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A Focus On Insights: "Walking the Store" Digitally

Shifting your mindset can uncover a trove of opportunity.

As digital practitioners, we often overlook opportunities in our own backyards. We live and breathe our digital footprints so intimately; it becomes easy to miss blatant opportunities to improve the customer experience. Institutional knowledge takes over, and it can be tough to 'unsee' what we know and assume a fresh perspective.

Harkening inspiration from my early retail days, I recommend the practice of "walking the store". In the brick-and-mortar world, store employees sometimes follow an established checklist and take a methodical walk through of their floor sets, noting inventory levels, visual merchandising, and make adjustments to the physical environment. The equivalent best practice in the digital world involves taking out your device and assuming a concerted step back from what you know about your business and approaching your channel as if you are a true customer.

Often, the most difficult part about performing this practice is carving out the time and focus. Once you establish an organized approach it's rinse and repeat. You'll be on your way to opening a pipeline for potentially lucrative additions to your digital roadmap.

Here are some ways you can set yourself up for this practice:

  1. Commit yourself to the time: Schedule reasonable one-hour blocks each month, six to eight months in advance. Guard this time dearly, even though it may be challenging. I know - easier said than done!

  2. Let the data be your guide: Focus on the pages and flows that garner the most engagement and provide clear value to your business.

  3. Craft authentic use cases: For example, if most customers start at the home page and navigate to a search experience to find a specific product, create a use case centered around that scenario with a product you've had your eye on.

  4. Hit the reset button: Separate yourself from being a business stakeholder and remind yourself that you are a customer (at least in this moment!). Step away from your desk and go to a location where you would typically shop like the kitchen table.

  5. Establish a simple capture mechanism: Use a spreadsheet to document the page name, URL, a summary of the experience and your insights, ideas to eliminate friction, and a scoring system for factors like potential impact, effort and cost. If you're really feeling ambitious, document how you felt as you moved through the experience (satisfied, halted, engaged, etc.). It's a great way to establish empathy with your customers and identify ways to improve the brand experience. Your framework will likely evolve to suite you with time. Take video or screen captures as they will become handy later!

  6. Pressure test your findings: Share your experiences with internal stakeholders and seek perspectives from those who are not close to your digital product. If you are fortunate enough to have access, utilize analytics tools, including session replay, to cross-check your assumptions.

  7. Share your learnings: Communicate potential optimizations to your product team, and if feasible, have them scored and added to the roadmap.

  8. Close the loop: For changes that have been implemented, circle back to understand if there was a measurable impact to the change and learn from that!

Assuming a customer mindset can be a refreshing practice that sparks creativity and innovation. It is also personally fulfilling to step away from the day -to-day and become re-energized about what you offer to the world. It can also open up opportunities to generate breakthrough ideas. Look at this practice as a gift to yourself, and the business and customers you serve. Happy Shopping!

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