Lessons Learned: How to Reinvest in Your Customers Without Rebuilding Your Storefront

Beyond the Cart Lightburn Podcast - Ecommerce
Graphic depicting CX Ecommerce

Changes to your digital strategy can domino across your business. While that's ultimately how real change happens, it can still be daunting. You may not want to reinvent the wheel. In this episode, we discuss the biggest mistakes ecommerce companies make when realigning and reinvesting in their customer experience strategies — and how to avoid them.

Join host Nora Lahl as she shares lessons learned with Lightburn's director of client strategy, Colleen Campbell, and the co-owner/cofounder of UX research company Lyssna Method, our pal Kristine Howell. 

Today’s Topics:

  • Top mistakes business owners make
  • Low-cost wins to avoid analysis paralysis
  • How to get c-suite buy-in with dedicated data
  • Under- and OVER-investing in technology
  • Customer wants versus business needs
  • Reducing risk and welcoming natural tension points


[AI transcribed]

Welcome to Beyond the Cart, presented by Lightburn. I'm Nora partner here at Lightburn and this is a podcast all about ecommerce and customer experience. And today we're here to share what *NOT* to do when embarking on a digital strategy adventure. 

We're talking common mistakes, pitfalls, and all the stuff we hope to help you avoid. 

Today, I'm excited to have two ladies join me who come at digital strategy from slightly different directions. First, Colleen Campbell, director of client strategy at Lightburn. She loves a perfectly crafted spreadsheet and digs all things data. Hey Colleen. Hello. You nailed me on that one. Yeah. You are so good at spreadsheets. And I've also got Kristine Howell, a UX researcher and designer who founded The Lyssna Method, a UX consultancy here in Milwaukee. Thank you so much for having me.

Top CX Mistakes & Quick Alignment Wins 

I'm so glad to have you smart ladies with me. So, what are some of the top mistakes that people make when they're embarking on a CX project or starting into documenting CX needs for the first time?

Keeping customer assumptions in your head

Well, I think you hit a really important word is documented. Period. So often I think this kind of stuff stays in people's heads. Maybe you have conversations about it, you think you understand what the journey looks like or who your customers are, but you don't take the time to actually go through the process of putting pen to paper and documenting it.

Not building a customer-centric culture

Yep. I think there are three areas that I focus on. The first is underestimating the importance of organizational culture. Sometimes leaders need to cultivate that customer-centric culture. If you think about companies that do this really well, like Amazon, Apple, Nike — you can put those brands in your mind and you really see the culture there and how they're centered around customers. So it starts with that culture and without that buy-in and shared vision from every team member, even a well-designed CX strategy can be fall short and not be implemented effectively.

Yeah, absolutely. That reminds me of, we have a friend, Mike, who has worked in UX for many years and he was talking about a large institution that he worked at here in Milwaukee and he said it's like an iceberg. There's so much that you have to uncover to really get that true buy-in. Alright, what's number two on your list? 

Relying on technology to BE the solution

Number two on my list of top three would be focusing on too much on the technology and end solution and not enough on people. So personalization, empathy, and human connection are really critical components of a successful CX strategy and technology alone cannot get you there.

I love that. We've got the don't focus too much on technology, but also Colleen is, don't forget about technology. You can go too far in either direction I think. Right? Depending on your perspective. Yeah.

Neglecting customer feedback 

Number three, you ready? Go for it. Number three is just neglecting data insights and customer feedback that — You guys can agree on. I got that on my list too — without investing in CX and leveraging that data and analytics, you're sitting on all this customer feedback when you're coming into these projects and there's a lot of assumptions. We know our customers, this is what they do, this is what it is. You could be going down wrong paths that can be very detrimental. So, make sure you're rooted in data that you're getting that customer feedback and allowing informed decision-making and iterative improvements. 

Thinking one big idea will change everything 

Yeah, I think I had to add along those lines. Effective CX strategy isn't about one big idea. It's about probably hundreds or dozens of small ideas that you have to execute consistently, but as you're executing, how are you going to measure impact? The tracking capabilities sometimes can get messy, so make sure you've got the mechanisms in place to actually measure impact and then a process around to actually review that with everybody on your team.

