Written by: Virginia Goulding
At the recent B2B Online Digital and eCommerce event for Manufacturers and Distributors in Chicago, I had the opportunity to listen to Gilbert Moreno, IT section manager of National Instruments (NI), explain how they transformed their ecommerce system to an effective data driven commerce experience. Like a lot of B2B ecommerce sites, the online shopping experience may make sense to the organization but offers a poor journey for new and existing customers. NI wanted to transform from a product-focused experience to a customer-focused experience, but it did not happen overnight.
As Moreno explained, compatibility of data was the primary challenge with the ecommerce experience. It was inefficient to manage and maintain. They were using numerous applications and product data was in multiple sources.
They also identified several pain points related to the online customer journey. There were too many products to choose from and thus there was no easy way to compare products and understand the differences in products. Product naming conventions made sense to NI’s internal users but online buyers couldn’t decipher what products were by name or how a product related to their application or needs.
They needed to build a new product taxonomy that was clear and customer-centric. But first they needed to define their ideal customer and create their buyer persona. The National Instruments team developed two personas for buying journey – those new to NI and those familiar with NI.
Next, they developed a product data model to determine how to best market their products to these two personas. This included grouping like products together, naming them with user-friendly terms, and normalizing attributes across products to make sure all product descriptions use the same terminology. Technical specs and descriptions were now consistent across product lines.
With the new user interface, a site visitor is presented with two paths – shop by application or shop by platform. The application path is aimed at the new user unfamiliar with the various products, while the platform experience is geared towards returning customers who are familiar with NI’s products.
The new interface also reduced the choice complexity with product comparisons. A spreadsheet view of various SKUs in a table format allows users to visually select the SKU they want to purchase. The new site also offers compatibility driven merchandising options related to the SKU a user is looking to purchase so they can include complimentary accessories, software and service with their hardware purchase.
It took 18 months for National Instruments to normalize their data and develop a product master data group. After 10,000 hours of testing, the site has been live since mid-February of this year and they are seeing positive trends in online inquiries and returning as well as new customers are having an easier time navigating to the products they need. They are analyzing user data and collecting feedback based on an online survey on the site to further improve the user experience.