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Federal E-Commerce Re-Imagined Design Thinking. January 23, 2014 Matt Carson. Summary. We talked to people , abducted meaning and developed insights and design principles . We created ideas that transform the way we think about Federal E-Commerce and how we deliver value to our users.

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january 23 2014 matt carson

Federal E-Commerce Re-Imagined

Design Thinking

January 23, 2014

Matt Carson


We talked to people, abducted meaning and developed insights and design principles.

We created ideas that transform the way we think about Federal E-Commerce and how we deliver value to our users.

Post-it notes, and their intangible possibilities, became precious and tangible realities of the Future of E-Commerce.

summary by the numbers
Summary by the Numbers

69 design patterns

142 ideas

3 2x2 filtering activities

1 dot voting activity

12 short-term ideas

6 long-term ideas

5 people interviewed

7 hours of conversation

99 pages of transcripts

577 data points

51 themes

117 insights

4 design principles

design thinking timeline
Design Thinking Timeline


ECD: 12/19/2013

ECD: 11/1/2013

ECD: 1/23/2014


ECD: 11/22/2013

e commerce design thinking
E-Commerce Design Thinking

Starting Point and Goal*

To gain an understanding of the factors that encourageand discouragethe use of Federal E-Commerce.


Meant to direct the types of questions that will become the cornerstones driving the ideas.

research participants
Research Participants

Joan (fictitious name)

Joan, a 28 year veteran in government sales, has been using the E-Commerce solution to support her small business for 10 years. Over the years she’s been forced to remove more and more products from the E-Commerce solution due to shrinking profit margins. She goes the extra mile for customers and even offers to store products that she sells on the E-Commerce solution and personally deliver on-demand. She’s very concerned about the future of her business and hopes that the E-Commerce solution will help keep her company afloat as her only e-commerce solution.

I had to remove the product from the E-Commerce solution because I could not afford to eat the difference with all the other fees that we are paying.”

We allowed customers to buy 4 skids of paper at a time and I’d deliver 20 cartons a week out to them because they didn’t have storage capabilities and they were able to pre-pay for their paper at a lower $.”

research participants1
Research Participants

Joe (fictitious name)

Joe, has been with a plumbing supply company since 2004 and the federal e-commerce system since 2005. A reseller of other manufacturers, they have an abundance of products they supply to the E-commerce platform and don’t track which sell and which don’t sell. They rely on volume to overcome any short-term losses for underselling products.

…this is a family-owned business. They have been in business for around 28 years. I’ve been with EMALL since around 2005 when it was in the research and development phase.”

..we are just starting out with GSA Advantage. I haven’t had any activity basically, I’m not sure how the actual process even works.”

Raw materials and their prices change in real-time so I’m captive to the number of price mods that I can put in place for my products”

research participants2
Research Participants

George, Fred, Bill (fictitious names)

George, Fred and Bill, members of the E-Commerce program team with varied perspectives, experiences and responsibilities. All were cautious about this research and its potential given the results of previous studies and frequent leadership changes. There was some general concern over meeting customer demands but a primary emphasis on business rules and leadership demands.

For our suppliers, it is just more sales for them. If you are one of one instead of one of many obviously you will have more sales.” ~George

…items that are NSN we will want those to appear first. We’d want items with images to appear next. That is kind of a leading factor of getting the suppliers to actually give images.” ~Fred

…we are doing the sustainment portion rather than fulfilling customer orders.” ~Bill

Using the data we collected during Immersion to figure out what people really need; the things that they expect, but aren’t getting from the E-Commerce solution. Synthesis
insight generation
Insight Generation

Definitive statements of truth (that may be wrong)*

Nearly 120 insights for the E-Commerce solution were generated from the data gathered from interviews, observations of the current system and experiential data from using e-commerce platforms and physical retail stores.

  • *Insights provoke conversations and ultimately help us generate new product & service ideas (that can be evaluated and prototyped)
e commerce s olution insights
E-Commerce Solution Insights

Key Insight: Customers and vendors appreciate a system that allows them to interact on a in-person level as opposed to being just "another transaction" and depersonalizing the shopping experience.

It’d be nice if I could communicate to the customer on an order inside the <e-commerce solution> and just reply back to whomever purchased it. But I know that the person that bought something isn’t always the person that needs the item.” —Joe

Oh! I call my customers all the time and they call me. I remind them of what I have and what I can give them. Most of the customers in respect to the <e-commerce solution>, you have the Navy corridor which is becoming an issue for us because I can’t get on the corridor.” —Joan

Courtesy of Amazon.com

For our suppliers, it is just more sales for them. If you are one of one instead of one of many obviously you will have more sales.” —George

e commerce s olution insights1
E-Commerce Solution Insights

The freight factor to ship something to AK or HI. The other day I shipped two toner cartridges to AK (20lbs). It cost the customer $45 to ship. That’s a waste of government $.” —Joan

Key Insight: Customers like using local vendors, vendors like local customers, but neither are incentivized to use each other.

We get orders from everywhere and our manufacturers are located all around the US, but we don’t ship everywhere.” —Joe

Key Insight: Suppliers don't clearly understand what they should be doing on the E-Commerce solution to make the most of the system and generate the best profits.

After a sale I would have to get my price back up versus a flash sale, so that is the hard part of getting the E-Commerce Program Office to understand why I am just having a good day and selling items below cost.” ~Joe

e commerce s olution insights2
E-Commerce Solution Insights

You have vendors on the EMALL that have never updated their catalog and are selling for 4 year old prices. You get hindered by the actual price increase from manufacturers, you’re held captive.” —Joe

Key Insight: An over-abundance of information creates a negative outcome for user's interaction with the E-Commerce solution.

