The challenges of e-commerce sometimes seem to need a personalized solution whereas in reality they simply need a different approach.
For example, about a week ago, a friend, Roy, told me about his concerns about his custom print business. Roy's clients are sports teams, small businesses or non-profit groups who want custom silkscreened or embroidered clothing.
I met Roy at Starbucks down the street from my office. He even bought me a little latte. I was already familiar with Roy's business, but he began by pointing out that his business has always worked with printed forms in the old fashioned way.
Imagine that the local high school football coach wants to order custom printed t-shirts, hoodies and hats so his players and fans can buy them as part of A "spiritual pack".
Roy's company would develop the designs, give the coach some evidence to choose from, and eventually provide printed order forms that the coach could hand out.
Each player or fan who wants to place an order must complete the form and attach a check (or even money) for payment.
The football coach, who focuses on preparing his team for the upcoming season or match (depending on the time of year), is responsible for collecting, validating and from the organization of purchase orders.
Later, the coach brings everything back to Roy, who must interpret each of the handwritten purchase orders and continue to print and embroider everything ordered.
It's a cumbersome process.
It is almost impossible to avoid mistakes – the paper drives of 80 players, about as many parents, and a number of grandparents, uncles and aunts. Roy's customers want a simpler solution.
Unfortunately for Roy, many of his competitors are relatively large, custom-made national apparel companies. These companies offer buyers – like the aforementioned local high school football coach – online shops.
Rather than handing out and then collecting forms, the coach can send a link to players and fans by email or post the link on social media. These players and fans follow the link and place an order online. The clothing company aggregates orders and sends all at once to the local high school for distribution.
Roy knew that he had to offer the same experience if his business was to remain competitive.
"Customers tell me:" Roy, I love you, "but these other guys give me an online store, and I have nothing to do", m & rsquo; Roy explained as we talked and sipped a coffee.
When Roy started contacting e-commerce platform providers and local web developers, he asked them about a wrong solution.
Roy said, "I need a custom online store for each of my clients."
This description gave almost everyone he spoke to a false sense of what Roy's custom clothing business needed.
A developer was looking for ways to "run" model-based custom shops. SaaS ecommerce service customer service people thought Roy needed multiple domains to designate a single management system. Everyone he talked to believed that providing "personalized stores" to his customers would be expensive, complicated or both.
Pages of the product category
I told Roy that he needed product category pages, not personalized online stores.
"Custom Online Stores" were the words used by Roy's competitors to describe the service they provided. But I knew it was only marketing.
What his competitors were really providing was a landing page on their own websites. The header, navigation and layout were the same for all customers. Only the displayed products and a header graphic were specific to a specific team, company, or organization.
This kind of landing page is possible in any e-commerce platform. In fact, in most e-commerce solutions, a product category page is all that is needed. Shopify, whom Roy has selected for his company, calls it "Collections".
Roy seems surprised that "personalized stores" could be a feature ready for use.
A few days later, I stopped at Roy's house and I helped him set up some "stores". His wife (who is his business partner) took notes. In minutes, they felt comfortable enough to start offering their own "personalized online shops".
Roy is a wise and successful business man. But the way he thought about this particular problem made it more difficult than he actually was.
He needed to focus on functionality rather than description. Many of us do the same thing as Roy. We make sure that the problems seem bigger than they are in reality.