You can build it, doesn’t mean they will want it.

Just ship it. Launch fast and iterate. Done is better than perfect.

Ramanan Balakrishnan    3 mins

You can build it, doesn’t mean they will want it.

Just ship it. Launch fast and iterate. Done is better than perfect.

Ordos, China — as deserted as it looks

Each of the quotes above has had its fair share of the spotlight in public imagination. Search deep enough and you might even catch me having touted one of those lines in the past.

However, as with any complicated topic, blind conviction in aphorisms can come at the loss of finer nuances, leaving us wondering how it could all have gone so horribly wrong.

Whether with ambitious housing projects, software releases or retail sales, just putting all the parts together is a necessary condition, but not a sufficient one to enable customer adoption.

#1: “I don’t care if you carry everything, I want this thing.”

If you are launching an ecommerce store, or handling product inventory — you might initially focus on increasing product listings, reasoning that diversity in products helps you cater to a larger client base.

I am sure that we carry it, just check aisle 5. Source.

But simply handing over the keys and walking away is not going to result in sales to your physical stores. So why should it work for your online ones? Just claiming millions of products on your website without providing for easier navigation is a train wreck waiting to happen.

#2: Modeling product discovery as an experience

Consider these two mockups — both describe variants of the same device. However, the second one has a much more intuitive feel about it. Instead of dumping raw data on the screen, a stronger visual and a clearer feature-focused layout help make the sell easier.

I am guessing the “right” option is better? (made with Balsamiq)

This is where carefully crafting user experience pays off. Accurate categorization and feature-rich listings are crucial aspects which boost customer retention on landing pages.

Being able to precisely categorize every product listing helps keep your customers in familiar territory. Allowing navigation via an expected category tree also helps customers use their personal intuition, which builds their buy-in in the process.

Once customers navigate to a specific product page, providing them with the required feature specifics is crucial to maintain interest. A generic page with standard text is only going to convince them of the mediocrity of your listings. Describing the right set of features for each product, can help customers buy according to their own preferences given available options.

Note: I had skipped the initial stage of the funnel here — having an effective search interface for your store. Needless to say, predictive filtering of products upon deciphering customer intent is an important aspect — a topic which warrants its own post.

#3: Twice as happy customers = half the marketing spend

One last point to drive home is that improving retention gives a much more valuable boost than improving acquisition. Bemmu Sepponen of Candy Japan has a great post on why you should focus on having happier customers, and not just more customers. Starting with simple math, it is easy to see that having satisfied customers is much more valuable (& sustainable) in the long run.

Consider a business which adds 100 new customers each month. On varying the monthly retention rates from 10% to 90%, you can see the vast differences in expected monthly numbers.

yes, this is modeled for SaaS, but subscription ecommerce doesn’t differ by much here.

A single source of truth for product data

A good customer experience is one where a customer can easily find what they want exactly when they want it — but the experience itself is only the tip of the iceberg. It has to be powered by standardized product data presented in an easy to digest manner.

Get started with Semantics3’s universal product database — signup for a free trial.

Liked what you read?

Checkout our UPC & SKUs lookup databases at

Published at: September 19, 2017

← Read other posts