As the technology and Internet industry matured, Creative Good evangelizd shifting focus from engineering wizardry to simplicity and common-sense marketing.

Technology: Get Over It

By Joe Gold, Senior Editor
OneChannel.net

Ah, technology. In the view of most pundits, it's the hero that saved the world economy and creator of the most dynamic industry the world has even seen. It created seemingly instant wealth and the caffinated culture of Silicon Valley, resulting in new jobs that are fun and lucrative, if challenging and exhausting.

At least, that's one way of looking at modern life. But Phil Terry has another view of technology: get over it.

"If you want to make money, you have to forget technology. You have to stay focused on people and your value proposition to them. It's really not rocket science."

Phil TerryPhil Terry is CEO of Creative Good, the New York consulting firm that evangelizes a simpler user experience. They preach the gospel of site simplicity, singing in praise of Web stores that are transparent, intuitive, quick-loading, completely understandable, and a pleasure to use.

The user experience perspective reflects the most basic definition of marketing: giving customers what they want for a profit.

It's not just a nice thing to do. Terry says a simpler, more navigable site translates into 40% to 100% more conversions and 43% fewer abandoned carts. How much would that mean on your site? Creative Good predicts that to the industry this year, it will mean $14 billion in Christmas sales that are never consummated. That up from the $6 billion that the company estimates was left on the table last year.

Creative Good's complete holiday predictions will be released at their eCustomer Experience conference, Oct. 11-12 (2000) at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in San Francisco's Union Square. Speakers from Priceline.com, IBM, MGM, Lucy.com, and Flooz.com will be featured on an agenda that includes e-retailers, wireless and entertainment companies.

"I'm a peopleist, not a technologist," Terry says. "The paradox is that the technocentric paradigm built the success of the past five years. Technology built the infrastructure for the new economy to emerge. But as that new economy does emerge, we have to go beyond technology and become people-centric.

"That which brought us here today has to be transcended. It's not just about technology any more. Last year, investors were willing to tolerate millions of dollars being spent, while we were saying, 'Look, you're a business, you have to give customers what they want and need.' People were so caught up in the euphoria and the hype, they forgot about the basics."

Terry says that many e-retailers' inability to deliver last Christmas was an important factor in last April's market correction, and that this time around, the post-holiday carnage will be more painful than last year. He expects this to be the year global 500 companies take revenge on their would-be pure-play attackers. "What will happen is the rationalization process. In the next 12 to 18 months, we'll see a more sensible approach to valuation and business success."

Creative Good is out to change "techno-centrism that shows no respect for the limitations that technology imposes on the people who attempt to use it." Brick-and-mortar has a three-dimensional space, a history and a number of other factors in its favor.

The Web is a two-dimensional space. People are intimidated by technology, but at too many dot-coms, says Terry, executives have little idea what their customers experience because they are too excited about the technology and the coming IPO.

To both Terry and founder Mark Hurst, the business of Creative Good has always been a crusade for applying common marketing sense and resisting the urge to add technological gimmickry for its own sake. Hurst was at Yoyodyne in 1997 when he found that the Web was becoming too complex at the same time that customers were becoming more mainstream, two trends that were at odds with each other. He started the company with no business plan or marketing direction, only a mission.

These days, Creative Good gets weekly exposure with its columns on ZDNet. Their own goodexperience.com site includes a step-by-step "Dotcom Survival Guide" and other free resources to improve customer experience.

This year, Terry says he saw his message catching on. The phrase "customer experience" is gaining currency in the industry, with new vice presidents and budget lines appearing.

He cautions that some have merely adopted the latest buzzword, and still don't get the ethos of simplicity. Site design activity is still focused on technical possibilities instead of limitations, Terry says. That includes creating clear paths to find what users want, effective searches, and a minimum of Java applets, streaming video or sound to slow down page loads.

In a year when e-commerce is shaking out and shaking hard, an originally offbeat, almost 1960s-style customer-centric idealism has been raised to a survival skill.

Creative Good remains a force in e-commerce long after the dotcom implosion, having turned nine years old in 2007.

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