There’s More To E-Commerce Than Copying Amazon

By Rory Betteridge | 25 Feb 2015

Tim Ash, CEO of US company SiteTuners, says that building an online sales channel by copying a successful competitor isn’t as effective an approach as analysing the needs of your site’s visitors.

There’s more that many websites could be doing to encourage their customers to convert. Often a website will be so blinded by the success of a competitor that instead of considering their own customers a retailer will simply ape what successful rivals are doing with their own online offerings. According to SiteTuners President and CEO Tim Ash, it’s a practice that needs to stop.

“I think that there’s a lot of copycatting going around,” Ash told Power Retail. “If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say ‘well that’s how Amazon does it’, I’d be retired by now.”

SiteTuners, a conversion rate optimisation company based in San Diego, helps retailers of all sizes, markets and countries to improve the efficiency of their websites and landing pages.

“It’s not about getting the traffic there, but getting a higher percentage of people to act when they show up on the site,” Ash explains, “whether that’s to buy something, or call in, or whatever form of engagement you’re looking for.

Ash commented on the unfortunate habit of retailers simply looking at competitors and just making their own website a flashier copy of theirs.

“There’s not a lot of original thought going around right now,” he lamented. “But more importantly, there’s not a lot of focus on site visitors or their needs. Most of the focus tends to be on driving traffic because that’s where the money gets spent, so there’s a lot of accountability and control on that, but once people arrive on the website, besides sales they’re largely ignored.”

Ash agrees that retailers are too focused on mimicking existing success stories, rather than building their own identity with customers.

“Often they’re learning the wrong lessons, even if they do copy from Amazon,” Ash pointed out. “A lot of the strengths of other businesses come from their business model.

“For instance Amazon One Click Shopping which is a huge innovation and competitive advantage, not to mention their delivery speeds, how they’ve structured their business, where they have distribution warehouses, what arrangements they have with various people in their supply chain; all of these are things you can’t usually copy, so what gets copied is the website.

“But that doesn’t work without all the back-end plumbing being in place too. You can’t copy a competitive advantage by copying a website.”

Ash will be coming to Melbourne for the E-Commerce Conference and Expo on March 10-12, where he’ll be giving a keynote speech and hosting a workshop on gaining a better appreciation for the customer experience.

“Unfortunately we tend to look at things from inside the company out; we look at how we solve things, what product categories we have, we look at our numbers, our campaigns,” Ash explains. “But we’re not really thinking of the poor visitor, when they show up with the misconceptions, their problems, their lack of attention and focus. We look at the website and often forget that that’s a real person showing up, that they have a limited attention span, that they’re easily frustrated.

“What I’ll be talking about is what the experience is from their perspective, to recalibrate us and help counteract the bias of our inside-out view of things.”

These issues aren’t confined to the Americas, either.

“Most of what I’ll be talking about are problems with websites at the level of good usability,” says Ash. “There are no differences there; you need a clear, uncluttered experience, you need a way to understand what’s important on the page, you need customers to get through your checkout process, you need an easy way to find your products. All these are major, universal concepts.”

Tim Ash’s workshop, Unlocking Hidden E-Commerce Profits, will be just one of a number of workshops, panels and presentations on offer at the E-Commerce Conference and Expo Melbourne, commencing March 10. Be sure to head over to their website and book your tickets for this invaluable event!

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