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So sales are down, the MD / CEO wants to know why web sales are down and you have an hour to prepare for the trading call or meeting.  

We have all been in the position where we have sprung into the office on a Monday morning full of the joys of spring, compared like for like trading and found sales are down.  

If this happens, you need some answers or at least to be armed with some basic information so you can identify where sales could have been lost.  

Listed below are some 18 things that are always good to check on a Monday morning, or indeed any day when sales aren't as expected....

These things are also a good check at any time as some things aren't always apparent and can inhibit sales. The list is not exhaustive but should provide you with some answers... 

1. Was the site down during the weekend?

Put in a call to your hosting company, agency or the person managing the site for you to find out if there were any problems.  

Customer services is often a good source of information to advise if there were problems or downtime. Check your analytics suite also to see if there was a drop of traffic during a set time frame.

2. Was the payment portal working correctly?

Check transaction logs over the period in question and see if there was a lack of orders and during what period.  

Analytics should be compared also, if traffic was still being sent to the site yet your conversion rate dropped massively then there may have been a problem with payment methods.  

Follow up with payment providers as this may well have been the case. If using a third party security company to vet transactions. Check whether they were over-cautious or if there was a system fail.

3. Was checkout working, postcodes, address, shipping, payment methods?

Many sites use automatic postcode lookup, did you run out of credits so the postcodes were not delivering results? If so, make sure you set up automatic billing.  

Were your customers able to access PayPal portal? Was the link to the secure cart working correctly? if it was broken over the weekend its likely to still be broken.  

It is also worth checking that people can add shipping to the order, I have seen small changes made back-end that have stopped shipping being added to basket, which prevents checkout. A simple but drastic mistake people make.

4. Were categories published correctly?

Did you set up a new "Special Offers" category? Did it actually get published? did it have any products assigned to it? Were images used and not products, were the clickthroughs from banners working, or did the code get missed out?  

If so, the likelihood is that the category was created, but not actually set live with products.

5. Was search delivering results?

Did your search function fail? This is maybe not so bad if you only have a few products on the site, but for sites with hundreds of products this may have stopped people finding the products.  

The other consideration here is whether or not the search function was delivering intelligent results. For example, searches for 'shorts' which deliver results for 'shirts' will soon put people off.

6. Were products published as zero stock? It happens...

There are two ways of checking this:

  • Was all stock set to "0", especially if manual stock uploads are added to the site? If using manual uploads check the last upload file. If using a till system to upload directly to site then check with IT what was sent by the feed.   
  • It's also worth checking whether individual products had all the sizes added to the database. If key sizes were missed when setting up a product shell then regardless of stock update they wont publish online.

7. Was there stock of key products / best sellers?

This is slightly easier and quicker to check. Checking with merchandising or looking at the product history in the till system / CMS will soon make you aware of the shortfalls.

8. Did products have images?

Products rarely sell online if they don't have images, as people will struggle to check what you are listing meets their needs without a picture.  

Product page2

It has been seen on many sites where the thumbnail image is missing and there is just a description. Generally, I find this occurs when the publishing team add the product and in a hurry forget to save the image to the CMS.

On the other hand, they may have removed the image from the image bank meaning to replace it but forgetting to do so. If using affiliiate feeds, this may also have an impact on referrals from your affiliates.

9. Has something changed on the copy?  Bad reviews?

If a product or service has had a bad review listed then this really could affect sales. Customers expect and deserve genuine reviews but if this is the only review of your product then this could cause problems.  

If you do get a bad review it's worth checking out the product so you can amend descriptions or rectify faults. It's also worth ensuring reviews and queued before publishing.

10. Has a competitor changed pricing of key products?

Competitor analysis of key products can often identify pricing issues online. For example, has Amazon now listed the product £10 cheaper than yours? Has a major retailer launched a sale?

It can be hard to reduce prices dependant on business margins and pricing, especially if you're a multichannel retailer.  You may not be able to immediately reduce products due to policy, but you can let the buying and merchandisers know so they can act if they feel they should.

