« Should I commission more strategy work from agencies? | Home | Customer Experience Management »

Things that give ecommerce retailers nightmares?

I was speaking to some consultants recently and we got to talking about empathy and what makes a great ecommerce consultant.

I believe empathy has to be one of the most important qualities of a good consultancy (or indeed of a quality senior manager with a virtual team in a matrix organisation). In some ways it's almost more important than some other core skills in that it's more likely to place the consultant's recommendations firmly under the customer's pain point.

Multi-channel retailers have questions and need some love and tenderness. Ideally, you should feel their pain. They have a bunch of things that keep them up at night and empathising with these will make for a better ecommerce experience consultant.

Here's a rough list (transcribed unformatted from my moleskine) of my favourite nightmares:

  • Do I need analytics, retargeting, algorithmic recommendations, satisfaction survey tools?
  • Single customer view (oh yes... one of those would be nice)
  • Why does enterprise software cost so ridiculously much? (For the cost of a year's license for entry-level analytics I could hire three engineers?!?)
  • Marketing and communication, how much cash should I be giving Google? How can my trading team and my online marketing team work more closely together?
  • How do traditional insight teams (big database, big budget, slow staging) fit in the same plan as front-end analitics-driven teams (rapid staging, lower cost)?
  • How do I manage the difference in staging speed of different business silos (Experience team leading client-side but with the threat that my front-end is making promises to customer that my back-end can't deliver).
  • Platform issues: Where do I start!?! Performance, governance, maintenance, reliability, (in)flexibility, scalability
  • What data can I trust? How can I manage my progress?
  • Generally, how to I measure and manage the impact on my customer experience of:
    • Range extension (marketplace, OEM, etc)
    • SKU availability (allocation online/offline etc)
    • Delivery (number of men, suppliers, boxing and packaging issues)
    • Product information and imagery, access to exciting rich media etc
    • Selling and fulfilling across the channels (multichannel retail suffering!)
    • Social content
    • EPOS disasters, why is it so hard to simply give the customer his pound coin back and why does he have to give his postcode?
    • Content management, why is it so hard to add, to change content?
  • Times are tough, how do I plan the amortisation of my improvements and "burn rate" for new initiatives?
  • How do I calculate the risk and plan the scheduling of the potential rewards?
  • Call centre costs and governance
  • Uniqueness (satisfying the promise of "unique experiences") - many/most platforms assume SKU interchangability, how do I create unique experiences when ecommerce platforms increasingly follow similar design patterns?
  • Should I be focusing on GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT or do I need to go get some new optimising technology?
  • What? Another javascript tag? Why does every vendor tell me it's easy-peasey to integrate their service, I just need to add a javascript tag? How in heaven's name am I supposed to manage the performance impact?
  • If I can't have bespoke channels, can I have bespoke categories (yes I can!)

So yeah, quite a list:-)

I'm guessing there's a lot more, but even with this rough first draft, I can see some broad areas where a consultant might want to focus attention:

Start with the "Digital Map"

Where do we need to be in the mid-to-long term and what do we need to get there? Most businesses maintain a voice-of-the-customer report and maintain a "Customer Plan" these days. The Digital Map builds on those learnings and supports those commitments but with a focus on the elements that directly influence ecommerce performance.

What can I do today?

While we work on a digital map we also need to think about YoY reporting and getting results as quickly as possible. A lot of the nightmares above can be at least addressed at this stage.

Making stuff that works better, like a better online store

A lot of the above touch on good old fashioned design and build. The consultant needs to be able to deliver a quantifiably better ecommerce website building on the customer's platform investment.

Deeper fixes underpinning the online experience

It's unlikely you're going to let me edit the Cobol that structures your mainframe's performance but somewhere between the ubiquitous SAP rollout-that-never-happens and cryogenic defrosting of top programmers active in 1979 there lies a wide scope of systems analysis and solutions analysis and architecture. You're going to want to offer those services too.

If you can't measure it you can't...

Ecommerce managers are some of the most accountable folk around. When your basket is dropping and your MI is a mess its easy to find your bonus under threat. These guys needs top-notch help with people, processes and performance measurement.

So lots to consider when choosing a consultant then:-)

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dug Falby published on June 4, 2011 2:39 PM.

Should I commission more strategy work from agencies? was the previous entry in this blog.

Customer Experience Management is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.