Like a safety net, it’s with your ecommerce store every step of the way, documenting and saving your progress. This flexibility means you can easily reverse unwanted changes or even change your mind and go back to the old version.
4. Test out and expand into new or international markets
Ecommerce isn’t constrained by geographical boundaries or time zones, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t consider spreading your wings into new geographies. Of course, if you decide to go down this path, you’ll need to think about issues such as language translations and currency conversions.
Another potential new avenue to explore is the possibility of a wholesale store. Let’s say your ecommerce store sells dog accessories like collars, leashes, etc. (sounds adorable.) You could experiment with a wholesale version of your store that sells your products in bulk to larger customers, such as pet stores, kennels, or adoption/rescue agencies.
A solution such as Rewind Staging allows you to automatically copy products, images, collections, pages, blogs, and themes from one store to another. The option for unlimited copies means you don’t have to worry about time-consuming manual exports. The continuous sync feature will ensure your two (or three, or four) stores are updated and kept in sync.
5. Capitalize on high-volume shopping seasons
It can be hard to form long-term strategies through the haze of BFCM and holiday shopping season madness. Luckily, a backup solution such as Rewind acts as an audit log of every single change to your store’s data since you installed the app, from a new customer to an entirely new theme. Trying to remember how exactly that cool pop-up that you installed last year worked? Simply navigate to that date in the Rewind Vault, and voila, your source code is right there.
But if you have your sights set on growing your share of BFCM wallet this year with some ambitious new offers, why not start early by running a few targeted test campaigns or special offers in the preceding summer season?
For example, you might decide to try out a new online gifting platform that allows customers to send discounted, personalized “pre-BFCM” e-gift cards and monitor traction and uptake in the weeks leading up to the shopping season. Decoupling gifting from gift delivery with creative e-gifting solutions can also help you contain costly shipping surcharges.
Or perhaps you might look at trialing a new pricing strategy to drive up sales during the holiday season. Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) is one approach that might be an effective option if you’re looking to target consumers in segments from Gen Z or the unbanked, both of which are more price sensitive.
You could run a new pop-up only during this peak shopping period and test if it affects sales. If you haven’t yet optimized your pop-ups for mobile, there’s no better time, considering that a staggering 63% of ecommerce traffic comes from mobile devices. Of course, when it comes to pop-ups, less is more, and you need to strike the right balance to ensure you don’t interrupt the user experience or disrupt the flow and aesthetics of your site. There are some great pop-up apps out there that are subtle yet effective – rather than being “in your face.” So, why not try out a few options and measure click-throughs and conversions to establish which ads resonate best with your target audience?
If you’re going down the pop-up path, be sure to do your homework about the important dos and don’ts and test and iterate. And if you find something’s not working, it’s not a problem if you have a good backup in place. You can just hit the reset button and quickly remove any underperforming ads.
John Goedert, manager of operations testing and innovation at Starbucks Coffee Company, Seattle, once said: “You always have to have flexibility in any process that you do, and gut feelings are really great, but there are also processes that you can put in place to make sure it’s also rigorous because even if you think it’s the best thing in the market you want to test it to make sure. Not being afraid to fail is something you should get very comfortable with if you want to have a robust system in place.”
Wise words indeed.
With the flexibility and adaptability to quickly recover from any change – wanted or unwanted – entrepreneurs can boldly go (and sell) where they’ve never gone before.
Entrepreneurship is hard enough; why go through it without a safety net?
Learn more about how Rewind Staging works.