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How can you get the marketing team back in control of the business done on the website? And do marketing teams and tech teams have to act like its the battle of the sexes? Not if both sides can share the DIY...

I saw the announcement this week of ScrewFix's new site - and it has also just had a fanfare new opening at a bricks+mortar in my town too. That's quite a turnaround from the debacle on the company's site some two years ago - it took its site down because it couldn't handle the orders in the warehouse. (not necessarily the wrong thing to do of course).

That got me thinking of the marital stress that comes from DIY, and conversely the bliss that comes from doing it together, getting it right and no hammered thumbs...

Talking round the table this month at one e-commerce client, it was a joy to have the tech and marketing team managers singing from the same hymn sheet - after previous experiences when there was a real blame culture going on. We'd just finished a bunch of web load testing for this client - and introduced it for the first time to the User Journey approach.

Previous load testing had given it metrics like 'maximum concurrent users' - which had provided high numbers, but whenever a marketing campaign brought traffic peaks, sales conversions dropped off and calls to the call centre went up. 

The tech team was never able to fess up to what was happening or why. There were no outages as such in its logs (blocks of time where all pages, or all database queries stalled), so there wasn't anything it could readily investigate. Hence the previous lack of cooperation and understanding. No one side to blame -just Mars and Venus.

Although it's easy for the tech team to measure, maximum concurrent users is actually not much use in relating to real sales and real customers.

But this month, it was all different. A second honeymoon feeling. The User Journey web performance test statistics had calmed the waters. We'd found that the Add_To_Basket Journey performed a whole lot worse than the Product Search and the CheckOut Journeys. And the Update_My_Order Journey was poor, but not such a commonly used one, so less critical.

Instead of the marketing folks baying, 'make the portal faster, damn you' - this time the discussion was calmly focusing on the problem Add_To_Basket Journey.

The tech team was able to fess up that the Journey was poor (including sporadic errors peaking at several percent) - because it was clear that no-one was suggesting anymore that they'd failed outright. Overall the system was performing pretty well for most Journeys at peak traffic times, which were anyway 40% higher than the peaks 12 months ago.

It was just a week after the debrief from our load testing, and they'd not nailed down the sporadic errors yet, but the stress test findings had clearly identified which step of the journey was throwing them; and they knew it was down to the interplay of two modules. There was some 'thread-safe' work to be done apparently  - another week was likely to see it cracked. The guys were starting to be proud again of their ability to wrestle the technology into shape.

The Marketing team were also willing to meet halfway - there were some new features they'd been pushing to add into that same area of the site: now that they saw there was a tech tidy-up to be done first, they were willing to push that back down the priorities. And to lighten some of the heavy images and flash on that journey that had crept in over the months.

They probably won't make much difference, but it's great to see them willing to pull in the same direction (it's hard sometimes for marketers to see that simple is better, when it often looks like 'plain' to them).The two sides were even talking of a bright future together - they'll meet again in a month to review the rate of sporadic errors being highlighted by the ongoing 24/7 web site monitoring of the same money-making journey. And to plan what to prioritise next in terms of either whizzy AJAX features, or bread+butter 'give the existing Journeys more peak headroom' planning.

And as the meeting closed, was that a suggestive flirt in the eye, as the Marketing girls offered to buy a coffee and chat with the tech team before switching a campaign on and creating a traffic peak?

By no means all the organisations we help out have had the same chasms between teams - but it's all too common for the marketing guys to want to stay out of the 'performance' space because it sounds too near the technology. And for the tech teams to be nervous about user experience measures, because it seems a step too far from the technology.

But the User Journey approach, built round meaningful, money-making, business focused routes is easy for all to get their head round. And while User Experience may still not have a defined home under the tech team or the marketing one - it is becoming more visible.

Now that online becomes more mainstream and more competitive, it's vital to work hard to recover those lost percentages of sales from visitors who want to buy and that have already cost you PPC to bring in.

Deri is a director at SciVisum.co.uk

P.S. no relationship counsellors were harmed in the creation of this blog :<) But reading on wikipedia about the battle of the sexes and game theory was fun.


Published 19 March, 2007 by Deri Jones

Deri Jones is Chief Executive Officer at SciVisum and a contributor to Econsultancy.

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