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Contentsquare CMO Reveals Why Brands’ Best Acquisition Strategy is a Retention Strategy

Despite ongoing ecommerce revenue growth, Contentsquare's Digital Experience Benchmark reveals that ecommerce site engagement has dropped.
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Ecommerce sales are expected to hit $6.3 trillion in 2024 and continue to grow steadily through 2027, according to eMarketer research.

Despite this macro growth, ecommerce site abandonment remains a big issue for all brands, regardless of their size or product category. One of the biggest reasons, according to data from Contentsquare, is that while merchants are investing in paid advertising to drive more traffic to their sites, their experiences are riddled with experience gaps that ultimately create frustration for shoppers.

Through an analysis of 3,590 websites across 30 countries and 10 industries, Contentsquare reported that overall global ecommerce site performance was relatively bleak in 2023, with 58% of sites reporting drops in site consumption metrics such as page views and time on-site. Additionally, overall ecommerce conversions decreased by 5.5%.

There are a few reasons for these shifts, according to Jean-Christophe Pitié, CMO of Contentsquare. When consumers click to branded ecommerce sites via paid search and social campaigns, they are forced to navigate a series of experience frustrations, such as the slow page loads that plague 40% of all site visits. And in the event they do get to venture through a site, they do not see the compelling products, content and creative they expect, which discourages them from continuing their journey.

“A lot of the same rules apply for user interface (UI) as they do for in-store commerce,” explained Pitié in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Build the journey or flow you want your customers to follow; tidy up your spaces because cluttered store racks or cluttered websites have the same effect — customers leave; and ensure support and service really cater to customer needs. Have mechanisms in place to guide and support customers throughout their journey, and create content that is clean, digestible and informative.”

Pitié walked through key takeaways from the report and how these data points should influence brands’ ecommerce strategies moving forward.

Interview with Contentsquare CMO Jean-Christophe Pitié

RTP: What was your one big callout from your 2024 Digital Experience Benchmark Report?

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Jean-Christophe Pitié: If brands want any chance at customer loyalty, they need to fix what’s broken. Slow page loads are more than problematic — they strongly influence whether a customer ever seeks the brand out in the future. Today, frustration impacts two out of five online sessions, and has a measurable associated cost of $0.56 per visit.

Part of our process for developing the Benchmark Report was considering some of our customers’ digital strategies. Catherine Andersen, Senior Director of Ecommerce at luxury home and furniture brand Frontgate, shared why friction and frustration matter, noting that they ‘are not only conversion killers, but they can put your customer file at risk as well.’ She added that ‘small details add up to create a shopping experience that retains and captures customers.’

RTP: So how can brands tackle slow load times while still ensuring they provide a rich content experience through their branded ecommerce sites?

Pitié: The good news is that slow page loads can be easily spotted and are typically quick fixes. Common culprits include large-sized images or videos, too many elements on a page that strain HTTP requests, or a missing Content Delivery Network (CDN) that is designed to boost speed. 

Diamond brand De Beers (also a Contentsquare customer) took a close look at overall website design and its impact on performance. When the team looked at it through a data-driven lens for design decisions using our data, their revamped website led to a 30% boost in site-wide conversions. Taking clear steps to understand the role of each website element and its value, coupled with constant speed monitoring, can highlight where frustrations are likely to occur so they can be preemptively addressed.  

RTP: “Rage Clicks” and “Multiple Button Clicks” were also frustrations analyzed. Are these two things connected? How can brands get to the root of what is causing these click behaviors?

Pitié: These types of frustrations can be a result of technical issues, whether due to poor connections or issues within the website itself. Brands are clearly aware of the damage done by frustration and are taking positive steps to reduce it. Rage clicks are present in 5.5% of visits, which is down from the previous year, when they affected 6.2% of all visits. We also saw a slight improvement on the speed front, with slow page loads impacting 15.5% of visits versus 17% in last year’s results.

RTP: A lot of consumers are venturing to brand sites via paid channels now. In fact, your research found that traffic shares for direct traffic, as well as organic, social and search all dropped year over year, while paid vehicles increased. Why the shift? 

