The e-commerce industry is growing more competitive as the years go by, and is only expected to attract more competitors to the fray as its market value soars to a staggering 4.88 trillion US dollars in 2021. Such a growth spurt will inevitably make it even more difficult for growth-oriented e-commerce brands to set themselves apart from the rest, and seize their share of the market – hence the need to adopt new ideas and strategies that will elevate your store from the other competitors in your niche.

The answer might lie in design thinking, a concept born way back in the 1980s yet one that has only recently begun to take hold in the e-commerce industry. Using empathy for the consumer, the willingness to experiment and innovate, and forward-looking problem-solving, you can integrate design thinking into your processes and improve your customer’s journey. Ultimately, this will not only drive brand loyalty, but lead generation and recognition as well. Here’s what you need to do.

Empathize with your customers

The first step in the designing thinking process, and its core concept, is empathy. Entrepreneurs and managers like to think of themselves as calculated problem-solvers, but if you can’t find a way to work empathy into modern business, then your products and your brand will end up resembling every other product and brand in your niche. Empathizing with your customers in order to understand their true needs and wishes, and align your values with their own, will ultimately set your brand apart.

Empathy begins by you putting yourself in your customers’ shoes in order to begin to understand their thought process and their journey. What you will discover it that pure necessity doesn’t drive people to your store, no matter how “hot” your products might be. What does drive success is your ability to map out your customer’s journey and understand what they are going through – this will allow you to tailor your content, advertisements, product placement, and your entire store structure.

Define the three key problems

The next phase is to define and analyze the three key problems that will come to life from the first stage:

  • Defining the customer. This should be a detailed customer avatar.
  • Pinpointing their exact pain-points and their needs.
  • State the reason why your solution is valuable. How does it change the paradigm and shape mindsets?

The whole point of this phase is to shift your own though-process from your company’s needs and wishes, to the needs of your customers. What it is that they truly want? Why do they want it and why does it matter to them? Answering these questions through the aforementioned problems will allow you to gain a unique point of view of your customers, which will in turn set the stage for the next phase in the process.

Ideate new and exciting solutions

The third stage of the designing thinking process is the ideation stage – your chance to design brand-new solutions based on the insights you have collated from the previous stages. This brainstorming stage is your chance to showcase the creative side of your teams, and tailor the e-commerce experience to the exact needs and wishes of your potential and existing customers.

To make the ideation phase a success, experienced Shopify experts will make sure to conduct brainstorming sessions that emphasize the creation of as many ideas as possible in order to allow a truly-innovative concept to shine out of the lot. They will also focus on deferring any judgment during this stage, in order to empower team members to express their ideas freely – no matter how far “out there” they might seem at first.

Build a data-driven prototype

When you have enough ideas on the table that have the aforementioned framework, it’s time to narrow it all down to the most viable concepts. The aim here is to build data-driven prototypes (they could be anything from a new content strategy to a new line of products) and have them “battle it out” through numerous iterations until you’ve got yourself the winning idea.

This is your opportunity to test these prototypes against the best-performing solutions in your niche, and even against innovative concepts from your competitors. Doing this will save you plenty of costly tests (the last phase), as comparing the prototypes with other real-world solutions that succeeded or failed will help you filter out the ones that are destined to flop.

Test your prototype in the real world

And finally, the testing phase is where you find out whether or not your solution can deliver the desired results. There are two key questions of this phase that you need to answer:

  • What are you testing, specifically?
  • What do you hope to achieve with this test? Define your KPIs and monitor closely.

Answering these questions will allow you to create the right testing environment, bring the right test groups together, define the ideal set of questions, and of course, measure the performance of your prototype. When the test is done, it’s time to go back to the conference room with your team and fine-tune the solution before launch.

In closing

Design thinking has been around for a while, yet you don’t hear much talk of it in the e-commerce realm, perhaps because companies are too focused on improving all processes from their own standpoint. By adopting design thinking into your company’s mindset, you will open up a whole new world of possibilities, and you will have found a framework to formulate a cost-effective solution to every problem.