Website benchmarking is a proprietary research technique developed by B2B International, designed to help marketing and e-commerce professionals get the most from their online sales channels.
The principle of Website Benchmarking is simple: Potential customers are invited to use and interact with your website, in addition to a selection of competitor sites. Recruits are asked to complete a series of “real world” tasks on these different sites, replicating the steps that may inform and lead to a purchase. By getting real end users to trace and “act out” the different steps that are vital to the buying decision, robust, actionable insights into website usability and performance are obtained. In short, Website Benchmarking is a comprehensive audit of your web presence, as seen from the market’s perspective.
How We Do It
Recruits for the exercise are selected for the exercise – either by telephone, or through research panels. All recruits are chosen on the basis of customised criteria. For instance, age, gender, social class, online purchase propensity and brand usage are just a few of the dimensions that can be specifically targeted. All recruitment is performed “blind” to ensure subsequent responses are not influenced.
- Upon recruitment, qualifying participants are sent an e-mail detailing the websites they will be asked to visit and interact with. These instructions lay out the specific tasks they will need to complete. This includes activities such as finding specific products, using search functionality, registering for an account, research product details etc.
- After reviewing these sites, respondents are then asked to complete a semi-structured online survey. This contains a series of open and closed questions about the sites they visited, augmented by stimulus and reminder imagery (such as screen shots, hyperlinks), to aid recall.
- All survey data is then pooled for analysis, and put into a detailed PowerPoint report. Conclusions and recommendations arising from the research are all oriented towards specific actions, such that scores relative to competitors are improved year-on-year.
Benefits Of Benchmarking
A variety of research techniques exist to understand the performance of websites. Benchmarking is designed as a tool that can complement other web usability techniques such as eye tracking, focus groups and one-on-one personal interviews. Nonetheless, Website Benchmarking holds several key advantages over these other techniques. In particular, the data and insight obtained:
- Represents honest and reflective opinion from (potential) customers – All the exercises are carried out by the respondent are done in their own time and confidentially. This allows them to express more highly developed opinions on the sites they test, particularly compared to focus groups where opinions tend to be “hot-housed” and based on first impressions. Moreover, as respondents are not aware of the sponsor of the study, brand bias is removed as a factor.
- Is Benchmarked – Data is obtained across a range of competitor websites. Website performance can be compared against the “best-in-market” on a range of metrics, allowing specific areas to be targeted for improvement. By the same token, strengths can be further developed and enhanced. Issues that only have a weak influence on a customers’ intention to buy can also be given a lower development priority.
- Is Replicable – Benchmarking is often repeated at regular interviews. Improvements to functionality and usability can be tested and tracked across time. In this respect, Website Benchmarking gives a strong return on research investment.
- Delivers Specific Action – As the tasks engage respondents in real-world, goal-oriented exercises, the feedback obtained by Benchmarking is often highly detailed. The online survey allows respondents to express usability issues in their own terms (in open-ended fashion), rather than being prompted by an interviewer or moderator. If a particular feature or design choice is perceived to be a barrier to purchase, Benchmarking picks this up and allows highly specific recommendations to be made.
- Gives Diversity Of Response – All participants in the exercise are selected according to pre-defined socio-demographic criteria, and they can either be consumers or business decision-makers. This allows the views of different groups of customers to be readily compared. In addition, geographical restrictions on respondent recruitment are eliminated. Research participants can be drawn from specific towns, countries or continents as required.
- Is Bespoke - Website Benchmarking is entirely customisable to client specifications. This includes the sites tested, the frequency of testing, the website features tested, the tasks undertaken etc.