Lincoln once said that if he was given six hours to fell a tree, he’d spend the first four sharpening his axe. As well as being a pearl of wisdom for the political activist, it’s not without application in the world of web development.
One of the great challenges of any software development project is the balance between analysis and coding. For good reason, customers tend towards impatience, and love to hear the virtual thump of pixel upon screen. They often aren’t aware of the cost of making that happen and making sure that the right pixel ends up on the right screen at the right time.
While using agile development methodologies offers a helpful compromise, it’s important you do research to ensure what you are developing is going to meet your customers’ goals. When someone offers you work and waves a wad of cash at you this can be hard to do. However, taking projects that deliver technically and not commercially aren’t that different to projects that don’t deliver at all.
In my experience, commercial projects are driven by three objectives; increasing sales, reducing costs or achieving both. Ultimately, if a project doesn’t deliver on these, it will have failed. Understanding how the project will deliver is an essential part of the process, even if it seems a little distant.
A great case in point is the rush to implement mobile-friendly websites. Right now if you go within 15 feet of any online retailer, someone will tell you smartphones are the future of eCommerce. This may be true, but investment in mobile needs careful planning.
We recently undertook a survey of consumers about their mobile buying habits. To our surprise, almost 60 per cent didn’t use any kind of mobile device for purchasing online. When we asked those that did often use a mobile device to buy online, they did so mostly at home. Also, the purchase of apps and music was considered as shopping online, not just buying and ordering physical goods.
I’m a great believer in the future of mCommerce, but what this tells me is that the hype is running well ahead of the adoption curve.
Every project needs a big red ‘buyer beware’ sticker. For my own company, this means we will do more research ahead of mobile projects, to ensure we deliver the value where it counts. The research suggests that mobile success is heavily influenced by a combination of the products and services being offered and the demography of the target audience, so a one-size-fits-all approach is a bad idea.
Analytics can tell us important information about the volume of mobile visitors, the devices they are using, the bounce rate and time on site, as well as other important metrics. This information adds up to crucial details about the current effectiveness of a site, when viewed on mobile devices.
This data needs to be augmented with more detailed reach about buyer behaviours. Are visitors looking for a transactional engagement or a shopping experience? What frustrates them about mobile shopping and what stops them for using it? Check for roadblocks that you can’t navigate with technology, and where this is the case cut your cloth to suit.
It’s hard to say no to customers, which is why the latter course of action is difficult to execute. However, taking the long-term view is the most consistently positive strategy for retaining clients. So long as you communicate your analysis effectively, saying no to stuff that doesn’t make sense from a business perspective, will enhance your customer relationships. If you take the time and trouble to identify your customers’ business objectives, it is often possible to identify other ways they can invest their limited resources to greater effect.
To successfully run, and indeed grow, any business you have to roll with the punches, adapt to new surroundings, and invest time and effort learning new technologies. There is no doubt that mobile devices hold a firm place in the future of eCommerce; while maybe it is not the be all and end all, it’s certainly an important cog. In this technological age, new branches of technology will be growing around you all the time. Unless, like Lincoln and his axe, you are well prepared, you’ll be lost in the forest before you know it.