The short answer: Astound Commerce’s new Value Exchange Index (VEI) tool. This single-page application displays critical audit data through an easily navigated, always-on dashboard, revealing current brand experience delivery across an established set of digital commerce touchpoints via web and mobile channels. Through VEI, Astound evaluates the full buying cycle for dozens of top brands monthly, from initial product search to post-purchase, so that the full commerce process may be evaluated and the complete customer journey analyzed and understood—and the value that brands must deliver is realized.
Astound’s VEI marks a new era in the measurement and analysis of digital data. While consumer journey research is an established component of digital commerce marketing, Astound’s VEI takes it to another much more granular—and far more accurate—level. By considering the buying cycle from the buyer’s point of view, through a wide range of purchased products and applied metrics, Astound can unequivocally pinpoint where brands are succeeding, or more importantly, where they still have work to do. The scores reflect brand and industry strengths and weaknesses, assuring an accurate portrayal of the present while simultaneously pointing to future probabilities.
Evaluations are performed by Astound’s expert digital commerce analysts and are assured through a binary approach, with all queries presented in a yes/no format, avoiding the subjective responses that can distort audit results.
To embody the modern commerce experience, 100 metrics were identified as core to the customer journey. From there, each metric is categorized into six unique, primary indicators, representative of top-line, universal consumer expectations:
- Mobile—brand dedication to consumers’ mobile-first mindset
- Personalization—relative success in providing individualized shopping experiences
- Customer—degree of consumer-centricity
- Item—effectiveness of attributes that focus on product details and discovery
- Efficiency—success in providing streamlined and frictionless shopping experiences
- Go-Getter—efficacy in implementing innovative features
Additionally, a number of metrics deemed fundamental contribute to what VEI analysts internally call the Baseline Indicator. These particular metrics address the minimum capabilities that a brand must encompass to maintain a nominally functional digital commerce site. A brand should score high on this indicator to assure its site experience measures up to acceptable consumer standards—a score of 65 percent, for example, would be cause for concern. Of brands currently assessed, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Ralph Lauren currently hold top honors when it comes to providing the best digital commerce experience. Knowing how your brand experience rates in this hyper-competitive digital jungle can mean the difference between a one-and-done shopper and a lifelong advocate for your brand.
Metrics are further assigned to one of three main touchpoints: Messaging, Shopping, and Service. This provides quick overviews of each brand’s digital strengths and deficiencies. The sum total of the touchpoints determines the brand’s overall score. As such, a brand could have an overall score consisting of 93 percent, with Messaging being 27 percent based on the average number of “yes” metrics accrued in the group, a Shopping score of 42 percent, and a Service score of 24 percent—leaving little doubt where the brand should deploy additional digital assets and developer talent.
Always On and Ever-Evolving
While Astound’s VEI is unique for the depth and detail of its analytical capabilities, the data and expert insights are presented in an elegant, intuitive, and dynamic interface. Page navigation is provided by a “Select Vertical” sliding menu, allowing users to easily transition from singular to cumulative on all data sets. Example: the aforementioned touchpoint scores can be viewed for the Aggregated Verticals, or for Fitness & Sporting Goods, Footwear, Jewelry & Accessories, and so on individually.
The commerce sector is evolving constantly, changing as new technologies appear and consumer tastes shift. Any functional analytical tool must likewise evolve, and Astound has built flexibility into VEI in response. Newer elements will become integrated into VEI on an iterative basis. One feature now under development is Pivotal Moments, a set of metrics focused on specific slices or groupings of touchpoints that identify the precise points in the customer journey that affect behavior. Astound is also refining a weighting system for its metrics, given that metrics vary in their relative value to the buying cycle.
Astound’s VEI data is never dated, accommodating the protean, shifting—and fickle—nature of the digital marketplace. Brands have always endeavored to obtain relevant data. While the challenge was significant during the uncontested reign of brick-and-mortar, the expansion of the digital marketplace has made the accumulation and application of data sine qua non. And that extends to the measurement of data—whether they are assessed correctly, and whether incoming information is useful and timely. VEI’s sound methodology covers all the bases—its competitive intelligence is an immeasurable asset to brand managers in the digital commerce space.