And that's so tricky. I feel like that's such a hard part to define. I know we're going to talk more about that area, but the metrics are always difficult of how do you define those upfront? How do you measure it, what does success look like? Totally. Yeah, a hundred percent agree.

Low-Cost Wins to Avoiding Analysis Paralysis 

Yeah, I think this leads to one of my other questions. It's a lot, right? And so how do you avoid analysis paralysis or feeling like you have to do it all? How do we dip our toe into cx?

Ask customers for feedback to find and fill holes 

There’re several low-cost things that you can do. One of the areas of focus is just leverage your existing customer feedback. I'm going to keep, that's my resounding theme of if nothing else, use what you have regularly asking for feedback through surveys after purchase to show that you're acting on it. Even these little small changes that customers suggest can really go a long way and have a big impact.

Yeah, that's great. How about you, Colleen? Any suggestions for getting into it when it feels overwhelming? 

Create basic versions of your documented personas and journey maps 

Yeah, I think Kristine mentioned there's lots of things you can do that don't need to cost a lot, and you can start with low fidelity versions of a lot of these things. We often talk about having some CX foundations and we see that as having some kind of documented personas, a journey map in your digital ecosystem. And we've done projects where it takes lots of hours and lots of inputs to get there, but also just putting pen to paper and starting with a low fidelity version can go a long way.

I absolutely love that and I feel like the answer is never do nothing. So I love that you're saying that, and I call those provisional personas. If you're going to create something, you have a starting point. It can be based off of assumptions and then you go out and say, listen, we want to validate these. We want to make sure it's the right things.

Yeah. I think what you think you know about your customers from years past may not be true when they're actually interacting with you while they're feeding their kids and trying to let the dog out and also have to fix the Roku and all the things that are happening in their life. That's not usually that historic institutional knowledge isn't facing the journey. Really. It's the demographic knowledge I think, and confusing those two can be a real mistake. It reminds me of one of Staci’s favorite terms or warnings is don't rely on the hippo, which is the highest paid person's opinion. And that's very hard in a room when that's your boss and that is the owner of the company and they have a lot of conviction and it's really come back with data, come back with customer feedback, show them that. I love what you were saying. On the same thread, Nora, just thinking that customers evolve. We are evolving every single year. There are things happening in our environment that are changing how we behave, how we interact with different products. Covid is a huge example of that, how it changed all of us, how we perceived what was valuable and where we spent our time and where we focus our energy. And you want to keep a lens to your customer base and understand that just like humans in life, we are evolving, we're changing, our needs are changing and make sure that your brand is moving with them. So we're going to go talk to customers, let's grab 10, 15 customers, talk to them and validate these points. And I feel like that has been a really easy quick win and weigh in to start the development process of these artifacts.

Those seem like doable things. Even if you don't necessarily have buy-in organizationally, maybe you're a small marketing team and you don't have a ton of resources, you can still get in a room and talk it through and get something down even if it's rough. Use bullet points in a Word document to start. You don't have to make it if you don't have the resources to make something really pretty. Right, exactly. And just come back to it. I think we've said that before, but it's worth repeating anything that you make that will only serve you if you keep bringing it back. I don't know how many projects I've seen or clients that I've seen kind of digging up their dusty personas when we start working with them and they haven't touched it in ages or they deliver it kind of buried within brand materials and it really hasn't been revisited. So whatever you have, keep looking at it. Right, absolutely. 

How To Get C-Suite Buy-In with Data

So. we've mentioned buy-in a couple times. Getting that organizational shift into focusing on CX and understanding it. How do you get buy-in, especially with maybe if you're getting sign off from someone who's a little disconnected from marketing and customer experience, sometimes we see CFOs having to sign off on these projects, which can be a hard sell. Have you found any great ways to get that buy-in or help your clients get buy-in?

