March 21, 2013
To become a more complete ecommerce professional, it is imperative to make a conscious effort to get out of the weeds and look outside of your industry for ways to apply new ideas to ecommerce strategy and personalization. The point being is that if you can apply proven competencies and efficiencies from other industries to add value for your customer, you will have a better chance of differentiating your company from the competition. One way I do this is by studying some of the quality pioneers:
Another way I do this is by applying elements of Zen Buddhism as they relate to the founding principles of Taiichi Ohno’s Toyota Way. It is here, where elements of Zen and the Toyota Way intersect, that I find most fascinating. Understanding the relationship between the two helps to create efficiencies, eliminate waste, and increase the time available to you to provide more value for the customer.
Learning to Cook
I am currently reading “How to Cook Your Life,” which is a modern-day commentary on Dogen Zenji’s “Instructions for the Zen Cook” that was written in the 13th century. This book takes a look into the importance of the Tenzo (head chef) at a Zen monastery and provides instructions on how to live a full, balanced life with an open mind (Big Mind). Although these instructions are written for the cook in the kitchen, they also apply to the everyday responsibilities of ecommerce and online marketing professionals.
One passage in particular got me to think about how the instructions for the cook must have been the foundation for Ohno’s 5S methodology (Sort, Shine, Set in Order, Standardize, and Sustain) for workplace organization that is a part of the Toyota Way.
The passage reads:
Prepare those vegetables that will be used in a side dish for the following morning’s meal. At the same time, clean up the rice and leftover soup from the noon meal. Conscientiously wash out the rice container and the soup pot, along with any other utensils that were used. Put those things that naturally go on a high place onto a high place, and those that would be most stable on a low place onto a low place; things that naturally belong on a high place settle best on a high place, while those which belong on a low place find their greatest stability there.
Clean the chopsticks, ladles, and all other utensils; handle them with equal care and awareness, putting everything back where it naturally belongs. Keep your mind on your work and do not throw things around carelessly.
When taking a look at the principles of 5S and workplace organization, it is clear—at least to me—that the practice of Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain was influenced by nearly 800-year-old instructions to a Zen cook. And if we fast-forward to the 21st century and look closely, we can see how this sort of disciplined approach can have a positive impact on ecommerce optimization process and profit.
Getting the Ecommerce Recipe Right for Each Customer
As with any work or lifestyle responsibility, there are standardized, routine processes or habits that can help you be more productive and get the most out of your day. 5S is one of those simple process improvement tactics. When it comes to ecommerce and website personalization, the 5S translation would simply be to make the shopping experience as clean, relevant, and streamlined from the customer’s point of view so they get the most out of their visit.
When applying the recipe philosophy to your ecommerce ingredients, think about ways to get the recipe right for each customer. Just like individual palates, no two customers are alike, so the ingredients for their shopping experience should be unique. In order to get the most out of your ecommerce strategy, make sure that the right messaging, offers, and product selection are relevant to your customers’ individual experiences. If customers browse or purchase particular items or shop the same categories time and again, for example, give them a taste of more of the same on their return visits. This experience would be different than that for a customer visiting your website for the first time.
Regardless of where in the buying cycle your customer was when they visited your website, if the experience they had was what they expected it to be—had the right offer or information when it was most needed—then your website and, hopefully, your products or services will be perceived by the customer as quality. When you get the ingredients right for each customer and provide them with a quality experience, conversion rates will increase and you will know you have the makings of a successful ecommerce recipe.
Matt LeVeque is a Client Success Director at Monetate and a Senior Member of the American Society for Quality (ASQ). Prior to joining Monetate, he spent 10 years as a search engine marketing professional for startups to Fortune 500 companies. Matt is an avid cyclist and dreams of riding in the pro peloton … even at an advanced age.
Recipe Book image courtesy of Shutterstock.