Is online product management a lot different from traditional product management? Well, like anything going digital, there are constants that don’t change, but yes, it’s a different ballgame for a number of reasons. E-Commerce is a unique environment, as far as commerce in general goes, because of how it works, and the attitude of convenience and complexity associated with it.
We’ve all had experience with eCommerce in modern times, be it through the likes of Amazon, eBay, Google Play or any host of company-specific storefronts, ordering products and having them delivered to our doors. It’s convenient, and it’s wonderful. But, as a product manager, it’s not without its pitfalls as well. Too often, product management in this atmosphere is just tossed in with all the other tenets of eCommerce practice, and while that may not be disastrous if you have good practices all around, it’s not wise to overlook some important issues about online product management.
With that said, let’s look at three big issues and what to do about them. These are problems I and my colleagues see often, and so do customers, if they lack the terminology to express the problems they see …
#1 – Broken On-site Searching
This is a big one. There’s one of two problems that often comes up when a customer searches on a storefront for a product. Either they don’t get anything they’re looking for, and get a whole host of poorly-engineered “related suggestions”, or they get a huge load of actually topical results that overwhelms them.
There’s a balance to be had here, and it may call for sacrificing the “related items” functionality, which actually only annoys customers usually, in favor of a few items per page, and a lot of possible refinements such as price ranges, feature sets and subcategories.
eBay’s search refinement functions is a good example of how to do that right, but their suggestion system is an example of why suggestion systems need to go away, as well.
#2 – Bad Shopping Carts
Ok, this one’s an issue too. As a product manager, you also have a hand in marketing and additional purchase incentives, and the shopping cart is often where this takes place. This is where suggestions don’t need to go away, and you can suggest bundles and deals to add to their purchases to increase sales per unit.
However, if your shopping cart is confusing or lazily-designed, this will all break down. One of the biggest problems is that a lot of companies don’t list, at the front page of their cart management or checkout, the various channels for purchase they accept. I’ve had to abort a lot of checkouts as a result of finding out a company didn’t accept PayPal (credit cards are evil), resulting in my time as a customer wasted, and metrics being all kinds of screwed up for product managers who see a ton of hanging, unconfirmed purchases.
Your shopping cart system needs to make it clear, before checkout is initiated, what channels are available, and it also needs to make it clear when a purchase is completely confirmed, and email the user a reminder when it is not. Sometimes, users forget to click one last button.
#3 – Lack of SEO
Search engine optimization is mandatory nowadays. While your onsite search, as I said above, needs to be balanced and intuitive, designing the content, meta tags and other information within your product pages needs to be SEO friendly, because users will often start a search for a product by querying Google or another similar search engine. Failing to optimize for this will result in you missing out on a lot of potential hits.
Online product management is a bit more focused on user experience and passive marketing than traditional product management, as you can see. But, this is for good reason.