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When panic hits the boardroom! Fear and mimicry

All of a sudden, there is agreement on one subject in the boardroom. We need to do e-commerce! It’s vital for the survival of the company in these harsh times. Committees, study groups, think tanks are formed, papers on multichannel approaches are read, and consultants are hired. Because we need to do it right from the first time.

And yet, most of the time we didn’t hit the mark. Why not? Two main principles. Fear and mimicry.

Let’s start with the easy one. Mimicry.

We don’t take into account the specifics of a person on the internet. No, we build him – and ourselves – a shop, that resembles a bricks and mortar shop; it has an entrance, a display, highlighting the current promotions, to draw people into the shop (they are already, remember!). We have all our products neatly arranged into categories, so as to find them very easily. We have a search function, we might even have conversion tricks, pop-ups, interactive chat windows, a shopping cart and a payment module. Just like in a real shop.

The level of excitement, of customer delight in such an environment is close to zero. It is just a transformation of the offline shops, in a very poor execution.

All around the world, there are shops like these. They work, they attract a certain percentage of online buyers. But what a shame! So much more is possible.  Doing things in this way, leads to marketing budgets being entirely spent on conversion mechanisms and safeguarding conversion paths. 

Think a few steps further along the road. Focussing on ‘experience’, on customer delight and trying to get those conversion routes as short as possible would make such a difference. Such an approach is possible and even more easy than one might think. It all starts from content architecture and genuinely believing that content fluidity, as opposed to some form of ‘container thinking’ is possible.

And then there is fear. Fear of failure, fear of reaction from competition, fear of backfiring and losing face. Choices go towards proven solutions and ‘houses of trust’. Everybody does it this way, so why should we opt for another solution?  We start on a small scale and once we’ve proven that it works, we’ll have a bigger roll out; such a shame that the testing environment does not allow big scale roll outs… so we need to rebuild the whole vehicle. Time and money is lost in testing, where it could have been so easy to build a ‘grow as you go’ environment. Don’t do ‘grids’ and ‘product tree structures’. Go for maximum user experience. Capitalise on the enjoyment of somebody who looks for something and immediately finds it and is capable of buying in that precise moment rather than having to be directed to a shop where the whole search operation is to be done again. Think of all the money you’ve invested in Search engine marketing and put it to work immediately.

Such an approach is only feasible – but very easily feasible – in an environment that puts ‘content’ at its core. Everything is content, and should be treated as such. It’s easy, yet apparently difficult to understand in its implications…