4 Keys to Modernizing Your eCommerce Platform

eCommerce spending jumped 55% during the pandemic, but too many retailers are struggling with high bounce rates and low ROI. It's time to change that.

1. Advertising for new customers is fun — but how’s your retention?

2. What really drives conversion? Site speed and site search

3. Bad data in, bad data out: do you have a single source of truth?

4. It’s time to embrace the ‘priority pyramid.’ Here’s how.


Take a look at this stat: eCommerce spending jumped 55% during the pandemic, hitting a whopping 1.7 trillion in early 2022.

Now, you don’t need to be an eCommerce expert to understand why the space has seen dramatic growth over the past two years: with physical stores shuttered during the pandemic, consumers turned to digital channels. And as digital adoption has accelerated, the result is that people’s expectations for online experiences are higher than ever

But while an eCommerce boom might seem like inherently good news for companies who sell online, there have been downsides: over the past two years, Google became an even more competitive space as demand from customers and suppliers pushed cost per clicks up dramatically. Facebook’s struggles effectively sucked $10B of effective ads out of the marketplace (related to the 3rd party cookie issue). Finally, it appears that online shopping wasn’t ready to deliver for the casual shoppers — and many have started going back to stores due to unmet expectations. 

Why? Well, shopping used to be easy: you could go to the store to talk to a shopkeeper who knew everything about the category you wanted to buy and could easily direct you to the right product. The issue was that selection could be limited and prices could be high. With eCommerce, we’ve (mostly) fixed those issues with assortment and price — but we’ve lost personalization and simplicity in the process. And that’s driving away casual shoppers who come to a site with a specific need (i.e., to buy a hammer) and then can’t find what they’re looking for on their own.

All of this has created problems for eCommerce retailers; namely, website bounce rates are high. Poor on-site search experiences are leading to lost sales. Finally, having separate teams for consumer experience and traffic has further exacerbated these issues by putting teams in silos, leading to lack of alignment in goals. 

The good news? While no retailer can control how Google does business, or thwart the decline of the cookie, you can control your own site experience — ultimately lowering bounce rates, converting more customers, and saving on advertising spend. 

Here’s how eCommerce retailers can disrupt the norm and create truly effective customer experiences.

1. Advertising for new customers is fun — but how’s your retention?

Let’s face it: creating splashy advertisements and winning new customers looks great, and it’s a lot of fun — but unfortunately, more site traffic isn’t a panacea on its own. In fact, if your on-site experience isn’t up to par, bringing in new users can even make the problem worse. (Why? Well, if you convince a customer to visit once, and then drive them away with a poor experience, you’re less likely to ever get them back, period.)

Further, acquiring a new customer is 5x+ more costly than retaining an existing one. With this in mind, many eCommerce companies might want to think less about “new users” driving site traffic — and more about 1. Retention and 2. Driving conversion.

More on this below.

Branding is certainly important, but it’s too often prioritized over the two key things that are known to drive conversion: site speed and site search.

Site Speed: Long load times are a nuisance — and that’s obvious to anyone who has ever shopped online. If you aren’t prioritizing site speed (don’t forget mobile!), you’re neglecting your customers and leaving money on the table: 40% of consumers will wait no more than three seconds before abandoning a site.

Site Search: Not everyone turns to the search bar on a website — probably because most of them are so disappointing — but people who do use site search are actually your most valuable customers. Those who search convert at 2.5x the rate than those who don’t search. (So, you see why you want to make sure it’s easy for them to search, right?)

The data show that improving your site search experience can help you meaningfully drive conversion. But unfortunately, almost everyone’s site search is broken. Most sites, including incredibly large ones, are having trouble keeping up with the Google-like search experience customers have come to expect.

What should you be doing instead? Think about the last time you searched on Google or Amazon: that’s how easy it should be for customers to 1. Find what they need and 2. Transact. Sometimes creating a truly inspiring custom experience means going back to the basics for a simple solution: help your customers find what they are looking for. This starts with providing a clear, easy to use search bar and equipping your site with AI-powered search that understands users’ natural language questions — and delivers helpful answers. 

Learn how Yext eCommerce Search connects customers from search to checkout.

3. Bad data in, bad data out: do you have a single source of truth?

Bad data is leading to bad customer experience.  

Today, most eCommerce companies are attempting to get a better view of their customers by pulling data from their eCommerce platform, 3rd party vendors, PIMs, their CMS… and the list goes on.

That’s not “bad” per se, but it is a lot of inputs — controlled by a lot of outsiders. You can’t take control of your brand if you don’t have full control over your data.

The solution? Embracing a single source of truth for your data with Yext Content. Yext Content is a next-generation headless CMS that can store all of the data related to your brand — structured with real-world entities and their relationships. It’s foundational to managing your data, delivering answers and information to your customers, and more.

Click here to learn about Yext Content.

4. It’s time to embrace the ‘priority pyramid.’ Here’s how

The idea here is akin to Maslow's hierarchy of needs for eCommerce VPs. You can’t start at the top of your “priority pyramid” — you need to fix the foundation first: conversion rate, or CVR.

If you focus on fixing CVR first — rather than focusing on buying more traffic to make up for your losses — you’ll be starting from a stronger base. Even better, everything else will get cheaper as you progress — because return on ad spend (ROAS) will go up without you needing to find new traffic channels.

Here’s an example for illustrative purposes: we ran through a calculation assuming a decrease in spending on traffic and a modest increase in CVR (see chart below). This shows that companies that focus on fixing CVR first can pay less for traffic, but still see a decrease in cost-per-click, increased revenue, and 5.2x ROAS (as compared to 3.5x for those who focused on traffic acquisition.


It’s time for eCommerce companies to look in the mirror: unless your bounce rate is under 30% and your CVR is above 10%... you probably have a lot of work to do.

On top of that, unless your site search makes up 30% of your traffic — and your CVR rate is 2.5x that of your non-searchers, as the data indicate it should be — you are likely doing something wrong with your site search.

The good news? It’s fixable. 

  1. Stop wasting money on more traffic sources until you fix your problems with conversion (e.g. the majority of customers who visit your site and don’t buy.)
  2. Fix your site speed to improve load times and keep customers on your site.
  3. Fix your data: a single source of truth that gives you control goes a long way. 
  4. Improve your site search UX/UI: remember how valuable searchers are to  your bottom line — and then you’ll have a solid foundation to build upon.

Need some help to do it? We’re here. Yext is the #3 rated eCommerce search platform as rated by G2. Click here to learn more

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