Saturday, November 16, 2013

Website unusual behavior

Website unusual behavior

The normal vision an e-commerce web site’s owner has is that it is always available, running smoothly and providing an easy experience for the customer.
When using a commercial platform (open source or payable) this is the minimum service level needed.
But as this not a pure aetherial world, things are a little bit more complicated and there are herds of issues that can run around and make the journey a tougher (or stopped)
All these rock & roll experiences tend to lower the conversion rate (leading it to the zero rate) and put a great challenge on the essence of this sales channel. 

We can draw some main categories (there are a lot more) for the unusuality :
* Technical issues (access, availability, response time…)
* Architecture/connectivity issues (plugin connections, external components rights, data flows…)
* Navigation issues (page sequences, funnel scenarios, backward/forward navigation…)  
* Design issues (device adaptation, browser supported, links, call to action, screen positioning…)
* Unexpected customer behavior (repeating of same action, weird navigation, unusual booked/bought quantities…)

As the e-commerce web site is operating there is an imperative necessity for the site owner/manager to be aware of the unusuality, not as in Prokofiev’s « Peter and the wolf » where everything is shouted as the death of the website, but much more in an audible, structured vision to act as fast as possible.
Our last thursday hack night (thursdhack) was focused on how to categorized and find easy manageable solutions for each category of problems.

Most of the technical problems are quite well managed by a multitude of tools (commercial or open source), processes, check lists.
Using embedded platform watchdogs, adding some technical components which play the role of a user playing scenarios and reporting the misses. But there is a need to understand what is expected, to implement the scenarios, to build the communication dialog between the tool and the site owner. Most of the available tools are very complex (yet powerful) to implement facing the very simple needs. A huge part of e-commerce websites just rely on repair when it is broken.  Solutions are provided in platform ecosystems (Magento and the watchdog plugin, same with Shopify, Bigcommerce, Prestashop).

Expect the unexpected

Our main goal was to focus on unexpected customer behavior. Using this global approach may help us detect a lot of running problems (as far as the customer is connected).
Focusing on the customer sequencing voyage provides a huge number of indicators which may drive to understand that the web site is not working correctly. It has the great value of dealing with reality. 
What are the most needed actions?, when are they used?, how do they interact? how is it possible to predict them and makes the right tests and the possible detours?
Balancing aggregated customer behaviors as a parameter facing an individual journey adds a powerful borderlines management to check excess and build pertinent notification alerts.
Each call from the e-commerce website is tracked and asynchronously stored using a single cruxbase tag (which may handle a full pack of services) centrally or locally (to check the dialog quality of the server and provide a trace of local behavior).

Some of the analyzed issues are listed under :
- Abnormal page sequences (based on history or on customer segmentation) 
- slower page sequence calls (rhythm analysis)
- Delays in call to action
- Unoptimized flow
- mutliple identical call to action
- Abnormal quantity selection for a product

Using existing tools

To solve our night problem we selected one service (Google Analytics) and a workflow (either as a service on Amazon SWF or as a component with Bonitasoft).
Managing google Analytics (or other analytical tools) is not a simple tasdk as it has to be relevant, detailed, simple to implement and usable. That is one of the major reason why marketing tools platform like cruxbase have to generate the analytic tagging system, either by a point and shoot interface or using a simple vocabulary. Customer segmentation (implicitly provided by the browser, explicitly caught from the e-commerce platform or added by the marketing layer) is a mandatory exercise. Adding the good analytic parameters it is now possible to have a real time summarized numbered vision of page sequences, used links, selected call to actions. These are the foundation for comparisons and behavior analysis. These numbers are extracted and stored asynchronously at each server call (with cache acceleration to limit uninteresting analytic calls).
The complete customer navigation is maintained using a recorder and stored locally and transferred to the server (based on formal dialog, or on stage level) then plug to the BPM workflow (with analytical data) which handle all the current/recent sessions to handle the scenarios
and define if unusuality happens.

Experience vs Check lists

This approach of unusuality is much more founded on real experience than on listing multiple potential problems that have to be solved. Using available numbers and services and acting analytically instead of making reports.
Storing organized full navigation journeys (with additional local events) enhance the ability to build a very reactive and productive solution to understand what is happening on the e-commerce website at minimum cost.

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