Don´t listen to yourself: successfully redesigning the leading e-commerce platform in Latin America

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Daniel Rabinovich CTO www.mercadolibre.com @drabinovich

Agenda
   Who we are (2’) Why we were sidetracked The Redesign

Who we are
MercadoLibre (NASDAQ: MELI) is the largest e-commerce platform in Latin America and the 11th Retail Site in the world.

Hard data (2010):
 1.7bn pages viewed per month  ~50mm search page views /weekday  3.4BN in GMVe  697MM Total Payment Value  84MM New Paid Listings  39MM Successful Items

We lead in every market we operate in
ComScore MMX – Latin America Retail
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Total Internet audience MercadoLibre BuscaPé .com Inc. Lojas Americanas Amazon Sites Apple.com Sites Dell American Greetings UOL Shopping Hewlett Packard Bing Ciao Total unique visitors (000s) 93 ,402 27,459 12,245 8,916 7,542 5,781 2,903 2,900 2,812 2,694 2,299 Reach (%) 100.0 29.4 13.1 9.5 8.1 6.2 3.1 3.1 3.0 2.9 2.5

ComScore MMX – Brazil Retail
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Total Internet audience MercadoLibre Lojas Americanas BuscaPé .com Inc. UOL Shopping Magazineluiza.com.br Netshoes.com,br Casasbahia.com.br Amazon Sites Pontofrio.com.br Extra.com.br Total unique visitors (000s) 32,385 10,646 8,815 8,542 2,774 2,133 2,070 2,042 1,821 1,808 1,703 Reach (%) 100.0 32.9 27.2 26.4 8.6 6.6 6.4 6.3 5.6 5.6 5.3

ComScore MMX – Mexico Retail
Total Internet audience MercadoLibre Apple .com Inc. Amazon Sites Paguito.com BuscaPé.com Inc. AmericanGreetings Ticketmaster Hewlett Packard Bing Ciao Dell Total unique visitors (000s) Reach (%) 14,275 100.0 4,663 32.7 1,396 9.8 1,125 7.9 1,036 7.3 999 7.0 817 5.7 706 4.9 620 4.3 602 4.2 471 3.3

ComScore MMX – Argentina Retail
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Total Internet audience MercadoLibre Masoportunidades.com.ar Amazon Sites BuscaPé.com Inc. Apple. com Inc. Garbarino.com Bing Ciao Ticketek Pty Ltd AmericanGreetings Fravega.com Total unique visitors (000s) Reach (%) 12,075 100.0 4,311 35.7 1,154 9.6 775 6.4 612 5.1 523 4.3 517 4.3 435 3.6 402 3.3 386 3.2 337 2.8

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Agenda
   Who we are (2’) Why we were sidetracked The Redesign

First Rule of Usability: Don’t Listen to Users
 The greatest usability barrier was the preponderance of cool design. Most projects were ruled by usability opponents who preferred complexity over simplicity.  Too frequently, I hear about companies basing their designs on user input obtained through misguided methods. A typical example? Create a few alternative designs, show them to a group of users, and ask which one they prefer. Wrong.

Jakob Nielsen

 To discover which designs work best, watch users as they attempt to perform tasks with the user interface. This method is so simple that many people overlook it.

How to get it right: watch instead of listen
 Watch what people actually do.  Do not believe what people say they do.  Definitely don't believe what people predict they may do in the future.
Jakob Nielsen

How we got it wrong: listened to our own needs
 We claimed to focus on users… …but developed the ability to explain away many design mistakes in the name of revenues or features  We were really designing around two wrong principles:  Revenue generation trumped usability  Engineering challenges/feature richness trumped usability

By focusing on wrong principles we developed a series of “design anti-patterns”
 Anti pattern #1: Charge for a good experience.  Anti pattern #2: If it brings eyeballs to site, it is good.  Anti pattern #3: If it brings revenue, then it is worth doing.  Anti pattern #4: All BU’s need exposure on the HomePage  Anti pattern #5: Complexity is a sign of feature richness

Agenda
Who we are (2’) Why we were sidetracked - In-depth look at each anti-pattern  The Redesign  

AP #1: Charge for a good experience
 Revenue opportunity: charge for “picture in listing pages”

It was the most profitable “Optional Feature Fee”

Outcome: No pictures in search results for millions of queries…

AP #1: Charge for a good experience (II)
 Revenue Opportunity: charge for “highlight your item”

It was the second most profitable “Optional Feature Fee”

Outcome: “Happy” sellers, overwhelmed buyers…

AP #2: If it brings eyeballs to site, it is good
 Traffic opportunity: Add “harmless” content for Search Engines

 Traffic opportunity: Users don’t even see footers. Let´s use them for something “productive”…

 Outcome: loads of useless content that confuses buyers

AP #3: If it brings revenue, then it is worth doing
 Advertisers want to be above the fold

 Should lower featured items

 Outcome: “hidden” loss of revenues from poorer conversion rates as a consequence of the ads

AP #4: All BU’s need exposure on the HomePage
 Site is treated as real estate that has to be distributed among BU’s. Outcome: site overload

AP #5: Complexity is a sign of feature richness
Users demand hundreds of features  Should try to please everyone 

Outcome: overwhelmed users 

Solving these anti-patterns required much more than “Web Design”…

Agenda
Who we are (2’) Why we were sidetracked - In-depth look at each anti-pattern  The Redesign  

Get out of the Monkey Trap

Re-think the pricing model
It was neccessary to fix revenue induced anti patterns

Revenue streams

Business Units Pricing Model

From “Featured Fees” to “Exposure Fees”
There is no maneuvering room when there are “visual highlight” fees
Old Optional Feature Fees New “Listing Types” allow cleaner results

Never charge for delivering a good experience
Eliminated “Picture in Listing Pages” Optional Feature Fee
Old version: paid pictures in listing pages Same Search Query with New Version (all pictures for free)

The real cost of advertising and communicating
Minimizing the “vicious cycle” of visual competition
Old Home Page New Home Page

Simplify, simplify
Thoreau

Slide

inspired from a Chris Nodder Presentat

Simplicity first
Keep what the users acually use, not what managers *think* is useful

Nothing is “harmless”
Useless content on footers is typically added aiming to Search Engines traffic
Previous Scroll Bottom (1024x768) Current Scroll Bottom (1024x768)

Velocity First
Focus on HTTP requests and implementing CDNs.

Apr 2010

Oct 2009

Use the crowd to help new users
Favor the majority and make choices for them

Automatic “zoom in”: Demand data was concentrated in “Players” and not “Accessories”

Top Nav Bar for “Players”: Specific facets

Direct Operational Metrics
Lowered bounce rates, decreased time on page and accelerated Successful Items

Agenda
Who we are (2’) Why we were sidetracked - In-depth look at each anti-pattern  The Redesign  Wrapping up  

Wrapping up…
       User Experience goes far beyond “Web Design”. Requires “true commitment”, usually from the CEO. “Unstable Organizational Equilibrium”. Must apply force to achieve collaboration. A/B testing is useless when evaluating dramatic changes. Usability Testing is key. Beware of HIPPOs (Highest Paid People´s Opinion). Going after UX, everything could be changed. Even your business model.

Don´t listen to yourself: successfully redesigning the leading e-commerce platform in Latin America

Daniel Rabinovich CTO www.mercadolibre.com @drabinovich

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