If it's broken, fix it
Before we could get useful feedback from customers, we needed a clear point of view. To get that, we needed a better understanding of the problem space.
Our hunch was that we needed to re-invent the purchase funnel for the social web, but what exactly does that look like? In what ways is the current purchase funnel broken? And why and how do we think our approach is better than what's out there?
To answer these questions, we first looked at what was happening at a macro-level —the market and technology trends influencing the space — and then we mapped the user journey set up by the existing purchase funnel.
I knew from my experience working with Fortune 500 brands that more and more attention (and money) was being dedicated to social media. At first, it was about building an audience, and then it became about keeping that audience engaged. That took content. Brands were now spending a significant portion of their marketing budget to producing content to feed their social media audience. In the early days, it was text-based updates on Facebook and Twitter, but around 2011 or 2012, the focus shifted to photos. With the rise of Instagram and Pinterest, the visual web had become a thing.
Third party research confirmed what we were observing in the market and we used the data to quantify the problem. We could see three big trends at play:
- People are now spending about half of their time onlne on social networks
- Social media and content marketing was now one third of the marketing budget
- eCommerce was growing faster than any other channel
Brands were spending significant budget on social media, but they struggled to find the returns they wanted. Referral traffic from social media sources was converting at a fraction of the rate of other sources, like search, email, and direct traffic.
Added up, it amounted to billions of dollars in missed sales for eCommerce brands.
— Why was this happening?
current user journey
To learn more about why social traffic wasn't converting, we mapped out the user journey created when someone enters a purchase funnel from a social site. We looked at tens of user flows set up by biggest retail brands on social and eCommerce. Then we talked with friends and friends of friends about how they use social to interact with brands and how they shop online.
It was clear from our early research that the online experience was less than ideal. It went something like this:
Step 1: I'm on a social media site like Facebook (or Pinterest, etc.). I'm relaxed, mindless scrolling, feeling good.
Step 2: Then I see a pretty picture of an outfit, posted by my favorite brand. I think, "Ooh show me more!"
Step 3: Click!
Step 4, Option A: Ok, I'm on the eCommerce home page. Wait, where is the outfit I clicked on? Hmm.. It says there's a sale on right now for baby clothes. Uh.. not for me.
Step 4, Option B: It took me to a product page. I think this is the shirt I saw in that awesome outfit photo. But where are the pants and the shoes? I really liked those. Anyway, I'm not going to buy anything right now.
Step 4, Option C: Land on a category page. Hmm. I think some of these are the items I saw in that outfit, but I'm not actually sure because all the items look slightly different. In any case, I don't really feel like clicking around and shopping right now; I just wanted to see more photos of people wearing outfits I like.
Step 5: Back to Facebook I go! (or Pinterest, etc.)
Step 6, Option A: Ugh I'm seeing ads for this brand everywhere; it's annoying the crap out of me. They are following me all over the internet. Not cool.
Step 6, Option B: Ugh, I'm seeing ads everywhere for that shirt I didn't want.
The user experiences pain in Step 4 and Step 6 — when they are on the eCommerce site and when they see retargeted ads.
I feel lost & confused — because where I ended up looks nothing like what I clicked on
I feel frustrated — because I can't quickly and easily see what I wanted to see
I feel overwhelmed — because there are too many options, too many decisions to make about where to go next
I feel pressured — because I'm being asked to buy something and I'm not ready to buy
I feel annoyed — because the ads I'm seeing are irrelevant to my interests and because I see the same ad over and over again
We now understood the market forces at play and had a clear view of the user's pain points. The next step was to talk to our target customers to hear their point of view, to know if they saw these issues as well, and if this was a problem they cared about solving, enough that they would pay for a solution.