Pitié: Paid online traffic is on the rise for several reasons. Firstly, as the online marketplace becomes increasingly competitive, businesses are investing more in paid advertising to stand out and reach their target audience effectively. Platforms such as social media and search engines are continually refining their advertising algorithms and targeting options, making paid traffic a more appealing option for businesses seeking precise audience segmentation.

Although paid social in particular is one of the top five acquisition channels for marketers, it’s not the strongest when it comes to conversion. Paid search boasts a 2.54% conversion rate versus only 0.63% for paid social — that’s 4X higher. Who hasn’t tapped into a story simply because an influencer shared it, but didn’t really have real intent to make a purchase? The intent is just not the same.

RTP: And how can brands ensure these paid efforts actually pay off? What should they be doing creatively to stand out?

Pitié: Ultimately, your best acquisition strategy is a retention strategy. Why? Because to maximize the dollars you spend on driving traffic to your website, you really need to deliver an experience that encourages your customers to stay, convert and, perhaps most importantly, come back again and again. 

Jennifer Peters, Senior Manager of Ecommerce at Olly, told us: ‘The secret sauce to growth is total and complete customer empathy. Brands have to use data to truly understand the customer — what they’re doing and seeing on your site, and where they’re finding friction — in order to meet them where they are.’

We know that today the universal bounce rate hovers around 50%, which means half of visitors leave websites after viewing only one page. Clearly, many experiences fail to make that solid first impression. It seems obvious to say, but focusing on everything that comes after a customer lands on your site or app is key to experience success — from fixing avoidable bugs, to removing bigger obstacles along the customer journey, to making it extremely easy to convert. You’d be surprised how many consumers get stuck on a checkout page! 

Only by analyzing every interaction in the context of the customer journey can you surface the points of friction and build the journeys your customers were expecting in the first place. Rachel Frederick, VP & GM Ecommerce at Sur La Table, said that ‘lowering friction is key. You want to make sure the discovery and buying process is as easy as possible for the customer. And reducing friction in that process translates to a direct increase in conversion.’

RTP: What about owned channels? How should brands be investing in those properties?

Pitié: As acquisition costs continue to rise, brands should invest in ensuring that their owned channels really speak to each other. When you can effectively design a digital strategy that integrates other channels like email and SMS, the collective and seamless experience boosts engagement across every channel.

Success lies in understanding customer data and using digital experience insights to improve CX across the board. Even if a large portion of a marketing budget is going to paid search, a connected experience can deliver value in the areas that receive less budget, and ultimately drive really strong results.

RTP: Ecommerce conversion rates are down across the board, according to your data. Are there any clues as to why?

Pitié: Specifically speaking, visit engagement declined and frustration increased, resulting in a decline of 5.5% in conversion rates. This was in part due to a slight shift in the traffic mix toward lower-converting channels, specifically paid social and ads. But there’s also the elephant in the room, which is that traffic continues to shift to mobile and those experiences are less likely to convert.

Dimitri Arts, VP Digital Commerce for EMEA at Ralph Lauren, has focused on traffic as a key metric, saying, ‘The shift of traffic — toward more upper funnel social traffic — requires a different dynamic in the journey that you offer. Inspiration and consideration are often more important than direct conversion.’

From a macro point of view, spending trends point to the willingness of consumers to convert, but they may be more selective than ever on what they purchase and from whom. To make your brand as attractive as possible, you have to go beyond products or services; you have to deliver experiences that speak to people and ensure that every touch point with customers is positive. 

RTP: What are some tactical takeaways for the brand and retail executives who may be looking to optimize their digital commerce investments over the next year and beyond?  

Pitié: Visits have never been so valuable. Last year, the cost per visit rose 12.4%, so brands are paying more for less traffic. Mobile delivered 77% of traffic, but only 56% of revenue. Digital marketers must optimize the journey — which is increasingly mobile — not just the screen. They must make the most of every visit by eliminating frustration, understanding more about the context of that customer’s journey and then optimize for the entire connected customer experience.

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