Success in eCommerce predicates on empathizing with audience needs, and enabling content and product discovery. While that sounds simple enough, it requires an unwavering commitment to researching and understanding your audience.
Agencies and consultancies alike typically optimize content discovery on their website by making a declarative statement about what makes them unique. They may describe themselves as a “User-driven organization,” or “Content-first organization,” or say their “Technology brings ideas to life.”
While all of these have merit, the value in eCommerce is in finding the thing (or things) that help an organization stand out in the marketplace and ultimately drive more revenue as a result.
Whatever the philosophy, success in eCommerce predicates on two foundations:
Empathizing with audience needs
Enabling content and product discovery
While that sounds simple enough, it requires an unwavering commitment to researching your audience's needs and understanding what challenges they face. Then, you must position your brand’s content and products to solve these needs and challenges.
Here are five simple steps we follow at Object Edge that we optimize content to drive the types of memorable experiences that intuitively move your audience through a content experience — leading to more (or larger) online transactions.
1. Don’t Assume You Know Your Audience (or that “you” are your audience)
Organizations of all sizes dedicate significant time and resources in finding the most knowledgeable people to join their teams -- which makes perfect sense. Subject matter expertise is invaluable, and frankly, defines career success for individuals.
That expertise may truly allow your team to understand your industry, products, services, and even your audience to some extent. Yet it can also lead teams to lean on assumptions, micro-tendencies, or personal preferences in defining the needs or behaviors of your customer set.
Relying on these impressions is typically the first, and most common, mistake that brands make in understanding their audience.
Instead, brands should shift the focus towards engaging with customers via primary and secondary research. The ability to speak with end users, observe their behaviors, and mine critical data provides invaluable insights. These insights determine not only what your customer set thinks they need, but often what they may not even imagine is possible.
Key takeaway: Ensure that your organizational perspective on customer needs and behaviors is validated through customer research, both qualitative (e.g. 1:1 interviews, behavioral observations), and quantitative (e.g. data mining, surveys, etc.).
In order to achieve that, you will need to define a structure when you optimize content that systematically delivers on the needs of your audience.
We accomplish this by:
Leveraging the most relevant content that aligns to your business objectives and audience demands.
Defining a content voice and tone that aligns with your brand and resonates with your audience.
Relating content to the form factor in which it’s being consumed — optimizing not only to the device but to the context and the moment.
Defining content experiences down to the page, setting content hierarchies and intuitive content flows.
Key takeaway: Equally align your content experience to business objectives and customer demands. In doing so, be sure to understand the moment in which content is consumed, and deliver content that adapts to those.
3. Your Taxonomy Should Reflect Audience Behaviors (and your original structure likely doesn’t)
If you have a catalog of products, you probably already have a taxonomy. A taxonomy basically reflects the categorical structure that helps you organize your product suite. Taxonomies, however, are a tricky proposition. The sticking points that can kill an existing taxonomy are if the taxonomy does not reflect the expectations of your consumers, and if it’s not designed to scale.
A common mistake we see is businesses aligning their taxonomy to their organizational structure. But what works within the walls of your company is not always the way that consumers discover content.
Appropriately defining a taxonomy, when you optimize content, is a sequence of upfront consumer exchanges, distilled recommendations, and end user testing. It’s this back-and-forth that allows the clear definition of a structure that will represent the demands of your customers. That structure is then measured against your operational model, and evaluated to ensure that it is built to allow for scalability.
Key takeaway: Define a taxonomy that reflects the behaviors of your audience and that allows for scalability.
4. Properly Prioritize, Identify, and Tag Content
We’ve already discussed the importance of understanding your audience, defining the content experience, and creating an intuitive taxonomy. All of that eventually leads to a library of labels that are used in the tagging of content. Without that structure, and the implementation of it, content discovery can become an exercise in frustration for your audience.
Content tagging can be done within a technology platform such as a content management system; or it may be included as part of page metadata. In both cases, the intent is to leverage these labels to ensure that the right content surfaces as a user moves through their pathway of discovery, evaluation, and eventually to a transaction.
This part of the process is intended to be ongoing, and requires continued attention from content owners within a client’s environment. In support of this, it’s best to assign SMEs as content owners that will follow workflows for creating, optimizing, and tagging content as it’s added to the site.
Key takeaway: Tagging content and leveraging an appropriate tagging structure is the only way to ensure that the content needed by your customers is accurately surfaced.
5. Enable Explicit and Implicit Content Discovery
All of this effort outlined above culminates in the explicit or implicit delivery of content. Which means that through explicit discovery your audience will be able to intuitively move through your online experience and easily find the content needed. It also means that as they do so, ancillary content is exposed that implicitly relates to the content they are consuming.
Explicit discovery is predicated not only on the steps detailed above, but also in aligning site architecture to the defined structures within a taxonomy. While not always an exact 1:1, navigational structures and search facets/filters should closely relate to the taxonomy. This ensures that no matter what steps an end user takes to discover content, or even focus their content experiences, their efforts will always lead to the same eventuality.
Site search and associated filters, use of site navigation, and even offsite searches such as Google search, all query the same content. Properly structured, categorized, and labeled content means that all of those will deliver a meaningful content experience and useful exchanges with your brand.
Key takeaway: Engage a partner that has a well-rounded team that focuses on the importance of collaboration: aligning content strategy, content creation, and the definition of the end user experience.
As the Director of UX Labs for Object Edge, Sergio brings a long, and diverse history of partnering with organizations of all sizes, types, and needs. Most recently, Sergio’s focus is in designing business strategies that bring digital content experiences to large audiences that intuitively resonate with end users and help brands expand market share and drive new business.
The current landscape of digital products; whether wearables, voice activated devices, or traditional touch interfaces, means that his role in helping build user interfaces is much broader than ever before. A true believer in behavioral sciences, Sergio is a strong advocate for engaging with those who engage with your brand. It’s a strong balance of business need and audience demand where Sergio finds a hyper focused landing spot for brands to succeed.