An interview with an ecommerce expert: Paul Rogers

This week I caught up with independent digital marketing consultant, Paul Rogers. As someone who has been in the digital space for over eight years, Paul works with some of the largest Magento merchants all over the world. In this interview, Paul shares his candid views about the current developments to Magento2 as well as some of the biggest mistakes people make with their Magento stores.

1. Tell us a little about yourself and your role…

Up until recently, I was working as an independent consultant, consulting around re-platforming projects, SEO, ecommerce / Magento in general and various other things – however I recently (August) merged my small consultancy business with GPMD, where I used to work a few years ago.

GPMD are a Magento agency and they have some really nice clients, some of which I’ve worked with them on while I was consulting. My role will now be to lead their digital offering and also develop new ecommerce products and services.

I also started a company called Audited, which I’ll be focusing on a lot in the coming months – I’m essentially aggregating very niche, mostly platform-specific experts to provide different types of audits (e.g. Magento code audit, Drupal performance audit etc). It’s still very early stages – but it’s something I plan to focus on a lot.

2. What are the biggest mistakes people commonly make with web design?

I think lots of people focus too much on page templates and not enough on user journeys – I’ve worked on lots of sites that look great, but they don’t flow well – there’s no obvious journey for the customer and they make it really hard for users who don’t have the same knowledge of their product range that they do. Below a certain level, lots of retailers don’t really measure / report on this as well – meaning they’re just relying on opinion in most cases and customer reactions to templates at best.

The other one for me is retailers who don’t leverage their on-site search function – in most cases, users are more likely to convert when they search for something, but most merchants think about this when they’re looking at / thinking about what they want users to do. That said, it’s important that you have a strong search solution if you’re pushing users to use it – something like Magento’s OOTB search, for example, is pretty poor.

3. How do you see ecommerce evolving over the next few years?

I think the biggest thing for me will be continued developments in technology, particularly around customer experience.

Technology in the ecommerce space (and retail in general) has developed hugely over the last few years – especially around CX areas such as on-site search (which has seen technology like elasticsearch and solr get much bigger over the last few years, as well as SaaS platforms like Klevu), merchandising (now far more prevalent than it has been historically) and personalisation. These types of add-ons are gradually becoming more mainstream for merchants and I think they’ll be ever-present within a couple of years – purely because of a need to service customers better (and retain them) due to increased competition (both vs online merchants and high street stores). I think the platforms will big part of this – Demandware has developed really strong capabilities OOTB and Magento recently added Visual Merchandiser into Magento Enterprise for example – however it’s the SaaS companies that are really pushing the boundaries in ecommerce innovation.

Ometria (customer lifecycle modelling tool) Nosto (personalisation) and of course PCA Predict are also great examples of companies developing great tools to aid CX in ecommerce.

4. How do you think Magento2 will impact the industry?

I don’t know enough about it to say whether it’s going to push Magento forward or allow some of the other platforms to regain market share. I don’t think it’ll impact things too much to start with, as it’s likely to be another 18 months before many existing Magento users consider the upgrade (although some of my clients have considered getting it out of the way early). I know there are going to be some big merchants launching on it early on, but I think it’ll be a while for most (partly because loads of modules won’t be available for a while).

It seems like some of the core issues with Magento will be improved a lot (particularly speed, plus there are some security benefits), so I think there’ll be added appeal when it becomes more mainstream. I’m sure there’s also a big roadmap for adding new features in 2016.

There are also a few advancements around SEO, such as rich snippets and open graph tags being out of the box, AJAX sorting and a few new options around XML sitemaps. I wrote this piece comparing Magento Enterprise to Demandware, which provides a bit more detail.

5. What do you see on the digital horizon that will impact retail UX?

Again, I think personalisation is a really big trend at the moment and I this will continue to get bigger and more advanced. I’ve used NOSTO with a couple of clients and that provides a really simple route for adding personalised recommendations on your site – plus there are also more advanced options for more enterprise-level merchants.

I think retailers will get better with using what they know about people to serve products – currently personalised recommendations are generally siloed via recommendations, whereas I think more dynamic merchandising practices will get bigger – so using a user’s journey through the site to adapt what products are being served. I’ve not seen many retailers doing this currently, but I think it will become more prevalent over the next year or so.

Also – I think more retailers will start adopting some of the more innovative site search options, such as semantic search, richer search (ability to serve categories, blog posts, guides, videos etc), real time search etc. These features are gradually getting more and more common – Brilliantly British’s Algolia implementation is a good example of how they’re using richer, real time search.

There have also been some really good improvements around the UX side of side – particularly with real-time results. If you type “headphones” into the searchbox on Jado Pado, the results are served in the background within milliseconds. 

Interview Paul headphones

6. What are your top tips for optimising conversions in a Magento checkout?

I’d say my main tip would be to provide a guest checkout option – it’s still really common for retailers to make users create an account before they’re able to complete their order. I think making the checkout process as fast and clean as possible in general is really important – I also use the PCA Predict’s address validation app (Capture+) for Magento to help with this.

Another recommendation would be to strip back everything you don’t need – when I worked for GPMD the first time, we did lots of work around building a custom checkout for one of our larger clients and we found that taking everything out of the checkout except for the core fields made a really big difference.

We also found that a one page checkout does, in most cases, perform better than a multi-step checkout – which most people think is the case anyway.

7. What are your favourite Magento stores and why?

There are loads of Magento stores I really like (I actually created this list a while back) – here are some of my favourites:

  • Bucherer (formally The Watch Gallery) – I really like the brand pages and the product pages on this site. I actually worked on it while I was GPMD the first time and we were really proud of it at the time. It was also one of the first ever responsive Magento sites.
  • Rebecca Minkoff – This site is one of the nicest overall designs I’ve seen for a Magento store – it’s won a number of awards, including the Best Omnichannel award at the Imagine conference.
  • Paperchase – Really strong design across all page types and very simple, which I like.
  • Paul Smith – Great site with a very clean UX throughout – it’s a Drupal / Magento hybrid which I think works well for this site.
  • Harvey Nichols – Probably one of the biggest brands on Magento and they’ve been on the platform for years! Great site that showcases luxury products very well across categories and product pages.
  • Missguided – Missguided is well designed, but I’ve included it because of how much they’ve grown with Magento! Their online turnover has grown more than I’ve seen from another pureplay over the last few years and they’ve done really well to scale.
  • – another long-standing Magento merchant who use the platform really well. Probably my favourite product page and there a few really nice features that help users to understand the product better.
  • Bjorn Borg – very unconventional design and UX, which I really like and I think it works well for them. Really nice, clean site with great product pages.

Look out for Paul’s next post where he will be reviewing his must-have extensions for every Magento store.