Transforming e-commerce Experience for Modern Smart Phone Users

Mitch Rupp, VP of IT, Silpada Designs
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Mitch Rupp, VP of IT, Silpada Designs

Mobile technology has revolutionized the way we consume the web. From roughly one percent of the global population owning a mobile device in 1995 to more than 73 percent in 2015 the growth of mobile is undeniable. As a result, it is no longer sufficient to provide a desktop-only experience for web applications.

That is particularly true in the world of e-commerce, especially for smart phone users. These users are laser-focused they typically don’t spend as much time browsing, researching and comparing products like desktop or tablet users do. Today smart phone users desire a streamlined, actionable experience and require a quick, simple and frictionless transaction.
 
At Silpada, this information has informed the development of our online user experience for both our independent representatives and customers. As a family-owned direct sales company committed to empowering women through fashion entrepreneurship and one-of-a-kind accessories, we knew we needed to bring are boot to our technology platform in order to reach

A larger demographic of women. Creating a seamless and easy-to-navigate mobile experience was vital in making that happen.

Based on internal analytics data, our e-commerce platform experienced growth from less than one percent of page views on mobile devices in 2009 to more than 58 percent in 2015. Unfortunately, we had two critical applications on this platform that were not mobile enabled. The sad reality was our platform was providing a sub-par experience for more than 50 percent of our users.

To address this, the first application we tackled was an online system used by prospective Silpada representatives to start their own Silpada businesses. We recognized there was a tremendous amount of technical debt in the legacy platform and understood we needed to reimagine the experience. Overtime, the application had become overly complex; requiring too many steps and too much information from the user. This resulted in an one rous process and an unacceptably high abandonment rate.

Additionally, the application was too tightly coupled to our other SaaS applications. In fact, due to shared libraries and dependencies, we were unable to deploy one application on our platform without taking down all of our applications for a minimum of a one-hour maintenance window. From the user experience perspective, we went back to the drawing board, paring the information requested back as much as possible and iterating over a series of wireframe sketches. We consistently challenged each other by asking, what else can we take away? How can we make this process simpler?

Given that the majority of our page views now come from mobile devices, we started with the smartphone design first. This proved to be especially helpful in streamlining the amount of data requested and the flow of the application. In fact, working within the constraints provided by smartphone devices was paradoxically liberating and empowered us to remove a number of data elements. Once completed with the smart phone design, we moved next to tablet and lastly to desktop.

In an effort to improve time to market, we leveraged mobile-first, responsive frameworks to improve developer productivity and reduce the necessity of hand-rolling our own responsive CSS. This proved to be a solid UI foundation and we now leverage these same techniques with many of our other applications.

From the server perspective, we recognized our need for fine-grained, decoupled micro-services. We started with micro-services for things like authentication, users, products, orders, address validation, taxes and payments. This now allows us to isolate data access and business logic for the respective resources and enable us to leverage the now existing services (that are tested and reliable in our other business applications) as we move through the remainder of our 2015 and 2016 roadmaps.
 
The results have been impressive to say the least. Since we deployed the new application, our abandonment rate has declined by more than 48 percent. We have also seen an increase in mobile adoption and have received an incredible amount of positive feedback from our field and customers.

These results encouraged us to think bigger and embark on an even larger initiative a complete rewrite of our e-commerce application. It was last refreshed circa 2007, and we had a scaled down, adaptive m.site for our mobile experience. Lastly, the check out process was very cumbersome and there was no ‘guest’ check out experience, which was less than ideal. We knew we could do better.

We again focused on a mobile-first design. We understood it needed to incorporate a very clean, usable design while also being bold and fashion-forward. Working closely with our in- house Digital Marketing Team, we went through several months of design iterations to ensure we created the best possible mobile experience.

We also wanted to continue to augment our new micro-services architecture by expanding the current services and adding a few new services. We greatly expanded the product and order services to handle the additional complexity given the breadth of products and order types available. We also added new services for authorization and content management.
 
The new Silpada.com e-commerce website launched in November 2015, and we are tremendously excited to provide our representatives and customers a positive and productive web experience across all devices. We will be adding enhancements, such as ratings and reviews, web exclusives and the ability for our Representatives to curate their hand-selected product lines in their own e-commerce stores. We feel good about the technology foundation we have established and are excited for the future of Silpada.

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