Product Managers in the eCommerce domain are facing multiple challenges. After all, the aim to create friendly and efficient sales machines bring many challenges to the eCommerce PM’s plate:
- How to keep your product relevant and for users?
- How to create products that evolve, grow, and develop as the market and the technology changes?
- How to create user journeys that keep an eye on your user’s actions?
- And above all: how to make every user session count? As every session must end with a sale
So how do we meet these expectations? In Product League’s latest Ask-Me-Anything session, three Product League mentors shared their opinions on how the eCommerce product management domain, its challenges, opportunities and future to come. Terhi Hanninen (Senior Product Manager at Zalando ), Tolulope Ayeni (Lead Product Manager at Rexel Group) and Martin H. Sabag (VP Product at Fornova) invested their time to answer questions and give us precious advice. Below, you will find a summary of the session in the form of five key takeaways. Watch it here:
The right way to start this strategic thinking is to get data from anything that matters to you regarding product performance and sales. KPIs are the best set of tools that the product manager has. Starting with North Star KPI, will keep the product on track. And additional KPIs will assist you in measuring actions and help you, your product team, and even the designers and developers to make new decisions that improve product lifecycle management. In order to be updated and focused, don’t hesitate to test new KPIs once in a while. Moreover, it’s essential to cross different data types to learn about new behavior or changes in your sales funnel. You can accomplish that by testing the hypothesis of a new linkage between different types of data that are yet to be tested. Another way to go is a collaboration between multiple divisions that affect the sales or product growth. For example, sales, product marketing, and QA – could bring exciting insight that might change your KPIs and help you to identify changes in the market and your users that will affect the company’s strategy and will allow you to create better product roadmaps.
Beautiful Design and UX
When a design decision is on the table, the discussion might shift to personal taste, even among professional designers. Everyone has an opinion regarding color or product design style: “that’s beautiful, this is old fashion” you might hear as an argument. But every product decision should be based on data, and even the most artistic designers should explain their choice with relevant data that support their professional opinion. After all, your team members are not representing the average user. This is a valid example of a situation why product managers skills must include soft skills such as management skills, in order for a product vision and strategic thinking to be translated into a successful product development process.
Data-driven decision-making keeps your design changes in context together with the design knowledge. It’s the product manager’s responsibility to keep the design sprint focused and aligned with the user journey and the product objectives. A new design may have an added value. But you should always keep in mind the user, and ask yourself: “what is the purpose of this change? Will this change contribute for better performance of the product? Will it bring relief to the user’s pain points?”. A/B testing is a great way to test different kinds of designs with minimal risk. Users will experience the new design in different ways, and the outcome can be verified instantly compared to other design options or the old design. As with any data-driven decision-making, make sure to make a hypothesis, and make sure to test it in similar terms between the groups. For more detailed outcomes, conduct a short survey or interview to see if you missed anything.
Conversion: From Great UX to Sales
The eCommerce product manager role requires a consistent examination of multiple points of view regarding what is affecting your conversion (session to sale) rate. Users see their visit to an online store as a physical visit to an actual store. Time is valuable, and customers wish to find what they’re looking for in the minimum time possible, while they get as much information about the products and are offered to make a smart purchase decision. In eCommerce, user experience includes many elements; some are virtual, and some take place as physical elements (such as delivery, customer service, and returns). Poor UX that causes a return of the product makes the sale non relevant and negatively affects customer retention. That’s the reason why user journeys in the eCommerce domain are a broader challenge than in other fields, with a different type of product.
The product usage starts in the first session and ends when the customer uses the product that was purchased or calls the customer service. Managing an eCommerce product means considering every step in the journey, getting metrics, and analyzing linkage that can affect the experience in ways we don’t even think exist. In this case, being connected to the user journey is crucial to evaluate what part of it performed poorly and what part performed better, and perfecting the product vision.
Acquisition vs. Retention
A part of the eCommerce product manager’s roles and responsibilities is to see the online store as a business unit (and not only a product). It is essential to evaluate the cost of acquiring new customers vs. the cost of retaining customers. This perspective helps the product manager to stay focused on the customer’s journey while keeping the business unit profitable. For example: know where your new feature or change in an existing product can affect the user journey, test it, and make a KPI of it, to keep your user journey efficient, user-oriented, and profitable. Acquiring new customers usually costs much more than retaining customers that already made business with your store. In a physical store, a new customer will have many doubts before their first visit or purchase: regarding parking issues, proximity to where he is now, whether the salesperson is friendly or rude, and is the shopping bag made of plastic or is it eco-friendly. In eCommerce, however, the customer enters your store to figure out all their doubts regarding this purchase, and every step made in your online store could raise a question in mind. Many new visitors will contact the support team for UI orientation, or product inquiries, and others will ask about shipping and packaging. The “last mile” product strategies in eCommerce are an essential milestone in the relationship between an eSeller and a customer and what distinguishes between a successful product and a fail.
Getting What You Paid For is Not Enough in eCommerce.
Even purchasing groceries online comes with expectations: a careful packaging, a polite delivery person, helpful customer service, and many more factors considered by the new customer before a second purchase. Are these factors taken in consideration in your go-to-market strategies or product development process?
Returning customers will be familiar with your online store and how the product arrives. Moreover, returning customers will know to appreciate new features and give you helpful feedback. They will even feel safe to purchase more products or try new ones.
The Future of eCommerce & Product Management
As the eCommerce domain has been growing and evolving for the last few years, many research pieces have predicted the end of shopping centers and the shifting towards online stores and large distribution warehouses. Even before the COVID-19 era, eCommerce shifted in the last year with a handful of businesses creating complementary experiences online: try the product in the store, purchase it online, and have it delivered to you. Or, order online and pick it up in the store. The complementary experience is manifested in new products that make our online experience virtual and physical altogether. For example, Amazon’s IoT product “the Dash button” for quick Add to Cart outside the app or a computer. Today we already see the first data of new experience of shopping via smart speakers, adopted by tech fans as well as senior citizens who use the smart speaker as their shopping assistance, among other things.
More and more online users are looking for a smooth, personalized experience that will provide an accessible and relevant user journey. Many online stores use technologies that enable a personalized user journey, such as Artificial intelligence and Machine Learning. These technologies analyze big data quickly and learn patterns of user behavior to understand the user and predict their decision-making in the online arena.
The future eCommerce product manager will be even more user-oriented, as the product is adapting to the user behavior almost automatically. Data and context may be gathered to be as personal as possible, as platforms and technology evolve. Now it’s possible to get data from watches, speakers and TV sets.
The future product manager will have to decide not only what metrics to use but also test the relevant source to create the relevant user profile and lead users all the way to the cart.