Oct 21, 2021

All Systems Go: How systems thinking translates strategy to design in less time

By Michael Agombar, Product Manager

Expectations of digital retail

We all expect to be able to buy whatever we want online — and studies are showing that an increasing number of individuals are using digital stores the same way they use brick and mortar stores: for a discoverable and browse-able experience. People are using these digital storefronts as ways to fill up their "mental cart" without needing to buy immediately.

The question is, does this type of behavior change in different industries? Does a grocery, like Thrive Market, have a different shopping experience than a bag company, like Yeti?

The answer is yes and no. In order to design, develop and ultimately ship a successful e-commerce product, YML product strategists start digging into vital questions: Where are we at now? Why are we here? What are users doing vs. what do we want them do to? How do we improve our user + business goals? And how do we do that fast?

YML recently partnered with Polestar (Volvo), a Swedish EV company with ambitious goals to influence and build a carbon neutral world by 2040, and developed a product-strategy driven approach that is critical for every e-commerce brand. The remit in this case was to design and develop a new Polestar website that would spark as much enthusiasm as their flagship car does in person.

What to track + optimize for

To understand where we were going with Polestar, we had to understand where it has been. We began by building an understanding of the landscape of Polestar's event data in Google Analytics, creating custom user segments, custom conversion funnels and analyzing acquisition channels on the site.

The intention was to understand the entire lifecycle of a website visitor — from acquisition to purchase. Our hypothesis was that if we found where pieces of that conversion funnel were letting us down, then we could go and fix them in an innovative way — and fast.

What we found was a dynamic, progressive company with a digital experience that wasn't living up to its brand promise.

Time on page was low due to zero exploratory prompts for the user. Page views per visit were low due to not having enough calls to action on other meaningful pages. CTR to the conversion flow were sub-optimal due to not having 'sold' the user enough. These became key objectives we aimed to optimize and grow.

By increasing these metrics, the work we'd ultimately deliver for Polestar would see a positive ROI for not only the business, but greatly improve the user's experience.

Armed with a solid grasp of Polestar's digital landscape, we went to work defining how different business units would be affected by a new website launch. We sat down with Polestar leaders across the spectrum — marketing, social media, business development, and customer service — to get to know their pain points, and what they were hoping to achieve with the new website design and development.

Building a plan

We had done enough research to develop a strong enough point of view on the problem spaces; but more importantly, we developed a plan on how to solve it. The keys to our success were:

  • Educate the visitor through immersive storytelling

  • Evoke the brand's emotion

  • Make the site interactive across web and mobile

  • Clarify what Polestar and electric vehicles are

  • Tailor the content

In short, we spent a few weeks researching and developing our guiding question: How might we create a guided, educational, and immersive shopping experience. Getting this right at the outset was critical. We don't necessarily believe in failing fast, we believe in succeeding early, which for YML meant bringing an innovative and improved product to market within months.

Launch + optimize

As you probably have noticed, we have completely skipped the design + build phase in depth. Sure, we do usability testing throughout our process lifecycle and we partnered with Polestar's Analytics team to develop a correct and meaningful tagging system, but the real fun is when we launch. Within about 90 days, our development team had integrated themselves into Polestar's code base, and built a responsive site that was ready to go to market.

Every product will likely have a slightly different roll-out strategy: Do we want to launch in a specific market? With specific users? Should we test? What should we test?

The Polestar roll out was a strategic mix of all the above. Since our goal was to improve time on page, page views per visit, and clicks to the conversion flow, we tested our newly built product (in this case a website) against the old website we were aiming to replace. We ran a spilt-based url A/B test where 50% of all users saw the original page, and 50% of all users saw the new page YML designed. This gave us tangible proof that we:

  • Increased CTR to conversion by 75% — and therefore, increased the amount of users landing in the conversion funnel. And most importantly, it proved we were educating the user.

  • Increased page views per session by about 40%, more proof that the new work immersed the visitor in the experience through a blend of beautiful animations, messaging and design.

  • Increased session duration by about 88%. The new work evoked the brand and clarified what makes the EV special.

Our five keys to success were proven correct, and confirmed we'd built and executed a solid roadmap to start delivering more tailored content to the user in the future.

Next Steps

This success with Polestar is just the beginning and more generally, a product is never really 'done' once it's released. The common thread among the most successful brands is they don't treat their digital experience like a one-and-done product. These companies grasp that their product is a constantly evolving experience, and they rely on meticulous product strategy, research and empathy to create both a valuable experience for customers, and ultimately value for the business too.

We have led experimentation and optimization tasks for a variety of clients that have seen continually-improving KPIs with relatively little investment. Continual optimization, experimentation and roadmap development ensures we are always delivering the best experience for users and the business.

Want to discuss building your next product? Say hello.