Thankfully, design has moved on from skeuomorphism. You might remember many of the apps on the original iPhone, like Calendar and Notes. Built to look like their real-life counterparts, the design direction was limiting. App builders couldn't embrace new features empowered by the technology.
The notion, though, still lives on. While design has moved on, software is still often limited by the same restrictions as its real-life inspiration.
The prototypical design of online e-commerce stores is one such example. They're a digital expression of the in-person shopping experience. Enter a storefront. Select a category (aisle) that interests you. Navigate a large family of products–filtering down as you go. Examine the item that interests you. Put it in your cart.
Many physical retailers go to great lengths to work around their limitations. Endcaps seek to direct customers' attention to particular products. Coupon mailers re-engage past customers. The decision paralysis caused by 18 brands of tortilla chips is avoided by out-of-place displays.
Traditional online stores – in-browser analogues of their physical coutnerparts – face the same challenges. Dozens of products creates decision paralysis, and customers leave with nothing. Product pages may not be informational for every audience. Promising businesses are destroyed by rising acquisition costs. Falling conversion rates compound the damage.
It's time for e-commerce stores to begin using the flexibility provided to them by the web. Customers want experiences that are engaging. Guided. Personalized. Experiences tailored to their needs. And, by engaging the customer from the start, we increase conversion, too.
Let's imagine a furniture store. In the physical world, you wander into a giant building. You decide what type of furniture you want to look for – say, a bed. You meander through a massive section, looking for something that fits your taste. If you're lucky, there's a bedframe and dresser that's good enough nearby. If not, you make a note of your selected bed, wander over to the next section, and repeat the process.
How might that look as a modern digital experience? You tell the store about you. You express your likes and dislikes through a guided tour of possible tastes. Or, you might even connect our store to your Pinterest account, and we get a sense of your taste. And, at the end of the tour, we show you a catalogue personalized for you. Everything you need to decorate your dream room. Nothing more.
This sort of experience isn't far-fetched. In fact, 10up created a similar platform as part of IKEA's Inspire My Home Campaign in 2018. But it's still uncommon. And, in the very competitive world of e-commerce, uncommon experiences are exactly what you need to stand out.