What the Ecommerce Industry can Learn from ‘Marginal Gains’ Theory

29th June 2016

We’ve all heard the expression “little things mean a lot”, but just how true is it? You could do worse than asking Dave Brailsford, one of the principal architects behind Great Britain’s gold medal winning cycling team, Team Sky.

Brailsford is a devotee of the ‘Marginal Gains’ theory, the idea that if you can make a 1% improvement in a whole host of areas, you can make a significant impact on the entire performance.

How it worked for Team Sky then and what we can learn from this in the world of ecommerce

Brailsford took a long, hard look at his team, assessing from their equipment, routines and even their hygiene.

His cyclists began using antibacterial hand gel to cut down on infections; the team bus was redesigned to make it more comfortable and would therefore speed up recovery time. He even had the floors of the team truck painted bright white so he could spot where dust was accumulating and affecting the aerodynamics of the bikes.

Sixteen gold medals over the course of two Olympic Games later, his approach doesn’t seem quite so silly because all of these tiny adjustments began to accumulate, to give Team Sky that all important edge.

The ecommerce industry could learn a thing or two from the marginal gains theory. We might not be winning Olympic medals or saving lives, but if you want to improve your conversion rate, reduce your bounce rate and build brand loyalty, you need to look at the little things that make a big difference.

How can we apply this to UX?

Say you’re selling sailing equipment and your shopper gets lost:

– What’s your Error 404 message?

– Have you thought about the difference between a typical ‘Page not found.’ and a more personalised ‘Whoops, looks like you’re up creek without a paddle. Try returning to shore’

– The positioning of your key calls to action buttons eg ‘back to shop’, ‘shop now’ or ‘buy now’

– Have you factored in their colour, the size of the font?

– Page load speed – you might think your site is optimised, but if one of your direct competitors is a fraction more so, it will make a difference.

Why we believe in applying marginal gains to ecommerce

Here at Diligent we’re all for beautiful brand experiences online that instil confidence and trust from first glance, but we also know beauty is only skin deep. Apple wouldn’t have got to where they are today if they were just brilliant with design.

Every element of a website, regardless of size, shape or visibility, matters to customers when they’re buying online; it’s part of their ‘shopping psychology’. Understanding and applying these factors is partly why we decided to call ourselves Diligent and in our next few blogs, we’re going to delve deeper into the components that collectively improve revenue online, including:

– The ‘marginal gains’ that are up for grabs

– How we’re applying these to our client’s websites

– The things we consider in ecommerce UX

– What and how we’re testing

– What we’re continuously refining

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