Many eCommerce retailers spend a lot of time, effort and capital chasing trendsetters like Amazon, Grainger and Nike. But as a mid-market eCommerce business, trying to keep up with the latest ecommerce functionality, while building a uniquely captivating online shopping experience, is very, very hard.
And, truth be told, your customers don’t necessarily want your website to be another Amazon. After all, in the brick-and-mortar world of 30 years ago, no one would have wanted every store to look and feel the same. Similar in some of the services for sure, but not in shopping atmosphere and ambience.
When it comes to getting the features and functionality you and your consumers expect, an effective eCommerce site requires the right balance of cost, quality and speed to make the ongoing changes that will drive revenue, increase conversions and average order values. To achieve that balance, consider the “3 Ds” when adding eCommerce functionality and design to your site.
1. Dream it.
Marketers are creative by nature and are always dreaming up new ways to capture new customers and how to keep them coming back. But what criteria will make that new, perhaps custom, feature you’re considering worth the investment? Think about your dream. Will it resonate with customers? Will it make it easier for them to buy? A 2011 Hubspot consumer survey found that over 75 percent of consumers feel the most important design characteristic of an eCommerce platform should be that it makes it easy for them to find what they want.
That makes complete sense. If they can’t find it, how will they ever be able to buy it?
In the old days, your mother would avoid grocery stores that weren’t well organized, because disarray cost her precious time, right? She wanted to be able to run in, quickly find what she needed, purchase and leave. Your father never wanted to find the rack with shirts in his size — he usually just asked the closest salesperson straight away where they were in the department store.
The same is true with shopping online.
Your shopper wants to use your intuitive search to quickly find her item. If the item she was looking for isn’t available, she wants to see suggestions for similar, available alternatives. What she doesn't want is to see a landing page telling her “your search has no results.”
If the item is available and the price is right, she wants to buy and ship it without a hassle and then maybe see a few other personalized purchase suggestions that make her feel like you know her and care about her.
When dreaming, above all else, dream about how to make it easier for your customers to find what they are looking for, how to best personalize their search results with complementary products and how to make it super easy to check out. Experiences like this convert first time customers and keep them coming back time and again.
That brings us to the next “D.”
2. Design it.
OK, so you have some great dreams. You’re confident your customers will appreciate the new functionality, and you believe that your conversions and average order values will increase as a result.
Now, will getting them built be a challenge? Do you have the creative and technical resources needed lined up and ready to go? Are you sure your eCommerce platform is flexible enough to incorporate these changes? Will there be unintended consequences that break other things? These are all important items to consider when deciding what dreams to bring to life.
Having creative and technical resources in-house that are intimately familiar with your eCommerce platform is ideal. This team will be able to tell you if your dream can be realized and how much time and effort will be needed to build it out. That said, most mid-market eCommerce businesses are not able to employ a full team of creative and technical eCommerce experts and therefore rely on partners to complement their own teams or, in some cases, rely on their partners completely for support. In either case, it is imperative that your partners are in lock step with your vision and have a deep understanding of what is possible technically with your eCommerce platform so you can decide if the effort and time needed to get things done fits with your business needs.
This is easier said than done for many mid-market businesses but let’s assume your Dream and Design is good to go, what then? You need to…
3. Deploy it.
Your Dream has been Designed and built. Now you need to implement it. What is that going to take? Ideally, your eCommerce platform makes the data you need accessible and the changes doable without going through a traditional software development cycle that takes time, money and assistance from the software provider’s developers. The time it takes from Dreaming to Designing to Deploying new experiences live on your site is critical. Mid-market businesses must be able to execute new ideas quickly and cost effectively if they want to stay competitive and keep from falling behind.
If new feature roll outs generally tend to be difficult on your current eCommerce platform, the problem might not lie in what you’re trying to design and implement. The problem may instead lie in the software you’re designing toward.
Simply put, you might need a new platform provider.
And we get it. Switchovers are never optimal. Researching platforms, negotiating pricing and support contracts, identifying a roll-out team, retraining staff and integrating a new platform with your company’s other solutions: these are all tremendous drains on your company’s resources.
The process of the “3Ds” for marketers will set you free when your eCommerce technology exposes the data your eCommerce creative and technical teams need to bring your ideas to revenue quickly and cost effectively.
But if you’re constantly finding yourself stymied at the Design stage — if your current platform simply isn’t built for the future — it’s better to know that and address it now, than to wait for your competitors to pass you by.