Can you apply “Marginal Gains” to eCommerce websites?

marginal gains

Recently the BBC website carried an article by the respected sports journalist (and former international Table Tennis player) Matthew Syed that discussed whether the concept of Marginal Gains that has revolutionised some sports could also be applied to other areas of life. This resonated with me because I have been using this concept for a while to explain the value our own company’s technology can deliver to digital businesses. My belief is that this Marginal Gains approach can be applied to improving customer experience on websites.

“Marginal Gains” is a term first coined by Sir Dave Brailsford when he became performance director of British Cycling. His approach was to break down every single element of winning races into it’s component parts. He believed if you could make 1% improvements across many of these areas, the cumulative effect would be much, much more.

He applied this in a whole host of areas – from ensuring riders use anti-bacterial hand gel to prevent illnesses through to removing dust and impurities from the mechanics area to improve the aerodynamic performance of the bikes themselves. The results have spoken for themselves – 16 Gold medals over the last 2 Olympics, 2 Tour De France wins in 3 years and many other successes.

It is not a massive leap to see how this idea can be applied to digital business. Customers experience a wide range of issues when trying to transact online. This can range from simple usability issues to gnarly technical obstacles. The problem for many organisations is that they have very little visibility of what these issues are and how much impact they have on their bottom line. This then makes it impossible to implement a marginal gains approach to e-business.

This is why we are seeing increasing adoption of our technology across digital-savvy businesses. With the UserReplay technology, they are able to discover the various obstacles that impact their customers through a combination of analytics and session replay. They can then use UserReplay’s unique monetization capability to quantify the monetary impact of these issues and prioritize them. Focusing on the issues that are having the biggest impact ensures they can make a range of improvements that can contribute to significant improvements in revenue and conversion.

Interestingly, although this is an example of applying the Marginal Gains doctrine in online business – some of the individual issues that companies are able to address could be seen as anything but marginal. As an example, one of our travel customers was able to demonstrate an increase of booking revenue of £1 million through identifying and addressing a conversion issue only experienced by iPad and iPhone users. I would say this is a pretty major gain!

It seems Marginal Gains is an approach that is now finding a home in many areas outside of sport. Maybe it is time to think about how you could apply it in your eBusiness??

Darren Ward, Director of Product Marketing, UserReplay


Photo: Team GB by Matt Martin on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons Licence.