A detailed look at the process from start to finish with real example excerpts from each stage of the project. Designed to show real world application of the process I discuss on my site.
A business with severe technical debt in need of a strategy for the acquisition and retention of customers, across multiple brands.
A diverse group of brands, each with the potential need for unique experiences to serve their audience.
A Shared Solution
Leverage a pattern library and a lean approach that enables the rapid implementation of a new digital strategy across brands.
The first step meant meeting with the project sponsors, on the client side, to understand their needs and begin to set the guiding principles for developing the program.
We accomplished this by bringing the client team on site for a three-day kick off meeting. During the on site sessions we focused on three key areas designed to gain a full understanding of the current state and enable us to identify how we can affect change in a positive way.
Running a Project Kick Off
During the sessions we ran exercises designed to dive deeper into the clients needs as a business, the current pain points and limitations, their goals for the future, and how all this impacts their customers.
This included up-front user testing and observation of the current state, targeted assessment of the current customer interaction through whiteboard exercises, and user flow assessments to identify the current wins/loses that customers encounter when shopping the e-commerce experience.
Building a Strategy Recommendation
After the on site sessions the next step was to dive into the data we uncovered and begin to identify and build a long term strategy.
The key challenge being the need to identify a solution that could be implemented at the parent level and then applied across all the major brands as they switched from their current e-commerce solution.
The resulting document centered around the implementation of a strategy I devised called The Customer Engagement Model.
The model leveraged established concepts from the McKinsey Consumer Decision Journey Loop to identify a new way for the client to implement content and commerce across their web properties.
Until now the client had been creating disparate experiences across their brands, utilizing the most basic approach to e-commerce. That experience being find a product and buy it. This meant minimal focus on their own web properties, in some cases less than 5% sales online, and most of the energy going toward 3rd party sellers.
The new solution would require internal change and adoption within the organization to creating a stronger, unified brand presence on the web.
The Customer Engagement Model
The model is used to reinforce the project’s guiding principles through the lens of Acquisition and Retention of customers.
It focused on braking down the experiences into core page types and identifying where they fall in the customer journey. This is then used as a guide, for brands entering the program, to leverage and begin createing content within the system in an effort to creat emotional connections with their users and grow online sales.
The first phase in the project meant utilizing the Customer Engagement Model and selecting which brand would go first. This brand would be tasked with simultaneously creating an experience to fit their needs and building the ‘base’ for the program that all subsequent brands would inherit. The process for this brand would include a Discovery, Definition, and Creation phase.
Note: In hindsight this was a mistake, it became a constant effort to keep the client team focused on the bigger picture. I would change this approach and focus on creating an agnostic product first, then fold in the brand specific elements after.
Our First Major Challenge
We encountered our first major hurdle for the project as proceeded from the Discovery phase to Define and Creation phase, for brand one.
Early on, due to timeline requirements and budget restrictions, we decided to run this project with a very traditional approach. This meant we would begin with a batch of identified page types (in this case the lifestyle or marketing pages) and move the entire set through the design process. After that we would then move on to the pages designated for the commerce experience.
Using this process meant we were unable to keep the client involved in the smaller solution identifying and decision making artifacts (persona, journey mapping, user flows, etc.) when necessary.
This approach quickly lead to a disconnect when we did include the client in the larger, milestone reviews of progress. The time requirements and amount of feedback received quickly lead to delays and unhappiness on both sides and meant we needed to devise a solution.
The Solution: Refactoring the approach
To solve the issues we were facing meant informing the client of two things. The first being a small adjustment to the timeline and identification of when design would transition to development. The second being a larger time commitment from the client team during the design process.
For the second request I worked with the client to devise an approach wherein we standardized the artifacts being produced and met daily to discuss and view progress. This meant that the core client stakeholders became more involved and were then able to advocate, internally, for the decisions being made in regards to the experiences.
In an effort to set expectations I created a repeatable plan to follow for each new experience we began designing. This would include page goals, user flow, priority guide to identify targeted content and hierarchy, lean wireframes, and finally the full interface design.
Once the carrier brand phase finished we now had a pattern library of shareable e-commerce experiences. This allows subsequent brands to adopt the library, apply their branding to the system, and spin up the new e-commerce strategy in a third of the time.
This also enabled brands to focus on building enhancements to the library based on their audiences’ specific needs.
To date the program has been adopted by 8+ brands and launched 6 new site experiences.
The True Value Proposition
At this point in the project we have reached an efficiency for on-boarding new brands with a minimal amount of effort.
This means we are able to adjust the process and shorten the time (and cost) to market. This is where the true value proposition of the system becomes clear, when new brands can adopt the program, gain access to a set of experiences that allows them to better compete in the e-commerce space, and still differentiate their brand.
The program also offers easier maintenance and long-term optimizations by having all brands using a shareable system.
Rinse and Repeat
We maintain the Discovery phase to make sure we understand the brand and the customer’s specific needs to plan for additional experiences we may need to add to the system.
We added a styleguide phase to apply the brand visuals to the system and check for accessibility and necessary customizations to fit the brand’s needs.
Then we enter an enhancements phase where we identify new opportunities and give that brand the option to build new experiences to augment their e-commerce flow and target their specific customer’s expectations.
Alongside new brands adopting the program and being phased into the system we continue to monitor the experiences in an effort to identify areas that need improvement.
Recently I have been performing lean testing directly related to conversions and optimizing the flow of customers through the purchase journey.
This approach involves analytics reports, heat-map and video sessions of user visits, and testing to validate new ideas.