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Q&A With a Former Online Retailer

Retailers who sell online rely heavily on the performance of their website to ensure that their customers have a great experience (and ultimately make a purchase). With such a reliance on Internet Performance, how much do retailers really know about it?

I sat down with Dyn’s VP of Revenue Acquisition, Josh Verrill, to discuss his past in the retail world.

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What previous roles have you held for any retail companies?

Since the beginning, my career has always been focused around the success of an ecommerce business. I entered the online retail industry as an affiliate marketer & SEM / SEO specialist. After some time, I became the Director of Marketing for SmartBargains, responsible for all online activities. Shortly thereafter, I was a member of the team that launched Rue La La & Rue Local. At Punchbowl, I was VP of Sales and helped launch the ecommerce channel.

What was your main goal with these roles?

Primary goal for me has always been the efficient acquisition of new customers through the creation of a customer experience that directly expresses the organizations value. A close second has always been the continuity of that value beyond the initial purchase to promote retention or, as I like to think about it, “re-acquisition”.

How important was your website for driving purchases?

The website is mission critical. Being as focused as I have been on the ecommerce success of the company, the website and our ability to sell through it, is everything that we have. Existence stops when the website goes away.

After coming to Dyn and learning more about Internet Performance, what do you wish you knew then that you know now?

Most importantly, I’ve definitely been made aware of the importance of the infrastructure layer of a business and how it sets the stage for a good customer experience. In truth, it wasn’t, something I really thought of until I got the education from Dyn. Even as marketers, we should all have some level of understanding and care for the foundation that our business is built on. In the past, it’s often been left to the IT teams. Not any longer. Smart Marketers are starting to understand what DNS & transactional email can mean for their business.

A good example for me came during my early tenure at Rue La La. Around the time of our launch, we felt a lot of early pain with the stability of our site. If I were as savvy then as I am now about infrastructure and the inner workings of a website, I could have asked the right questions and at least recommended that we fail over to Facebook instead of sending visitors to a 404 page.

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Does an online retailer need to be of a certain size to look into improving their Internet Performance?

Absolutely not. Having a solid infrastructure is not above anybody. Whether you’re selling $100 or $100 million, customer experience starts the moment a prospective customer enters your web address in the address bar. It’s important that you invest at least something in your infrastructure, especially if you plan to scale. I like to think of it like the foundation of a house—It’s very challenging and quite expensive to build an addition on your house, if it was originally built with a less than adequate foundation.

What advice would you give to online retailers?

Most importantly, dig in and understand what your current infrastructure looks like. Who are you using for DNS, who are you using do deliver your content (CDN), do you have redundancy? Are you capable of communicating with your customers even if the worst should happen? Based on those answers, make the decision on which of those you need to fix.

Additionally, look at the whole buying process, including your transactional email. I’ve always had plenty of metrics on what happened on the website through purchase, but when it came to transactional emails following, I was blind. The order itself was seen as complete once they hit purchase, however, if you want to retain customers, that experience needs to continue. Thank yous and shipment confirmations and arrival notifications are all critical when creating a quality end-to –end customer experience.

What about for brick & mortars?

In today’s omnichannel environment, there’s no longer such thing as being only brick & mortar store. Any physical location must have a website to compete & survive. With all the tools available, buyers are smarter than ever—they’re coming to your website to compare prices and falling in love before they ever walk through your front door to make a purchase.

What role should be focusing on web performance?

The easy and obvious answer is that everyone should be focusing on it. Every member of the organization, no matter what their role, is directly tied to the success of the company. And today, your website and it’s performance is indicative of your organizations success. Even more, those with an immediate tie to the customer experience and revenue, should especially tune into their Internet performance. While it may not be you who owns it, you should absolutely ask all the right questions and understand the foundation that your marketing programs are being built on.


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Whois: Kelly O'Hara

Kelly O'Hara is Dyn's Content Marketing Specialist, powering some great Message Delivery & Traffic Management content. Follow her on Twitter (@KellOHara) & Dyn (@Dyn).