Speak their language — Bring in the metrics 

The challenges that I see, especially when you're talking about c-suite and trying to really get that buy-in early stage is you're talking to business folks that are black and white in metrics and you need to learn how to speak their language. So what happens if we don't do anything? What is the cost of inaction? Outline the risks, outline the cost associated with not doing this work and talking to your customers, missed opportunities, inefficiencies in the marketing spend. I had a company I was working with, thousands and thousands of dollars were being spent on marketing, targeting a target customer who didn't care about the product, didn't want the product and wasn't buying it.

That's Rough. So can you monetize this? Go talk to your CFO, go get the metrics from financials and build your story around these things. Show lower customer satisfaction through reviews, things like that can really help build your case. I think this is where my spreadsheets come in. Enter spreadsheets. I don't know, but I mean there's a compelling business case to be made. I think sometimes when we're talking about customer experience, it can seem like what's the impact there? And so I think take the time to do the math and build the growth model and kind of demonstrate out, hey, the outcome of doing this research is going to be, we're going to identify a bunch of small things that might be able to move the needle. So if we were able to increase our customer lifetime value by 5%, what impact does that have on revenue? Absolutely. Do your spreadsheet, do the math. That's my tip. Do your spreadsheets, people. 

Run a pilot program — Small scale tests 

And lastly, it's just propose a pilot program. Start with something really small, scale, low risk, try to run a pilot program and say, Hey, we're going to try this and we're going to tell you what the results are and try to get that, buy-in early on with that and then run those frequently. Try to keep doing it. Yeah.

I love the idea of a pilot program. Start with a small investment, prove it out. I think you are going to get buy-in by building momentum, right? And you got to start somewhere.

Absolutely. Yep.

Under And OVER-Investing in Technology

Let's see, what other questions do I have for you? And if you have anything else to add, guys, feel free. We don't have to go off of the questions. I've got another mistake. Yeah, yeah, go for it. It could take us in a little bit of a different direction, but if we're really talking about mistakes people make, I think under utilizing the technology and the tech stack that you have, I think oftentimes when we do this work and we look at the entire digital ecosystem, we realize, hey, your marketing automation platform is like a Ferrari, but you're driving it around the target parking lot or something like that.

Don’t drive a Ferrari around a parking lot 

You're not really using the full capabilities of the tech stack you have. And the other side of that is maybe you're in technology, maybe you don't need that Ferrari. So I think that's a really common mistake. We encounter a lot with our clients as well too. Yeah, I love that. The balance of how much is too much and what do you need? And we work a lot in healthcare and there's just so much happening right now in that space of constrained resources and budget and things like that. And how do you create a value add for the customers that they serve, which are patient populations? How do you create that through not only that digital channel, but just the experience holistically? So whether it's a backend operational system or a front end e-comm website, they all need to work in synergy together.

Audit your tech stack regularly 

So I'd say as often as you're kind of pulling out those personas out of the drawer and pulling out that customer journey, look at your tech stack and look at your ecosystem and make sure that all of those things are working in concert with each other and you're invested in the right places there.

Yeah. Do you ever see, I'm curious to know a little bit more maybe examples of when you're maybe, do you have any examples of relying too much on tech to solve your problem for you?

I mean, my examples are really more of legacy companies who have been around a long time and they just kind of keep adding and buying. And it's like, well, we're going to fix this bandaid by plugging this one and this one and this one. But no one's taking that holistic vantage point of the end-to-end process, whether it's a service blueprint, we're looking at operations or whether it's just holistically that customer experience from purchase to operations to how do you get the products and what's happening in the warehouses on the backend. And so cleaning house and making sure that every so often you're having group, either you're hiring a team of people on to come on and do that assessment or you're doing it internally where you're identifying those challenges and then being able to upgrade legacy products that need upgrading, streamline your and get rid of the overhead because there's a lot of inefficiencies that happen within that. Yeah,

I think we see it most often with marketing automation platforms. There's big enterprise tools out there like a Salesforce marketing Cloud or Marketo, but sometimes we find that people are using those in kind of basic ways and that's all that they need it for. So actually downshifting into something like a HubSpot or a MailChimp that has similar capabilities could be a better use of your dollars if you don't need that enterprise tool today. Or to Kristine's point, consolidating your tech stack. We often see people have digital experience platforms that support a lot of technology in one platform, but they have three different ones that all do the same thing.

