The effectiveness of improvements to a retail Web site over time is judged somewhat differently depending on one's perspective. Shoppers appreciate improvements that make it easier to find the products that interest them, and once found, improvements that make it easier for them to make an informed decision about whether to buy the product in question. Other types of improvements may streamline processes for the shopper.
Shopkeepers are more likely to judge improvements based on the bottom line have the improvements lead to increased sales? Of course it may be difficult to determine the degree of contribution for a particular improvement. Improvements to business processes might make the Web site staff more effective, which theoretically, over the long run, could be tracked and watched for improvements.
In the course of devising improvements to a retail Web site, most ideas remain in the realm of inspiration and subjective human judgments, perhaps inspired by suggestions from the shoppers themselves. However, there is a particular area of Commerce Server functionality that can provide some degree of objectivity when determining how the Web site should be improved. Commerce Server calls this process "closing the loop" and it consists of using the Business Analytics System to collect and analyze data about how the retail Web site is being used. This, of course, includes an analysis of which products are selling well, which shoppers typically complete purchases, and so on. Perhaps less obviously, Web site improvements can also include much more subtle analyses, such as how shoppers most commonly browse the site. Commerce Server includes a data warehouse designed specifically for storing data related to retail Web site use. It is an ongoing task for site administrators to make sure that the various types of data collected are periodically imported into the data warehouse so that the reports analyzed by business managers reflect current data.
The next three sub-sections discuss the support provided by Commerce Server for Web site improvements in each of the three types of functionality: user interfaces, Web sites, and objects.