Where does ecommerce innovation come from?
I was thinking about ecommerce innovation over the years and how stagnant the industry can seem at times when you are in the grind day in and day out. There's something I realized a couple years ago while attending an ecommerce conference--it's much easier to come up with ideas for other businesses than your own. At least, this is true for me. I'd seek out conversations where people would tell me about their challenges, and I'd apply my experiences to their situation, and generate a handful of actionable ideas right on the spot. It felt like a super-power. I'd be charged with enthusiasm and excitement when I got back to the office, and it would show in my projects.
But the high would only last a few weeks, or a couple months at most. And then, it'd be back to the same old slog. Why? What changed? I worried that the benefit of those conferences was an illusion, fueled by my enjoyment of talking shop. If I could come up with so many good ideas for other businesses, why was it so hard to continue to do so in my own?
Eventually, I decided that the lift wasn't illusory, but there was a sort of drag on idea generation during long periods at the office.
Your office is an Echo Chamber.
Even if you have a team of brilliant marketers and engineers (which I was fortunate enough to have), that particular combination of minds is going to produce only so many new ideas. New ideas, after all, are a matter of mixing variables into new configurations, and finding ones that work better than whatever you were doing before. It's part of the reason large, established companies will sometimes revitalize through a spurt of hiring--the "new blood" effect, if you will.
It's not that you're less actively working on the problems over time. The truth is that you end up in intellectual ruts and ecommerce innovation stalls out. You've already applied your best ideas, so you're squeezing to get the next incremental gain. It's Pareto's Principle again, otherwise known as the 80/20 rule. You're applying increasing effort to try to get smaller and smaller wins.
You have access to more data than a marketer 20 years ago could even dream of.
But no matter how sophisticated the dashboard, it'll eventually all glaze over if you keep staring at it. No data visualization in the world can help you if a problem's gone totally stale.
But this is no longer true when you get a fresh perspective, especially from an outsider. A human being is a bundle of unique experiences and skills, and it doesn't take a very distant leap from your immediate professional circle to find a catalyst to idea generation.
Some people are able to self-inspire through vacationing and unplugging--this is similar, but faster. By bringing in a new pair of eyes, you immediately get someone who is fresh to your situation. The puzzle you're working on isn't the daily slog to them--it's new stimuli!
Find new Questions!
One of the first things you'll find is that in explaining the context of your problem, your guest will ask questions. They'll be new ones, and in answering them, you'll already feel the cobwebs shaking loose in your own mind. By simply explaining the problem to someone new, you're forcing your own brain out of the ruts.
From there, you have new traction, even over the same topic you've been covering and re-covering for months!
Why did this take me so long to figure out? That was obvious in hindsight. I'm pretty extroverted, so I will often talk more than I listen. That's often a mistake, and in this case, it obscured the real value of conversations with fellow retailers--a fresh perspective on my own business.
Up and to the Right!
If you'd like my perspective on your business, especially your digital marketing, or just want to talk about ecommerce innovation then drop me a line! You can reach me at email@example.com any time. As you can tell--I love to talk shop.