November 12, 2009

Gliebers Dresses: Home Page Design

Welcome to this week's Executive meeting.

Glenn Glieber (Owner): "... so I will be performing at 2:30pm and 7:30pm at the community theater. Look for me, I'll be playing the role of Myles Standish!"

Meredith Thompson (Chief Merchandising Officer): "Kevin, is that you?"

Kevin: "Yup, it's me."

Roger Morgan (Chief Operations Officer): "Today, we're going to talk about home page design."

Meredith Thompson: "Well, I want to talk about home page design. What we do at Gliebers Dresses is just so awful. It's not aspirational. If I'm a customer, I want to be romanced."

Roger Morgan: "What is awful about our website?"

Meredith Thompson: "Everything! Like I said, it isn't aspirational. It's a bunch of images and a hundred links. I mean, who cares about our privacy policy? And we spend more space touting our loyalty program than we spend touting merchandise."

Pepper Morgan (Chief Marketing Officer): "Describe what you want to see, Meredith."

Meredith Thompson: "Gladly. Here, let me draw this up on the grease board. I'm imagining a white, blank screen. A store front gets bigger and bigger, as if you are approaching it, a building with the words 'Gliebers Dresses' listed above doors that are opening. You walk through the doors, and music begins to play, maybe Madonna's 'Frozen' or something hip like that. Models begin to walk by, absolutely beautiful women of all sizes, all wearing our dresses, striding past. Now you're presented with rounders, with tags on top of the rounders telling the departments that the merchandise represent. I mean, just imagine seeing this, and then look at our website, which is a lot more like Newegg."

Roger Morgan: "Meredith, what you described violates just about every e-commerce best practice out there. The customer has something like two seconds to be impressed, and if she's not impresses, she's on her way to the next website. Neptune Research did a study and said you have to have at least one hundred links on the home page, or the customer won't convert at an optimal rate."

Lois Gladstone (Chief Financial Officer): "How much would something like that cost?"

Roger Morgan: "Well, first of all, we'd have to put the project on the book of work and prioritize is appropriately. Second of all, I don't think cost is the concern, I think conversion is a concern. How the heck does the customer find what she wants when fake women are walking past her on a computer screen?"

Meredith Thompson: "Roger, that's why I am a merchant and that's why you code websites. You're a tech person, you don't know anything about aspirational retail. If it were up to you, you'd have a home page with 820 links coded in Microsoft Frontpage. My job is to lead the customer. You cannot lead the customer with hyperlinks and thumbnail images. Nobody, I repeat nobody, likes to shop that way."

Roger Morgan: "And yet, Woodside Research tells us that the best performing home pages are the ugliest home pages."

Meredith Thompson: "That's because a bunch of tech folks do everything. At almost all companies, it's impossible for the merchant to sell product because the tech folks impose their will. Maybe if merchants could do what they wanted to do, merchandise would fly off the shelves. I mean, this is garbage. Modern e-commerce is all about merchants providing great product, only to have the IT department stifle all innovation. Pepper, help me out here."

Pepper Morgan: "Why don't we just test Meredith's hypothesis? There are dozens of companies that allow you to easily test different pages or offers, let's just plug in one of those services, and see what works best?"

Meredith Thompson: "Never. You lead the customer, you don't test and iterate. Testing is for cowards."

Roger Morgan: "No! I've paid thousands of dollars for research reports over the years, and those research reports tell us what the best practices are. Why ruin conversion rates just to test the ideas of a merchant?"

Pepper Morgan: "Roger, you believe in best practices, don't you? Well, when you're testing different strategies, you are employing best practices, right?"

Roger Morgan: "I think best practices are in place so that you don't have to test, somebody else did the work for you, and you get to benefit from their experience. Lois has to be happy with that, because we save money that way."

Pepper Morgan: "And Meredith, I think it is reasonable to test your strategy. If it works, you are brilliant. If it doesn't work, then maybe you can appreciate all of the efforts of all employees who are trying to help you sell your merchandise."

Meredith Thompson: "No, no testing. We need to have courage, to take a stand. Do you think I test my products? It is clearly NOT a best practice to test the merchandise that works best, you take your shots and you believe in your skills and you lead the customer. Testing is for cowards, for people who have no confidence or skill."

Pepper Morgan: "Kevin?"

Kevin: "When a business is generating ten percent pre-tax profit, these discussions don't happen."

Meredith Thompson: "What do you mean?"

Kevin: "Businesses that are winning tend to have a climate of trust."

Roger Morgan: "Are you saying we don't trust each other?"

Kevin: "I think you support each other. This whole discussion went sideways because Meredith doesn't trust the creative team, because Roger doesn't trust that merchandising might have ideas that fall within his area of expertise, and because Meredith and Roger don't trust Pepper to do what all marketers do, that being testing of strategies, because the tests might expose faulty strategies that Meredith and Roger are accountable for. In an environment of trust, Roger and Pepper would be happy to test Meredith's strategy, and Meredith would be happy to do a test, not a rollout."

Glenn Glieber: "Kevin, aren't we paying you to help us improve our profitability? All you did was throw stones at our business leaders."

Kevin: "Ok, allow me to say this differently. Testing is a best practice in marketing. Therefore, I think it is wise to test Meredith's strategy, and if her strategy works, go with it. If her strategy doesn't work, then go with what you are currently doing."

Glenn Glieber: "Fine, we'll test the strategy. Pepper, hire a vendor to help us implement the test. Meredith, work with Pepper on your idea of what the new home page looks like. And let's get this test done soon, I want to be able to impact 2010 if we can. Now, on to the next topic. I have two free tickets to my performance as Myles Standish, who wants them?"


  1. Bravo, Kevin.

    It's a good thing this is a fictional scenario, though. Boy, in the real world, if that ever happened, it would be a nightmare. ;)

  2. Yup, sure would be a nightmare if it happened in the real world ... :)


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