First impressions really do count, which is why it's so important to understand how well your e-commerce homepage is working. This guide will show you how to measure homepage performance.
The home page is arguably the most important page on your website. It’s the one that most people see, it serves as the entry point for a lot of customers (especially returning ones) and it can even account for over half of your page views, depending on range size and market. On the other hand, there are few (or no) products on there, it’s multiple steps away from the purchase funnel and can be used to achieve a number of different aims, sometimes simultaneously. For this reason, it can be easy to skate over home page performance in favour of more directly and consistently measurable page types such as listings or product pages.
However, because of the sheer volume of interactions, there’s a great wealth of data and information available for you to use in analysing and optimising home page performance. Every brand and market combination is unique, so setting out a one size fits all template isn’t really that useful, but there is a process to break down your homepage that, hopefully, you will find useful.
Before you get to measurement and optimisation, you need to decide what you want to actually achieve on the home page. At the most basic level, as we saw when discussing the website customer journey, you want visitors to your home page not to exit, but to move down the funnel through listings pages and towards product pages. However, if you want to introduce different types of interactions, you’ll need to give careful consideration to your goals.
Some typical examples of what you might want to achieve on your homepage are:
Highlight sales and promotions
Almost all e-commerce websites will run sales and promotions at some point during the year. It’s highly likely that at any given point, there will be multiple promotions running and there will be competing demands from different verticals in the trading team. If your range is of sufficient size, you may end up treating generic category pages - ‘garden’, or ‘home’ for example - as secondary homepages so that you can feature certain promotions more prominently in a higher relevancy context.
New products and ranges
It is likely that there are times of the year where your focus will be on highlighting specific products and ranges. Apparel retailers, for example, generally have two seasonal ranges - one for spring / summer and one for autumn / winter. The period immediately after product launch is your best opportunity to maximise incoming margin - demand in the market is at its highest and you are able to feature products at recommended retail price and sell on features and benefits rather than discounts or offers.
The homepage - and websites in general - aren’t really that effective in creating brand awareness and recall. If this seems counter-intuitive, think about how many hundreds of websites you’ve visited in the past year and how few of them you visit again. Just because a domain is in your browser history doesn’t mean the brand is in your mind when you are thinking about where to buy a product. The best way a website can create awareness and future consideration is to convert visitors into customers!
That said, your homepage can be effective in reinforcing brand messaging that customers may well have interacted with as part of their off-site journey, mainly through advertising. As with all of these options, it’s important that all of your customer interactions align with your positioning and messaging - consistency is key in getting the results you desire. If your brand is positioned as, say, a home for great deals and prices, then the homepage becomes a natural marketplace for this. A less directly transactional positioning calls for different treatments, and maybe more focus on supporting content. High-end fashion brands generally exhibit this quite clearly.
All of these options tie in with your trading calendar - the process that brings together the various operational channels of your business such as marketing, media and the buying team. Having an e-commerce presence in this is key to the smooth running of your business in general (in fact, some business will put organisational responsibility in the hands of the e-commerce team).
Integrating personalisation gives you more scope - rather than having one set up, you can present variations of the homepage and messaging to different customer types, be that your marketing segments, new vs returning customers, or by mobile vs desktop device types. The simplest form of this is just re-arranging different page elements, but if you wish to do more, then remember to take into account the impact of greater demand for creative and page merchandising.
When we reviewed the website customer journey, we discussed how to tag up a site for e-commerce. The main technical aspects for Google Analytics are here. It’s worth paying extra attention to the detail on the homepage - the extra elements and more frequent changes demand more discipline in documenting what event types apply to which interactions. Keeping on top of things will save you a lot of time and frustration in data gathering and analysis. You need to be able to track interactions by element, position, content and audience, so it’s worth sitting down and scoping out how you’re going to do this before you start your integration.
Once you’ve got your measurement set up and working to your satisfaction, it’s fairly straightforward to create a weekly / monthly / quarterly reporting pack. The level to which you go will depend on the frequency at which you’re reporting - you don’t need to do a deep dive every week - but you will always need access to all the data in order to explain top line performance. As the volume of interactions is a zero sum game - people clicking on one element removes the opportunity to click on others - it’s important to consider performance in the context of overall page performance. One particular element taking up a greater proportion of interactions might look good in a vacuum, but if it leads to a lower overall revenue, then it’s not necessarily a good outcome. This is one example of where A/B and MVT testing procedures are highly valuable.
In your reporting pack, you will want to look at the various interaction rates week on week, year on year and vs KPIs. The time comparisons are obvious, but the KPIs part takes a little more consideration. Firstly, it’s always worth maintaining a view of your top line KPIs - keeping customers moving through the website and generating revenue.
Other KPIs should naturally flow from your trading campaign planning process. As we saw above, each goal type should naturally give rise to a campaign KPI or set of KPIs. For example, if your campaign is designed to promote a specific product or new product range, then bringing in data to analyse the flow of traffic and eventual sales of these products will give you a basis on which to assess performance and make optimisations as you go.
This process of setting KPIs as you go is very helpful when finalising the order of priority and position of the various page elements; because you have a sense of what the impact is going to be and how this aligns with business and marketing priorities, you’re better able to feature the most important merchandising elements in the most prominent positions, for example, first on the main slider or in a key information box.
As with any e-commerce activation, the process is simple - state what you intend to achieve, how to measure it, what your measures of success are, and then finally measure performance against it. As you do this, you will build up a reservoir of information on what works and what doesn’t on your homepage and be able to make improvements from there.