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The Usability Blog
A Practical Guide to User Experience Insights

Harvard’s KISS up

Earlier this month, the Harvard Business Review published an article by two managing directors from the Executive Board: To Keep Your Customers, Keep it Simple.  The title serves as both advice and warning to today’s marketers. The research is deep and detailed, and the recommendations stand in contrast to marketing practices that call for ever deeper and more frequent customer engagement. The authors conclude that consumers actually want less rather than more engagement, especially when it comes to the purchase process.  Simplicity, they claim, is key to “stickiness,” which they define as: “likely to follow through on an intended purchase, buy the product repeatedly, and recommend it to others.” The authors lay out the elements comprising a “simple” purchase process:

  1. Make it easy for consumers to find their way to the information most relevant to them at the different points in their decision-making
  2. Present information the consumer sees as trustworthy
  3. Provide the ability to weigh alternatives efficiently

We are delighted to see the Harvard Business review jumping on the bandwagon.  “Frictionless” commerce has been a watchword for decades. It became especially pertinent when retail websites became commercial engines.  “Purchase simplicity” and “friction-free decision-making” are obvious synonyms.  Every marketer’s goal should be to get the consumer to his own point of certitude (freedom from doubt) as efficiently as possible.  We have been preaching that to our e-commerce clients for years and the principle never varies.  Within the context of a consumer visiting a retail website, the imperatives are:

  1. Findability – if a visitor can’t find their way to the appropriate products or information, they’re not going to be able to buy it
  2. Trustability – how relevant is the information to the consumer’s needs and how credible do they find the source
  3. Buyability – once the consumer gets to the options they seek, how efficiently can they narrow their choices and reach certitude

Our experience-improvement methodologies focus on these site attributes and provide metrics for measuring their efficacy.  Those metrics guide analysis, which lead to insights and recommendations.  Our clients already understand the need for simplicity.  But they also know that simplicity is an incredibly complex experience to deliver, one that must be constantly monitored and refined.  Perhaps that can be the HBR’s next topic.

Roger Beynon, CSO Usability Sciences

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