Be sure your data is speaking to all of your operational systems 

That redundancy can cause headaches, especially if you're trying to tie that data together. I think the one thing we haven't mentioned here, which is a major misstep, is siloed data, which hopefully we're trying to solve that through this, through the process of taking a look at everything that you have, looking at your data and finding those silos, but leaving it, that can be a huge mistake. So what sometimes consolidating your tech stack can help with that, or you have to do some behind the scenes work to get it pulled all together. 

Be sure YOU’RE speaking to all of your departments 

But that's a mistake that we see often enough too. If you're not talking to the right people at the right times within your organization, you can really miss something. So even as simple as getting accounting in the room when you're talking about what your refund process might look like, you could build something out and then find out that you can't do it that way once you finally get to how accounting needs to handle it.

And so another one would be getting in the room with fulfillment. What can we do to make that a little bit better process if people are receiving five different alerts and emails from different systems, telling them that their order's on the way, that can be annoying. So as simple as asking someone to tweak their system that they're using so it doesn't send as many alerts. So it can be simple things sometimes, but I think people forget that you can bring those folks in if you present it as the right kind of opportunity. Anybody else that you think in an institution, in an organization that departments or voices that are often overlooked?

Customer Wants Versus Business Needs

I think you nailed it with that one. Just thinking about the disparate siloed conversations, insight data points that go across an organization and making sure that your, and I don't know who we're talking to, if it's a CEO, making sure that you're aware of not just that financial business implication, but the customer voice. If you are downstream on design, making sure that you're getting that lens back up. o wherever there seems to be blind spots, being able to kind of roll that up and include that. And I think when you were talking, I was starting to have a flashback, Oh no of this, the good kind or the back, right?

The bad kind. Of a company that I was working with that had, so one of the problems was customers were saying that the product, it was just too much product. They didn't need that every single month. It's just too much. 

The obvious solution may not work, use your team to get creative

So the obvious thing to do is reduce the quantity of the product. Well, if you're reducing the quantity of the product, you're changing the packaging, you're changing the bottle, you're changing all of this. So you go back to finance and they go, that is going to cost us X amount of dollars. We cannot do that. So it's really having a lens to just because a customer says they don't like something, the problem, the solution to the problem isn't always the most obvious thing. You need to account for all of those various factors of what does the business need, how much is this going to cost? All of those things to come up with creative solutions.

Again, that push pull of you've got your needs as a business and you've got your agenda sort of right? And then you've got the agenda of the customer. And we hope that those are matching up pretty closely, but they're not quite the same sometimes. So finding the path forward to line those up as closely as possible or shift how you're doing something that is necessary as a business but may be troublesome or an annoyance for a customer. Did that problem get solved? 

Reducing Risk & Welcoming Natural Tension Points

Yeah, I mean we had to solve it in creative ways and we had to find out, really it came down to it's not about changing the packaging and the shipping and the product. It was about reducing the frequency of what it was sent. So every Other month instead of every month and giving  An option, it's like that's a simple change that didn't change operations. And there's a book called Six Thinking Hats, something like that. And I love that book. It's old school. But when you were kind of talking through this, I always like to find, there's always that person in the company who's the black hat thinker, who's going to poke any idea you have. They're poking holes. They're saying the negative. Embrace that Individual. You need that person. Bring them in at the right time, know when to bring them in, but bring them in at the right time because those people are gold and they can really mitigate your risk by identifying these are all the things that could possibly go wrong. You Can have all the great ideas in the world, but if you can execute 'em and you're dead in the water or worse, you start to execute and then find out that you can't do it, that's probably the worst case scenario. Or You pull 'em in too, and then they come in at the end and they're like, we're not doing this because Of X, Y, and Z. And you shut it all down. And that actually reminds me of something I know from another agency years ago, and I think it applies here. 

