Monday, July 23, 2012

Starting Point for Business Research

We need to do research in our line of business to know the current trends, best approaches and industry insights. Below techniques can be the starting path for the research. It can be used by the business of any form(Online, Brick and Mortar) . 

Google Alerts: "Google Alerts are emails automatically sent to you when there are new Google results for your search terms" - Google.

Set up extensive google alerts related to your line of business.  For instance, someone who runs (or) planning to start  an online gadget store in Brazil can set-up alerts like below:

  1) "Brazil Ecommerce"
  2) "Brazil Gadget Store"
  3) "Online Gadget Store"
  3) "Brazil online buying behavior"
  4) "Online buying behavior"
  4) "Gadget store"
  5) "Ecommerce"
  6) "Brazil Ecommerce Trends"
  7) "Online customer acquisition"

Glancing through the alert emails, you can consume the informative articles and insights which you many not come across using search or other means.

Be a user of your competitor : Find out your competitor (or) someone who do similar type of business.  Register with their service/product and use it.  In case of offline business, you can go and visit the actual physical store. 

Things you can do, 
  • Understand their business models and analyze it.  
  • Use their forums,blogs and analyze the user's problems and feedback. You can address that as a feature in your business
  • If you find any best practices, you can check how you can implement in your business. 
  • If you find any flaw in their model,  you can address that in your business.

Google Reader: Subscribe to quality journals and blogs using google reader (or) any other feed reader of your choice. One way to find the quality sites/blogs is - when you subscribe to alerts,  you get to know many informative blogs and web sites. You can go and subscribe to their feeds.

Google Insights: "Google Insights for Search is a service by google similar to Google Trends[1], providing insights into the search terms people have been entering into the Google search engine"  - Wikipedia

I'll explain this with an example,
In India gold market is huge. I just put "Gold" in insights with region as "Tamil Nadu" and duration as 1year.
You can see from the result, towns like Erode,Vellore,Sivakasi are on the top of the list and are ahead from some of the prominent cities. This data may be usefull for a jeweller who want to expand his business or to run a targeted campaign. To know more on how to leverage Google Insights, you can check this post - . You can also check Google Trends.

Research Log: Maintain a research log with references, url and important points. You may come up with various situation in your business where this log is very handy and referring to them can guide you to take better decisions. Also by this way, duplication of the research effort can be avoided.

Business research is not limited to product managers. Anyone who is interested and involved in the business can do it and you can share your valuable insights to the stakeholders. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Conversion Rate - The Ultimate Goal

Everything we do to develop and run a successful web/mobile app is to achieve this single goal.

                      "Better Conversion Rate"

We can measure the conversion rate only after launching the product. So, most of us bring this after product development and more into marketing activities. Objective of this post is to share the approach we can take to bring conversion rate in the ideation, design and development phases of the project.

Desired actions performed by the user which helps to achieve product owner's business goal = Better Conversion Rate. 

So, achieving better Conversion Rate should drive the functional specification, technological choice, usability, product development, performance improvement, marketing, customer support and everything.

What we can do?

Bring in Project Decisions

In all project decisions (technical, design, functional and operational), bring the focus on achieving better conversion rate. Approach the decision making process as below,

"I will get better conversion if user queries are handled  and  pro-actively supported, so I'm going to build a customer support team"

"I will get better conversion if the core workflow's are more usable, so I''ll work with the usability experts and come up with a better design.."

"I will get better conversion if there is a recommendation based upon user's buying behaviour, so I'm going to develop a recommendation engines using libraries like mahout.."

"I will get better conversion if an active community is present for the product, so I’ll go for experts who can tell the digital stories and help to form a community"
"I will get better conversion if a page loads fast, so I'm going to investigate and do necessary things to resolve" 

"I will get better conversion if user discover the products easily,  so I'm going to develop a search functionality using  SOLR(or any other library)."

Now, it looks like reverse may also work.

For example,
I’m going to build the best search engine to aid the conversion

But the flaw on this approach is that best search engine may not required by the product at that point of time. A basic search may do the purpose, which can be expanded later and iteratively improved. So in a way, it encourages iterative development.

Time is crucial; Churn out important things which can aid the conversion rate.

Instill a Culture

We need to instill a culture in the team whereby everyone talks about the conversion rate .For instance, take a team where each developer do different screens/modules/workflow. Let them discuss how best possible way things can coordinate between their modules to achieve a  conversion goal

Introduce Analytics

Introduce Google analytics or any other analytics engine from the beginning of the project.  Let people understand the goals and conversion funnels from the start. We can mock-up goals similar to Google Analytics and have it as a reference for the team. Let the developer, usability expert and marketing people work keeping these goals in mind. Analysis and correct metrics is the key to improve conversion rate. Good thing is conversion rate can be improved iteratively.

It’s all the approach we take make the product successful.