E-commerce audit - what is it and why do you need it?

Julia Łączyńska

n audit is a bit like a visit to the dentist. It is associated with something unpleasant and costly that you put off until it is too late and only radical solutions remain. At the same time, both audits and visits to the dentist, conducted regularly by the best specialists, will save you not only a painful experience but also significant costs in the future. 

What is an audit?

An audit is a process of evaluating an organization, product, or procedure made by an external company based on certain standards, norms, recommendations, or regulations. This is a very broad definition, as audits vary widely depending on the industry and the nature of the company. It can be an assessment of financial health that determines the right to apply for a loan, confirmation that a company meets legal requirements and can operate, or recommendations aimed at optimizing performance. Law firms, accounting firms, software companies, marketing agencies - every type of organization uses professional audit services. It is no different for e-commerce. 

Why is an e-commerce audit important?

An online store does not exist without customers. But customers do not come to an online store that is slow, unintuitive, and unattractive. Up to 46% of users who were dissatisfied with a site's performance will not visit it again, and 64% of online customers will choose another store for their next purchases (LoadStorm, Econsultancy, 2021).

These figures show how important it is to have a positive impression of the site itself, not just the products offered. The thing is that if you are the owner or an employee of the  given e-commerce, your perspective isn’t objective. This is an inevitable process; the more familiar you are with your store, the easier it is to navigate through it. You can easily find a particular category or product of your choice not necessarily because the interface is so intuitive, but because you simply know where to look. But will your customers also know?

At this point, an audit service is invaluable. External experts will look at the store not only from the perspective of a new audience but also experienced professionals who know the industry through and through. As a result, they will instantly assess the first impression and intuitiveness of e-commerce, as well as delve into particular areas of your site's performance, such as search or page load speed.

Types of e-commerce audits

Audits can address different areas of a store's operation. Depending on what you need, you can audit a selected element of your store, but once in a while, it's a good idea to do a complete review of the entire platform. Among the most popular types of audits are:

UX audit

A UX audit, also known as a usability audit, verifies that using the store is comfortable and intuitive for the customer. A specialized company evaluates the first impression left by the site and the convenience of navigating it according to the classic shopping path. The key here is to step into the customer's shoes and evaluate various processes and elements from the customer's perspective. This is helped by some tools, such as a record of sessions on the site, showing which tabs the user switches, how he searches for interesting content, and where he encounters difficulty. The audit is not based solely on the subjective feelings of the expert; the basis, in this case, is the standards proposed by institutions such as the Baymard Institute or Nielsen. 

Performance audit

While a UX audit looks at the elements of the store that the customer sees or interacts with, a performance audit looks at the entire technological background that allows the store to function. During this assessment, the company considers the entire architecture of the store, implementation details, and potential bugs in the code. 

The performance audit allows you to diagnose the condition of the store and propose solutions to improve the functioning of the site, avoid errors, and in the prospect also develop the store. It consists of 4 steps:

  1. System analysis - concerns the evaluation of the implementation architecture, system configuration, site traffic, integration, and products.
  2. Server analysis - concerns the evaluation of the configuration of the environment on which the store is placed and finding opportunities to increase efficiency. It includes an analysis of system requirements, connections between components, and server architecture.
  3. Performance monitoring - this step focuses on the loading speed of the site in terms of infrastructure, databases, PHP scripts, and site content. It is based on a detailed analysis of the code and identification of errors and sources of possible problems and performance drops. 
  4. Recommendations - a valuable audit includes not only information about what is done wrong, but first of all tips on how to improve it. At Strix, we conclude the performance audit with a debriefing meeting, where we will share with you the final document, a list of bottlenecks and errors that reduce the effectiveness of your site, and recommendations for further action.

Visibility audit

Even the best optimized and most intuitive store won't make money for itself if customers don't get to it! In a situation where your platform has a great UX and flawless infrastructure, but still sales are not growing, it’s worth taking a look at visibility.

Only customers who know (and like) your store will reach it by typing the site address in the search box, and then looking for the product they need directly in the shop. Most users will first type the name of the product into Google's window and click on the result they like best. And it is visibility that determines whose offer they’ll see first. According to ClientBoost, up to 70% of smartphone users search for product information on Google before buying, so the game is worth the candle. A visibility audit is mostly about assessing whether a website meets SEO standards. 

Elements taken into account:

  • Site traffic, i.e. site views, number of new and returning users, bounce rate, time spent on the site, etc.
  • Keywords that will most effectively lead customers to the results they are looking for are popular enough but also not too generic.
  • Link building increases the chance of display.
  • Alt attributes, or image descriptions, so that googling robots know what is on the graphic.
  • Content structure, which means avoiding walls of text in favor of a readable structure.

From an SEO point of view product pages are the most important. First, because that's where you can place the greatest amount of content, and second, because names of specific products are the most frequently searched keywords. An effective PIM tool can make it much easier for you to optimize your product pages, not only for site navigation but also for SEO.

Security audit

Online stores are tasty morsels for cybercriminals, as they collect huge amounts of data about their customers. Name, contact information, home address, and even credit card information are just some of the information provided during the ordering process, which is why data security should come first in the e-commerce industry. 

A security audit involves finding any gaps or weaknesses that could be the source of data leak. Companies engaged in this service checkpoints from the list of security requirements one by one and test the store's security in practice, trying to break through the system's defenses. In this way, they look for weaknesses susceptible to hacking attacks. 

How to choose the right audit partner?

Choosing a company to entrust with auditing your e-commerce is quite a challenge. A well-conducted assessment is an invaluable support for your business, while an audit done without the right expertise can only mess up and leave you with more questions than answers. So when establishing a relationship with an audit partner, pay attention to whether you're dealing with an experienced organization that regularly handles audit services. 

It's also a good idea to make sure that the company deals not only with audits but also with the implementation of projects themselves so that it can highlight common mistakes. Practical experience in the industry and up-to-date knowledge of the market are the foundation of a well-conducted audit. 

An extensive portfolio of completed projects and audit services will also be a valuable indicator of a company's credibility - after all, the work best speaks for itself!

Finally, choose a business partner who will not only assess the condition of your business but also tell you what you can do better. Suggestions for solutions tailored to your situation, practical tips, and recommendations are evidence of quality cooperation from start to finish.

Do you want to talk about an audit?

At Strix, we offer e-commerce audits for performance and usability. The assessment is the responsibility of an experienced team of developers, UX designers, and Project Managers, who face the challenges of the industry on a daily basis and know exactly what to pay attention to when looking for store hot spots. Our audits are based on 3 pillars:

  1. Knowledge of the initial situation - it is impossible to conduct a good audit without knowledge of the company being evaluated, so we initiate cooperation with a familiarization meeting. We ask about the specifics of the industry, competition, strengths, and weaknesses of the store, business goals, priorities, and concerns. The more we know, the more personalized our assessment will be, so in cooperation, we focus on close communication at every stage.
  2. Detailed analysis - in the auditing process we take under the magnifying glass every tiny element of which the online store is composed. We test, discuss and analyze to catch all potential risks and errors.
  3. Recommendations - we take a very task-oriented approach to auditing. It's a process to not only learn more about your online shop but more importantly to help you sell better and more. At the end of the audit, we provide a detailed document with an analysis of your store and a list of recommended actions and solutions.

If you feel that your store could use a solid audit, contact us! We'll also be happy to help you implement the recommended solutions and find new opportunities to support your business in digital growth.

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