How effective are Jet.com’s efforts to better understand its customers?

Discussion
Source: Jet.com "Engineering at Jet" video
Jun 20, 2017
Matthew Stern

At the Internet Retailer Conference and Expo in Chicago, Ben Babcock, director of UX research at Jet.com, and Michael Mace, VP of product marketing at UserTesting, discussed the solutions and best practices the Walmart-owned e-tailer uses to get its finger on the pulse of customer sentiment.

Mr. Babcock recommended first mapping out the full customer journey step-by-step on the office wall, a practice in use at Jet.

“If you understand this whole journey and you can understand how to improve it, you get loyalty and you get repeat business,” Mr. Babcock said.

Noting that the e-commerce customer for a website like Jet was generally different in terms of lifestyle and culture than people working inside the company, he explained the importance of knowing what customers like (or hate) about the company by speaking with them on a weekly or even daily basis.

“Everybody in the company should be able to answer, who is our customer?” Mr. Babcock said. “Everybody should have the same answer to this question.”

To do this, Jet uses a few hands-on strategies. Staffers listens to recorded customer service calls and some go out into the field (for instance, to coffee shops) to ask potential customers for feedback on apps (in exchange for a gift card).

Jet conducts twice-weekly in-person user testing in which it brings customers into a room in the office with a comfortable, apartment-like layout. Staff observe customers as they use the computer in the room to do their normal online shopping, whether on Jet.com or elsewhere. They also show customers advertisements and use technologies such as eye tracking to measure responses. Jet makes real-time updates to its website based on the insights it gleans from the customer interactions. The company even makes observing the customer testing a part of the new-hire orientation.

For remote testing purposes, Jet also video records users while they follow a tester-created script. This allows testers to view users in their real-life environment.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What are the most effective ways for online retailers to get to know their customers? How effectively are retailers using customer testing and observation to improve their businesses in actual practice today?

Braintrust
"There are few retailers who go to this extent to understand their customers. Those that don’t are in danger of losing the online retail battle."
"I do think however that the organizations that work on the e-commerce site probably have little appreciation for physical retail..."
"Having customers provide live feedback is something brilliant that Jet is doing and something other retail companies should be attempting. "

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6 Comments on "How effective are Jet.com’s efforts to better understand its customers?"

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Harley Feldman
BrainTrust

The easiest way to understand online consumers is to track how they use the online shopping site — what items do they look at, how long do they spend on an item, how many screens do they need to see before a purchase decision and how easy is it to make a purchase? I also like Jet.com’s approach to watching consumers in person trying to buy things and following up with consumers in coffee shops. This will generate a rich data set on how consumers are using a website and for the retailers to better understand their customers.

I suspect that there are few retailers who go to this extent to understand their customers. Those that don’t are in danger of losing the online retail battle.

Art Suriano
BrainTrust

There is nothing more beneficial than human interaction. Having customers provide live feedback is something brilliant that Jet is doing and something other retail companies should be attempting. People provide more accurate information when speaking with other humans than they do when taking online surveys or questionnaires. Seeing and experiencing their reactions is so important for a company to make the right decisions about how they should present themselves, their offers and how they can appeal to the customer. I commend this strategy. If more retailers, both online and brick-and-mortar, took the time to interview customers and receive their live feedback based on human interaction and experiences, it would help them make the best decisions. Too many retailers assume they know best and take their customers for granted. Then they wonder why sales are not where they should be. Individuals have likes and dislikes and the more we understand customer preferences, the more successful a company will be.

Nir Manor
BrainTrust

Jet is definitely doing the right thing. You can get a lot of data tracking customers’ behavior online, tracking the customer journey, the conversion chain, etc. However, retailers can get different and equally as important insights and ideas by talking to consumers, understanding their attitudes and interests, listening to them compare a retailer’s site to competition, asking what makes them love the website and what irritates them about it and much more.

Gib Bassett
BrainTrust

I’m sure Jet does a very nice job using data and analytics to understand their online customers’ journeys and architect the experience to be be enjoyable. I do think however that the organizations that work on the e-commerce site probably have little appreciation for physical retail — either from the customer’s point of view or the store associate’s. I sense a real opportunity to provide a better omnichannel experience if the workers behind the online and brick-and-mortar stores have a lot more formalized collaboration.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

It’s hard for me to fathom that this is special — not because it isn’t (amongst merchants), but because this is UX101. Contextual research? Eye tracking? Get with it, retail. This is what brands have been doing for years and what successful brands do with the commitment and regularity Jet.com is applying.

A brand (a company) exists to generate profits — that’s basic to business and a duty to shareholders. As I have outlined here, profitability is driven by UX. A brand that does not give UX major focus is a brand that is ultimately doomed. Jet, Amazon, Virgin, Apple and a short list of others get it. It’s why I repeatedly admonish companies to have an empowered CXO or accept their fate.

Vahe Katros
BrainTrust
The methods described sound like things I’ve heard from Mark Hurst. His company is called Creative Good and he has a methodology built around “listening labs.” He’s also the author of the book, “Customers Included.” He’s been frustrated about this stuff since 1997. Google him … but there are other options as well — Ken’s sounds like one since it is true. This is UX101, but that’s okay, this stuff is in the DNA of retailing. If only we used our stores as labs, but that’s a digression. At the end of the day, the issue becomes making choices on what to build and how to build it, since observational research yields so many ideas. As they say — cryptically and not so cryptically — the best ideas are in the empty space, the unintended moments. Sounds fancy, but sadly, in 2004, I went to a conference held by the Nielsen Norman Group (Evidence-Based User Experience Research.) I was ready to learn the methods and he proceeded to put up slides of retail stores and told the audience, “If you want to learn about customer experience design, study retailers!” Bonus content: regarding the what to build part, the movement around… Read more »
wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"There are few retailers who go to this extent to understand their customers. Those that don’t are in danger of losing the online retail battle."
"I do think however that the organizations that work on the e-commerce site probably have little appreciation for physical retail..."
"Having customers provide live feedback is something brilliant that Jet is doing and something other retail companies should be attempting. "

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