Given the benefit of hindsight, Lazada may have done some things differently to better manage customer experience following the integration of its RedMart app – a move that has vexed a significant portion of its online grocery customers in Singapore.
The e-commerce operator early this year had announced plans to fold the grocery app into the Lazada platform, more than two years after it acquired RedMart in November 2016. The integration, it said, would expand the range of its product offerings and extend online grocery shopping across Lazada’s Southeast Asian customer base. The company added that it planned to launch the service in “at least one other city” in the region from the second half of 2019.
RedMart customers were promised the “same shopping experience – from browsing to ordering” on the integrated platform, but when the 15 March cutover date rolled around, several customers took to social media, including Facebook and Twitter, to lament the move from a user interface that was streamlined and clean, to one that was cluttered and difficult to navigate.
Several popular RedMart features also were missing on the Lazada platform, including the ability to update a scheduled order, incentives for certain delivery timeslots, and reminders to stock up on items.
A month on, customers are still expressing their frustration with the integration and asking for Lazada to return RedMart to its former standalone platform.
“The force transition from RedMart to Lazada before the latter has feature parity is an unfortunate example of putting corporate strategy ahead of user experience”, noted ‘Andreas Ehn’ on Twitter.
“RedMart, please seriously review your move to Lazada and make it as seamless to your consumers as possible. Otherwise, you are in a serious position of losing your client base”, wrote ‘Cindy Chin’ on Facebook.
“Poor RedMart designers must feel like hiding underground after the app merger with Lazada. They made such a good job on the original app and Lazada turned it into a total UX disaster”, said ‘Tomas Forgac’ on Twitter.
“Can we please just go back to using the old RedMart app?” said ‘Tammie Quai’ on Facebook, whose comment received more than 50 Likes.
For its part, Lazada’s social media team can be seen responding to the comments and feedback with promises to improve the user interface as well as provide guides on how to resolve some common issues.
In fact, given a chance for a do-over, more efforts would have been invested in tutorials to walk customers through the changes, said Lazada’s Singapore CEO James Chang in an interview with DTC Daily.
Noting that it was challenging to explain the differences in an effective way, Chang said: “If I had a mechanism to sit down with the customer, explain and go through the app and functionalities, I think we could have prevented [some] misunderstanding.”
Live streaming, for instance, could have been used on the day of the cutover to highlight features on the new integrated platform, he said, adding that his team now was tapping non-traditional as well as traditional methods to engage customers about the integration.
This past week, it began rolling out a series of educational content on social media channels to demonstrate how customers should navigate the integrated platform, covering areas such as how they could search for RedMart products, choose a delivery slot, use vouchers, and change delivery address.
It also held customer-engagement sessions with community and customer groups to address their concerns.
Chang said: “We’re constantly monitoring online and offline channels and proactively reaching out to customers who indicate they are having issues shopping on RedMart. We help them solve these issues and, simultaneously, gather feedback to help us decide on our priorities for future enhancements and fixes.”
Lazada said it would be reintroducing some RedMart features and functionalities by the end of June 2019, including the ability to update existing orders, delivery slot incentives, and the My List feature.
Others also were “in the pipeline” such as the ability to search and sort by relevance or savings, reserve delivery slot, and change delivery time after checking out.
Transition part of a “two-year journey”
So, why were these RedMart features not available from the cutover date on 15 March, especially after customers were promised access to the same functionalities on the Lazada platform?
Chang explained that discussions on the integration had begun “years ago”, with the technical work commencing about nine months back, including establishing the app design, business use cases, and budgeting. Various options were assessed, including the possibility of providing a redirect to the RedMart site and app.
Integration efforts also had to consider the possibility of eventually joining up with the Alibaba technology stack, since the Chinese e-commerce operator had acquired Lazada in 2016.
Chang said the development team realised that in order to create the assortment and variety in products, which had fuelled the business goal behind the platform integration, it had to roll out the integration in phases. In this initial phase, he added, the focus was on the frontend interface as well as the app and website. Once resolved, efforts would move towards other key components such as the logistics, partner support, content, and merchant tools, he said. To move immediately to some of these backend features would have involved bigger risks, he added.
Noting that the transition was a two-year journey, Chang said: “I know that for a lot of our customers, they are looking at this current version as the endgame [but] it is just one point in time of the [entire] revolution.”
Such changes would encompass efforts to plug the inefficiencies and make technology improvements to address functions that were not user-friendly, he said. The mechanism for voucher redemptions, for instance, needed to be simplified, he noted.
He added that some former RedMart functions would not be available til June because these worked differently from the Lazada technology stack.
Specifically, his team spent considerable time discussing the feature that would allow customers to update existing orders. He explained that a technical component had to be deployed and launched first, and evaluated, before the Order Update function could be integrated.
Chang said he had anticipated a high level of customer feedback regarding this particular feature because the company’s data insights had indicated the popularity of the function.
In fact, he noted, many of the decisions made in the integration were data-driven. For instance, its data would reveal how many customers clicked on a button or feature on the app.
There were also data insights into whether products that were viewed by a high number of consumers eventually were converted into actual purchases, and which brands selling similar products did better than others.
Such data, he said, was valuable in providing more relevant results when consumers searched for products as well as helping retail brands sell better on the Lazada platform.
Ultimately, the Lazada-RedMart integration would offer consumers more product diversity, he added, noting that RedMart already was selling non-food items such as electronic appliances and household wares.
“With the move to Lazada, we have the potential to expand the range […] and give customers the best assortment and price. It’s the user experience component that we now need to work out”, he said. “I think a lot of the things that made RedMart special aren’t lost. There are points we have to go through in terms of [further] enhancements and functionalities, but I’m confident of capturing the essence of [what RedMart had offered].”
According to Chang, a team of more than 100 from different markets across the region were involved in testing the integrated platform before the 15 March cutover. Despite the teething issues, he said the union was essential to ensure Lazada could cater to the needs of different customers on the online marketplace and continue to offer the product range and relevancy consumers demanded. This could be best supported if the two platforms were integrated, he noted.