I’m very lucky at the moment to have a lot of work on my plate. I know that during this time is where we lose sight of both trends outside and innovation within our work. This affects all professionals, no matter what specialization you may have. We get into a routine, comfortable in the cycle of our work, and don’t take the time to step back to look at the bigger picture. Even worse, working with a medium that changes so drastically, so quickly, requires us to evolve our own knowledge quickly. Being in the industry so long, I know how easy it is to stick to old concepts and how challenging it may be to find innovation.
Last week, I was lucky enough to attend the 2014 ConvergeSE conference in Columbia, SC, as well as attend the demo day for some amazing startups at Tminus6, a business accelerator also in Columbia. It’s such a great experience to talk to professionals ranging from entrepreneurs to user experience designers, or learn about ventures in mobile applications to ecommerce websites. During this time, I was also reading a book (that I will be reviewing in my next post) about innovation in business. Like the title of the conference, I was fortunate to experience a convergence of many ideas, people, and companies.
I would like to share my enthusiasm with you and share two important concepts, without trendy terminology, that were definitely emphasized in this year’s conference. These are, I truly believe, essential for a successful eCommerce website business model strategy: always research and always test.
The “always” is very important with my point in avoiding complacency. What we are avoiding is the sudden realization that the web changes faster than we can keep up with or that you missed a key factor in your business. Some companies are now experiencing, the hard way, things like: how important a good mobile user experience is for their customers, that many competitors popped up overnight, their brand looks outdated, or that the security of their site is compromised.
To research means gaining knowledge about traditional choices, listening to feedback from your team and customers, and receiving data from multiple sources. It is to always keep your eyes and ears open for feedback, even when you least expect it. Research and adapt to what you find; stories of failure usually include people who ignored feedback and who refused to adapt change.
- Always research before starting new projects or if you have free time.
- Research iteratively during a project to guide your choices.
- Research to find improvements, avoid disasters, or expand your knowledge.
- Create a new project based on new information, and repeat.
The “always” is very important to avoid complacency in your knowledge. It’s a great thing to have a lot of experience doing the same work because over time you have a great baseline to use for future projects. But things change, and when we receive new information, we also need to create new tests to measure those changes. Granted, we don’t have time to test everything, but try to find ways to receive quantitative and qualitative feedback as much as possible to help guide your projects, iterate refinements, and launch a successful project.
It’s important to note with ecommerce websites is that if you see something that worked for another company, it does NOT mean it will work for you. Someone else’s 20% increase in conversion may be your 20% decrease in conversion. This is especially why it is very important to test concepts in your context, in your site design with your customers.
- Without data, decisions are only based on the research, they aren’t validated yet for your business.
- Your research will lead to new tests, and your tests will lead you seeking to research. Naturally, the two processes need each other.
- Anything can be tested.
- Don’t test everything at the same time, focus on largest returns first. It’s more important to focus on key touchpoints with your customer (shopping cart, checkout, landing pages) rather than other things (homepage slideshows, copy on product pages, size of buttons).
The Process Starts With You
Process strategies like this are contagious and are best adopted from top leadership downward. These two steps can be adapted into any team and extended to meet their needs for a more specific ecommerce website business model. If you or your team are in a stagnant or claustrophobic process, try including small changes into your work today. When hiring new employees, try to seek out individuals who already practice this philosophy in their own work. Need more inspiration or help defining a new process model? Email me.