How often do you teach your online store new tricks?

Lets start with a question: What are the chances that an online store built just 5 years ago can compete with the modern solutions that embraced all of the awesome stuff that emerged in the past few years?

Just 5 years ago, there was no Twitter, Facebook had no users, basically, there was almost no social interaction going on between online stores and their customers. Things have rapidly changed since then, but many online stores did not. Many online stores you encounter are still stuck with the 5 year old (or even older) layout and features. Five years in web business is probably equivalent of 50 years in medicine for example.

There is something that old, but still extremely successful online stores (such as Amazon or eBay) have in common:

They never stop changing. They never stop testing. They always teach their store new tricks.

Online store nowadays can not be set to autopilot. Your customers expect a lot from you. They expect perfect usability, they expect awesome customer support, they expect your store to be the artificial intelligence that automatically knows what they wanna do next. If you don’t provide it to them, someone else will, and that competitor will take your clients away.

ebay 10 years ago and now

eBay 10 years ago and now (Click to enlarge)

How do you teach your online store new tricks?

There are several fields in which improvements are necessary for a 5 year old online store. I’d start with social media, being the most obvious one.

Online store going social:

I have a customer support number listed on my site, why do I need a stupid Twitter account?

Things have shifted 180 degrees in the past few years. Consumers no longer engage your brand where you want them to engage you. Instead, they hang out where they wanna hang out and expect you as a brand to be there. In this case, we’re talking about social networks, but you shouldn’t stop there. Consumers might be blogging and ranting about your brand or product on their personal websites, micro sites, blogs… and they expect your response. They expect you to listen to the noise of the world wide web and filter the data about your brand and respond to their needs no matter where they are.

Few years ago, “social media experts” were pointing out that this will be expected from the companies in the future. Well, that future came sooner than you thought because you’re living it right now.

New design and layout:

But I like my current design!

Your opinion about the design doesn’t matter. Designer’s opinion about the design doesn’t matter. Customers’ opinions matter. They bring in the money and your design and layout has to be tailored to fit their needs and preferences. It is highly likely that 5 year old (or older) design isn’t up to date with current web design trends and best practices.

Internet users change. They learn new tricks. They adopt themselves to the new usability standards as more and more websites start using them. What was considered usability best practice five years ago may not be such a bespoke solution nowadays.

Changes in the world of SEO:

When we made the site, an SEO consultant told us it was perfect.

It might have been. But SEO is one of the fastest changing industries on the web. Google introduces hundreds of changes to it’s ranking algorithm every year! Just as an example, several years ago, it might have sounded like a great idea to sculpt PageRank using no-follow, but nowadays it produces the completely opposite effect!

Long-tail shift:

We are ranking well for the most important keywords in our niche.

Yea, but did you compare the amount of traffic these keywords are sending you today to the same day 5 years ago? Even considering the fact that the number of internet users has grown a lot in this period you will have to notice that average internet users started to shift to the use of longer keywords. As average user of the internet is slowly becoming a power user, he learned how to use search engine much more effectively to find exactly what he wants. This led to growth of longer search queries.

If you want to take your share of search engine traffic, you will have to start creating content. Content marketing is already extremely ROI effective marketing method if used properly and will only grow in the future. Have a read on why do you actually need a blog on your e-commerce website.

“Smart” navigations, product recommendations, sharing features:

It is highly likely that your 5 year old e-commerce solution is missing some of the really smart features that new bespoke e-commerce solutions have. Have a look at some of the bespoke online stores nowadays. They know exactly what else you might wanna buy after you add a product to your shopping cart. They are using effective new ways of organizing and filtering products. They are using smarter site search engines. They are enabling their visitors to easily share their products with their friends on social networks of their choice.

If you didn’t teach your store any new tricks in 5 years and you’re thinking about doing it all now, it’s easy to get carried away, so please make sure you don’t “overdo it”.

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