NYC-UPA Talk by Andrew Purcell:
How FreshDirect Delivered e-Commerce Success
by Alan Seiden
Senior Developer and Technical Lead
Strategic Business Systems, Inc.
Alan Seiden is a software developer and an advisory board
member of NYC-UPA. Contact Alan at email@example.com.
The speaker, Andrew Purcell, was at FreshDirect
from 1999-2005. He is now an Information Architect in the Global Web Services
Group at Starwood Hotels.
FreshDirect, the fantastically successful Long Island City, N.Y.based
online grocery store, began developing its web site in 1999 with the goal
of providing the freshest perishable food at great prices, delivered.
The site opened to the New Yorkarea public in 2002. By 2004, over
100,000 regular customers were ordering through freshdirect.com, generating
$100 million in sales. How did the business thrive in New Yorks
competitive food scene?
On June 21, 2005, the New York City chapter of the Usability Professionals
Association hosted speaker Andrew Purcell, FreshDirects Director
of User Experience, to hear how FreshDirect did it. Andrew described FreshDirects
methods to over 100 audience members.
The lessons for success that Andrew described can be applied to many
Understand Your Product
FreshDirects creative team started by researching the offline food
buying experiencevisiting stores and interviewing merchandising
experts. The team spent a lot of time learning about food from FreshDirects
savvy product managers. Eventually, Andrew and his cohorts knew
more about cutting steak than most butchers in the city.
Excite the Senses with Pictures and Words
Andrew noted, Online, we cant let people interact with the
food, but we can take beautiful photos. FreshDirect uses in-house
photographers and food stylists to produce photos that are mouth-watering.
Once tempted by succulent images, customers can use the sites comparison
charts to choose a product. The pears page, for example, compares
varietals such as Asian, Bartlett, and Bosc, by price, usage, sweetness,
tartness, and crispness. This information is more detailed than that provided
by most real stores.
The food writing is vivid. FreshDirect hired writers across the USA who
had expertise with specific foods. The Asian pear sounds delectable: The
mild, sweet taste comes fully forward with incredible crunch and juiciness.
Be Willing to Break with Convention
Most e-commerce sites, in their product listings, show thumbnail images
to the left of the corresponding products. Alvin Kwok, FreshDirects
Chief Creative Officer, discovered that showing five product images horizontally
above the listings could improve shoppers ability to find what they
Experiment with Specialty Departments to Increase Sales
Sales of Adirondack Cheddar, from upstate New York, increased fourfold
when the cheese was added to a new Local Foods department.
Slow Can Be Better
While FreshDirects site is generally quick and efficient, it sometimes
encourages shoppers to slow down in order to understand a customized product.
For example, FreshDirect cuts all meats to order. The center-cut filet
mignon can vary in thickness and weight. It includes options such as a
salt-and-pepper rub. Want to grill the steak? The on-screen thickness
guide suggests 1.52 inches for grilling. The site then does
something unusual. The "Add to Cart" button launches a cart
confirmation page, showing the details of the steak order, including the
estimated price, so the customer understands what was added. Andrew explained
that the goal was to get people through the page with the right
decisions made, not necessarily the quickest way.
Clarify the Check-out Process
Early usability testing of the check-out process revealed that many users
stopped short of clicking the Submit Order button. Although
the order was not placed, the users thought they were done. Andrew lamented,
There cant be anything worse. The solution? Andew and
his team added a large, gaudy, orange banner reading Click submit
to place your order across the top of the page. It still hurts
to look at this, but the business win was huge. This alone paid for the
usability tests a million times over.
For more information
Purcell's presentation slides in Microsoft PowerPoint (.ppt) format
NYC-UPA thanks its sponsors:
Sachs Insights, a Qualitative
Market Research Firm, for videography services.
FreshDirect, for catering the
event with their delicious food.