11. Have affililates stopped sending visitors?

Have one of your key affiliates stopped sending you traffic? Check your affilate program dashboard to monitor sales and look for unexpected dips. If you can identify a drop in sales from an affiliate its worth just checking their site is still active or giving them a call to see what's happened.  

You could find it's a simple feed issue to their site or that they are being offered better commission from competitors. 

12. Do your landing pages have incorrect products or prices? Have they lost search engine position?

Its worth checking key landing pages are still listed in the search engines. Also, when opening the landing page check whether the information is correct and showing relevant products.  

I have often found that people assign incorrect products to the page.  

13. Was traffic down or consistent on the site?

By checking your analytics package you can easily identify if there was a massive drop in traffic to the site.  

If there was then it's worth looking at the visitors and campaign sections to see where the shortfall was. Being a bit more technical, you could break down the analytics to see if it was device or browser specific. 

14. Did a planned email send fail to deliver?

Unfortunately, this does happen with the best planned campaigns.  

15. Were last year's sales impacted due to a specific reason?

So Alexander McQueen died in 2010, sales spiked in one day and we had almost sold out of every item of stock showing sales of 300% sales increase for the same week last year.  

That looks good on the stats for that week and for the rest of this year but next year this will distort the figures, as the 300% increase will be budgeted into the forecast.

Always record key events on the sales figures where spikes happen, things like Easter holidays, Black Friday, Mega Monday, etc all effect like for like week trading.

16. Have customer services received any logged issues about site performance?

The best point of call for identifying many issues on the site. They are normally emailed or called about issues, whether it be pricing, postage, checkout, site down, stock outs or even bad publicity.

A quick call can save a lot of time.

17. Has a social network group started an anti campaign?

In our ever-changing social world negative publicity, like the United Airlines broke my guitar campaign, can hit sales. This is more likely to affect the larger retailer but can affect anyone.

18. Promotional codes

Promotional codes make the world go around online, and everyone looks for a bargain, so check out your promo codes if sales are lower than expected. 

If a new code has not worked then check whether it was case specific. Perhaps it was due to complex, confusing key characters, or published as live but with an expiry date in the past.    

If an existing code has suddenly failed, it often comes down to either being unpublished, expired or deleted in error.

The key message here is that every member of the team can help to identify a problem...

Lee Carpenter-Johnson

Published 14 May, 2012 by Lee Carpenter-Johnson

Lee Carpenter-Johnson is a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter

3 more posts from this author

Comments (5)

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Nick Stamoulis

You'd be amazed at how many people panic because their visitor count is down but it's because their site was offline for 24 hours. The two things are directly related! If you site isn't online, of course traffic and sales are going to be down. People couldn't make purchases even if they wanted to.

over 4 years ago

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Jamil Kassam, Online Selling Manager at John Lewis

Nice list but good luck to anyone trying to look at all that in an hour on a Monday morning ;)

over 4 years ago

Steve Morgan

Steve Morgan, Freelance SEO Consultant at Morgan Online Marketing

If it's a case of checking a sales report, another question could be: "is the data correct/accurate?" I had a panic once when I worked on a website and saw that their typical average sales plummeted overnight, the day after I'd made some tweaks to the AdWords account. Before reverting everything back to how it was, I realised that I'd only accidentally been given a few hours' data (instead of a full 24 hour period)...

over 4 years ago

Laura van Gool

Laura van Gool, Ecommerce / Web Analytics Consultant at eCommera

Jamil,

15 of the 18 points above could be easily evaluated within an hour on a Monday morning with a good web analytics setup and some automated reporting - happy to share how...

over 4 years ago

Albie Attias

Albie Attias, Ecommerce Director at King of Servers Ltd

19. Is your SSL certificate up to date and configured correctly? Browser security warnings can also dampen sales.

20. What were your average page load times? The site may have been up over the weekend but how long did it take to serve up pages?

over 4 years ago

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