Gary Goodman is the latest hire to be added to Ann Arbor-based website creation agency Human Element. He is joining the strategy team as an expert in e-commerce. Goodman previously served as Digital Marketing and eCommerce Manager at Equal Exchange, as well as owning and operating his own luxury silk bedding company, which utilized both Magento and BigCommerce, two platforms that Human Element specializes in to assist businesses in improving e-commerce on their online portals. According to Human Element’s Director of Marketing Jenn Hayman, “In both roles, Goodman put to use his expertise in content marketing, SEO, SEM/CPC, and Marketo for marketing automation to drive new customer acquisition and continuous revenue growth.”
A lot has been changing for businesses over the past year as the pandemic forced many businesses to not only function remotely but improve their online user experience. Human Element has grown very quickly as a result, as they offer services to these businesses to help them create more secure or user-friendly websites.
We were curious what Goodman could tell us both as an experienced e-commerce strategist and a remote hire working with the growing company of Human Element, about trends specific to e-commerce that have emerged in the past year of unprecedented change for businesses. Because so much of what has changed for business has to do with how we work and buy remotely, we wanted Goodman’s perspective on not only what’s happening in the e-commerce space right now, but the resulting changes coming out of those trends.
How Does A Strategy Session Work for E-Commerce Businesses Improving Their Website?
First up, let’s look at what Human Element does for companies and how they approach the process when working with an e-commerce business specifically. We asked Goodman for an overview of how he and his colleagues work with companies who come to them knowing they have a problem, but not knowing the solution.
“The strategy team takes a top level view across parts of what clients interact with in the e-commerce space — development, user experience, and how that relates to customer goals,” Goodman explains. “B2B and B2C clients are upgrading to new platforms, and with the pandemic that accelerated the rate of needing to up your game in the e-commerce space.”
“In the discovery process we try to understand a company, their market, what they need,” Goodman says. “Then we take our background to say what do we think is the right fit? It’s not always the fanciest solution. It’s practical. Projects are phase based to hit main goals first, then add bells and whistles down the line.”
This hits an important point early on, because whether it’s shifting workers to remote work or a company website to a more functional central online role in company operations, many professionals need assistance right now prioritizing rapid change to company structures. With a prioritization and strategy in mind, that becomes easier to chart.
Steps Companies Can Take To Evaluate Their Website
“Our sales team helps people evaluate their needs. Most people know they need to update their website [for a better user experience]. They’re already getting feedback.”
“In the past e-commerce was nice to have,” Goodman says, “but people often still picked up a phone to buy. That has changed, and continues to change. A good online experience has become core.”
Companies can take the feedback or complaints they receive from customers and use that to work with a strategy or sales team from a company like Human Element to work through a way to improve their website for better customer experience.
“Our strategy team is about stepping back and asking why companies want to improve their website, and what they’re trying to achieve. What’s the best way to get you from A to B?”
Goodman says that on a practical level this is a lot of problem solving and finding technologies to help them achieve their goals, but there’s also a marketing opportunity and a focus on user experience. “We have a marketing group, development group, hosting solutions, so components within the organization can help. Solutions vary depending on the client.” This can include a new portal that’s secure, or others might need to drive customers to their site or educate customers, Goodman says.
Trends in Businesses in the E-Commerce Space: Better Online Buying Experience, 24/7 Sales Cycle, Remote Work
So what’s happening with these companies on a macro level, and what are the emerging trends in how businesses are adapting to changing times?
“One thing that is clearly happening with B2B companies in e-commerce is that they’re almost thinking of e-commerce as another sales person,” Goodman says. “People are expecting more from e-commerce than they ever did before. This has changed exponentially in the last year, driven by B2C sites because we’re all interacting online. The B2B side is used to working with professional buyers, but they’re like everybody else buying through better sites online these days. There’s a push for companies to improve consumer sites.”
We have seen this trend recently in how steel companies are starting to shift the way they buy, or how automakers have recently considered selling direct to consumers online, which could fundamentally alter the dealer and service provider network structure.
Another huge trend: “One thing that is changing in B2B is that sales are happening outside of regular weekly hours,” Goodman says. “One shift we’re seeing is 24/7 sales cycle that drives B2B to up their game online. People are buying on nights and weekends.”
“Last year has been a crazy period of adjustment, and that adjustment isn’t over,” Goodman adds. “That’s true of Human Element, too, as they’re hiring a lot of people remote. I’m fully remote from Ann Arbor in Boston. A good chunk of new hires are remote everywhere. There is a new acceptance that this could work well so companies don’t bound themselves geographically.”
Opportunities For Businesses Shifting Customer Service Online
Goodman says he’s heard from other agencies that there has been a change in work in general in the white collar or tech space. “Even people re-opening offices have a plan for people to work remote, and that’s a huge change. E-commerce is a part of that. Everything from sales to groceries is moving online,” Goodman explains. “That’s a big trend in the food space within e-commerce. It’s changing dramatically. Selling food online was traditionally difficult…. That sector of e-commerce exploded. It’s interesting because if you’d talked to me pre-COVID I would say some of these trends are happening with younger demographics, but hadn’t reached suburban environments.” Goodman says this is because younger people who often live in urban environments were already struggling with the problem of how to get groceries home without a car, and grocery delivery offered a solution that suburbanites didn’t yet need. “Now everyone’s doing it. There is an explosion in e-commerce in food and B2B companies serving customers online. I think it’s permanently changed. It’s not that people won’t go to stores again, but now a huge chunk of people will be online.”
AR/VR has an opportunity here, Goodman points out, because the newer technology allows consumers to experience goods and visualize them in their space remotely. “It’s exciting,” he says. “AI also will be a permanent feature of e-commerce, because chat bots are improving how they offer personalization and get products in front of people. The improving technology makes sure customer experience is the best.” Now, Goodman explains, consumers have a raised expectation from experiencing improving AI bots in customer service that they know “who I am” and “the products I need.” “Companies who do that better will be more successful.”
Goodman adds one more note of interest. “Buying through voice is a space where it’s all audio,” he says. “How do you win in that space?… How do you show up top of mind when a customer is not interacting with a website?” How these questions are answered by businesses solving user experience problems will determine winners in e-commerce shifting online and to remote voice-controlled AI interaction, Goodman says. We expect user experience as a career to further grow as a result of this trend as well, something we already saw happening with the advent of conversational AI, better voice-activation technologies, and improving online business websites over the past few years.
Tech Service Companies Expanding in the Remote Work Era
Human Element is growing “extremely fast,” Goodman tells us, because so many companies know they need to up their game and have reached out. If you’re in the job market right now in the tech space, Companies like Human Element are the ones to watch as they serve the tsunami of other businesses who are responding quickly to the need to shift everything from e-commerce to marketing online. If you’d like to look at Human Element’s job listings, you can find them here.