by Stacey Crisler
For my final post on benchmarking, I want to address when and how often you should be conducting benchmarking studies.
While most people understand the importance of measurement and being able to demonstrate ROI in today’s economic environment, many people do not take the appropriate steps to ensure that they can demonstrate that ROI, so the first rule of when you should benchmark is: Benchmark your current performance, even when you know it needs to change. In order to save time and costs, many clients do not want to run a benchmarking study on a site they know needs serious revision, preferring to run the study only after a redesign or once changes have been made to correct the issues on the site. Understandably, most feel, “Why would I want to spend money on a study that will tell me that things are not working on my site? I already know that.” The problem with this idea is that the study you run after the changes are made will have less impact and will not be able to tell you the degree to which the changes made impacted the site experience. Additionally, even if you believe you know what is wrong with your site, the “before” benchmark study can confirm any hypotheses as well as potentially uncover issues you did not consider.
Once you have a baseline, what type of schedule should you consider for a benchmarking program? This question does not have a single answer that applies to all companies, however there are a few factors you need to consider:
How often does my site change? Anytime you make a major investment in the site it is important to measure the impact of the changes and make sure that you have moved the needle in the right direction. For some companies, this may mean establishing a quarterly benchmark, for others it might mean they would not test their site for a few years, if changes to the site were the only factor.
How often does my direct competition change their site? If you biggest competition completes a major redesign or implements key new functionality, you may want to understand how that impacts the experience users are having on your site and whether or not users’ expectations of your site are shifting based on the competition. However as I discussed in Part 1, your direct competitive set is not the only competition you face on the internet.
When did I last benchmark the site experience? If your site does not change frequently, nor do the sites of your direct competition, you still need to understand how changes to the internet overall have impacted your business. I told a story in Part 1 of a client who saw drops in key customer experience attributes year over year, despite not making any changes to the site – they just hadn’t responded to the evolving customer expectations based on what was happening online in general. To keep abreast of how the internet is impacting your site, an annual benchmark is key even if you have not made any changes, in order not only to measure, but to allow you to maintain the health of your site.
By establishing at least an annual benchmark, you will be able to gain insight into the impact of your changes, those of your competition, and those created as the internet evolves on the success metrics you have established for your site. By tracking these metrics over time, you will expand your understanding of the levers that influence the experience of users on your site and how to make better, more efficient changes to maintain a strong online presence. You will also be able to show the impact that site changes have had on your site performance and satisfaction.
Good luck with your benchmarking program!