You don’t know what you don’t know

This was for digital projects, kind more traditional, just website dev. But I think it really applies here because often what happens is you've got a new person joining the team who maybe comes from an organization that's got that CX lens and that focus, and they're bringing that in. So they're new, they're fresh eyes, or maybe they were even hired to focus on this, so they're new to this organization and they need a buddy. You need to find somebody who has institutional knowledge and can maybe help with how to talk to different departments or how to get buy-in with different personalities or just know historically what have we done in the past and did that work or not.

And so this other agency that I know of, if they had a direct contact who had been at the organization for less than I think two years even, they would politely ask for a new contact who had more historic knowledge of the organization. They had seen so many pitfalls of someone who just didn't know what they didn't know. And so I think that doesn't mean that a new person can't embark on a CX journey. I think in many ways they're well positioned to do it because they've got fresh eyes, but they need someone else within the organization who has some historic knowledge and can steward them through all these conversations that they need to have. They can find that black hat thinker, like you said, who's going to poke holes and everything and embracing that. That's a great suggestion. Do not be afraid of conflict. I think in this whole process is if you are trying to build, make everybody happy and have it all just lay out like, oh, we're doing everything and it's confirming everything that we already knew. If that's your reason for doing this, you're not going to get much out of it I don't think. I love what you're saying that you want that conflict come natural attention points. Yes.

Try and put aside your bias

It's like anytime you're coming into these exercises or at work, whatever, think of yourself as a scientist. You're unbiased, you're really trying to take all the insight in. You're trying to understand, and at the end, you just want the best outcome. You don't care if you're right, you don't care who's right. It's not about that. It's really about finding the best outcome and solution for your customers. So if you kind of position yourself in thought process around that customer-centric thinking, what's going to make it work for them, and then pulling in those additional insights that we just talked about through the business, the strategy, the technology constraints, all of that has to come together. It's not easy in this day and age to create strong e-comm experiences. It's challenging. There's a ton of competition. Your differentiators are really going to be brand positioning and the customer centered kind of lens. What's going to create that sustainability.

Anything else to add? Anything that when you're thinking about these projects, keeps you up at night on behalf of your clients or any other flashbacks to bad experiences? My Flashbacks. Yeah, My sixties flashbacks. 

I mean, I think it's about being open too. Going back to that, everyone comes into that process with a natural bias. So I think it's fun to be surprised by something you hadn't thought of. So that would be a pitfall to avoid is not bringing your bias to the table and be excited about learning something new as part of the journey.

Build real trust between teams 

You mentioned natural tension points. We've talked about different personalities, building some trust within the core decision makers or people who are stakeholders in this so that you can be honest about challenges or you're not offended if someone's poking a hole in an idea. I think everywhere is going to have different process for that, but I think for us organizationally at light, be trust is such a huge part of it. So however you might build that trust, whether that be some team building or starting with an exercise that's going to loosen people up a little bit just to kick things off, I think there are different ways to do that, but that's Huge. 

Yeah, absolutely. 

I will leave you with these parting words. Empathy leads to innovation. So put yourself in the customer's shoes through that persona development journey mapping that can lead to breakthrough innovations. And it's really that coming together and looking at that holistic end-to-end journey.

Treat your customer data like the gold that it is. Utilize the data you have, make sure you've got the right systems to have a comprehensive customer data profile, non-siloed systems, and think about how you're going to measure impact before you start doing things.

Well said. Well, thank you Colleen and Kristine, I really appreciate you joining us today.

Thanks for having me.

Thanks, Nora.

That's our show for today. Thanks for joining us Beyond The Cart is produced by Lightburn. Our episode today was produced and edited by our very own Staci Tischer and recorded at Independent Studios

Our music is the song. Let's Go, go, go by Tiger Blood Jewel. Be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you like to listen. And if you really want to make my day, please share this episode or write us a review. I'm Nora Lahl and I hope you'll join me next time for Beyond the Cart.