A Focus Group of One: An Impulse Purchase That Left Me Wanting More

There’s not much more enjoyable on a Saturday morning than drinking coffee and reading the WSJ Weekend Edition. Appropriately last week, I was attracted to a description of a new coffee brewing system showcased in their “Fall’s 50 Best” feature.

It was perfect timing as I’ve been thinking about raising my coffee game at home. I’ll admit it, I’m a coffee snob when I’m out at indie coffee houses, but at home, ease and convenience win as I drop a coffee pod into my machine. I’ve realized, though, that the time has come to get serious and invest in better coffee at home.

Serendipity is nothing to ignore, so when I saw the photos and the summary description of this new gadget, I immediately went to the company’s website and started reading. It is a good website, visually appealing, well organized and easy to digest. The shopping cart and checkout process was straightforward and expected. A couple clicks and I would no longer feel embarrassed about making coffee at home.

But before I pressed anything, I hesitated. I wanted more.

I wanted to read user reviews (surely I was not the first person to purchase this system?). I wanted to see videos of the product in action (will it be more trouble than it’s worth?).

I had specific questions about the functionality, the clean up, storage options – but there was nothing on the site suggesting an easy way to ask the vendor anything.

I wanted to read the story of the start-up, what was the inspiration for the idea? Are these clever bootstrap entrepreneurs, the kind of people I would be proud to support?
All of the shortcomings I had identified with this site could have been exposed in advance with some market research — usability testing and customer journey research to identify the key touch points. Start with qualitative interviews among customers and prospective customers. Watch as they navigate your site, see their experience first-hand and ask what would make it better.

An innovative idea is a fabulous thing, and bringing a clever product to the marketplace is a real accomplishment. But ultimately, you want to sell your product, and you sell it best by knowing your customers. It may be hard to admit, but you are not your customer.

Ask your customers for feedback, deepen your understanding of their needs and desires and above all else, deliver an outstanding customer experience end-to-end. After all, Amazon continues to develop and test new ways to improve the customer experience, so shouldn’t you?

Based on my coffee experience and many others, here are 5 ways to improve for your e-commerce user experience:

1. Make it easy to find content I want and expect.
This includes specific details and important information on price, delivery and offers. I want to see user reviews and product videos. Especially for a new product like this brewing system, I wanted to see videos on the site, showing me how easy it will be to use. Sure I could find them if I searched on YouTube, but why make prospective customers work that hard.

2. Provide multiple ways to reach you.
Make it easy for customers to reach you and in the manner that they prefer. Add live chat (my preferred) and be sure your phone number and email address is easy to find. This tells me you value direct contact with customers and have nothing to hide.

3. Say thanks and ask for feedback.
Go beyond the automatic confirmation that my order has been received. Offer a genuine thank you for my business and ask what else you could do. This is a critical post-purchase step that brands and companies often forget to leverage.

4. Reinforce the brand voice and community at every point of contact.
Be sure to tell me your story, how you were inspired to create this new product, your experience on Kickstarter, and so on. Don’t allow me to leave your site to jump to another to read more. I might not return.

Welcome me to your brand community. I expect we share a passion for coffee, so connect with me. And make it easy for me to share your story with my friends.

5. Follow-up and be proactive.
Fulfilling my order is just the first step. Proactively email me after I’ve had your product for several days to see if I have any issues or need help. Ask what else I need and be open to hearing my direct and honest feedback.

Let me know what you think. Have you had a user experience that left you wanting more?

Linda R. Garavalia
Marketing Research Consultant