We should stop issuing NSNs to commodities that are disposable and going commercial with those types of things.” —Bill

Key Insight: Remanufactured products are like playing Russian roulette with a GPC.

Our QA guys have gone to school for Xerox, HP, Lexmark, etc. – all the schoolings, all certified. It is a perfect OEM quality cartridge. We aren’t the guys that drill a hole in the side and fill it, then melt the plastic back.” —Joan

design principles
Design Principles

A design principle is a foundational statement that describes how the product, system or service mustfeel in order to be successful.

design principles1
Design Principles

Make the hub feel smaller.

The system shall narrow the communication gap between all participants within the E-Commerce solution ecosystem.

What should that look like for the E-Commerce solution?

the E-Commerce solution views themselves as responsive to customer and vendor issues, but lack the ability to fully engage stakeholders regarding the E-Commerce solution issues. This inability leads to misinformed customers and vendors when the E-Commerce solution issues arise, resulting in frustrations and feelings of non-disclosure which ultimately impact stakeholders trust.

design principles2
Design Principles

Local feel, global footprint.

The system shall create a feeling of community that fulfills customer’s needs at a local and global level.

What can that look like for the E-Commerce solution?

the E-Commerce solution has a global reach that is unparalleled within government E-Commerce systems, but has not translated that into delivery of goods and services at a local level to customers. Customers find ways around today’s policies to fulfill their product needs outside of the E-Commerce solution and work with the vendors that they trust.

design principles3
Design Principles

Empower advocates, highlight successes.

The system shall empower its advocates and general user community by highlighting user stories and emphasizing the value the E-Commerce solution delivers.

What does that look like for the E-Commerce solution?

Vendors rely on the E-Commerce solution to keep their business alive. Customers use the E-Commerce solution to keep their missions moving forward. the E-Commerce solution lacks an ability for its users to share their gratitude with the E-Commerce solution. This has led to frustrations with the E-Commerce solution and questions regarding the value of vendors and products regardless of their support to warfighter needs.

design principles4
Design Principles

Customer mission first.

The system shall focus on delivering customer’s preferred products and services that support their mission needs.

What will that look like for the E-Commerce solution?

Todays customers are frustrated by their inability to find familiar products, services and vendors on the E-Commerce solution. Customer frustration is compounded by a complexity of the intuitiveness of the site and an over-abundance of products that are irrelevant to customer needs and their evolving mission. As a result, customers lack the ability to connect the E-Commerce solution to the fulfillment of their mission.



Ideas that fill the void in the existing things that users expect, but aren’t getting from the E-Commerce solution.


Insight + Design Pattern = Idea

During the Ideation stage we once again went into the realm of everything is possible. We combined insights with random design patterns to help spur ideas that could transform the way that the E-Commerce solution does business.

A new, creative concept, somewhat facilitated by existing design paradigms

Clear, deep, meaningful perception into human behavior in a particular design context

A trending paradigm that describes invariant qualities, referencing history and similar solutions

e commerce solution ideation room
E-Commerce Solution Ideation Room

Working collectively, the E-Commerce solution team down-selected the original ideas to a final set of 6 long-term ideas.

The E-Commerce solution team also identified 19 ideas that should be evaluated more closely to quickly transform the way we could provide value to customers.

After down-selecting from ideas, we develop low fidelity prototypes that show how they can improve the E-Commerce solution at the program level and its experience for users. Prototyping
short term possibilities
Short-Term Possibilities

A one-click option that uses all of the stored profile information to allow customers to purchase and ship items more easily

A quality standard ascribed to used and re-manufactured products

Customers see the proximity of a vendor to help inform their purchasing decisions

Digital download area to help sell digital products

short term possibilities1
Short-Term Possibilities

More frequent updates on the status of orders sent to whatever device users prefer

A new services area where E-Commerce users can purchase services as well as products

A more detailed look at the amount of inventory that vendors have to help inform customers’ purchasing behaviors

A web-based form for vendors to add and remove the products that they are offering

short term possibilities2
Short-Term Possibilities

When customers are searching for products, we allow flexibility for users to find the products that meet their specific needs.

During shopping, customers can filter products based on when they need their product delivered.

When customers are searching for products, we allow flexibility for users to find the products that meet their specific needs.

Customers are linked online to pool their collective requirements to save money as a group.

long term ideas
Long-Term Ideas

The following concepts are a refined version of the nearly 150 ideas that the team generated.

These ideas can changethe way our E-Commerce platform delivers value to users with a focus on customer missions, communications, and creating a feeling of community at the local and global level.

wall street
Wall Street

Wall Street acknowledges the users of the E-Commerce platform as those that can really help inform its best features. If the user has a great idea, they can suggest it and the entire user community can vote and potentially contribute financially to the development of the concept.

Visibility across the user community for those with ideas. Others can vote for your idea and even contribute funding.

When a user of the E-Commerce solution has an idea they can submit it to the Wall Street interface.

The person with the ideas have the opportunity to be involved in its implementation

the general store
The General Store

The General store adds flexibility to the E-Commerce solution users by allowing them to select a variety of ways to fulfill their order. Expedited shipping, in-store pickup, and even 3-D printing options are ways a user can choose to receive products.

As 3D printing technology matures, this can and should become an increasingly viable option for E-Commerce users.

Making use of existing base infrastructure, the E-Commerce solution could have a co-located physical pickup location. People would receive notification of when they could pickup an item.

When choosing the pre-existing direct shipping option, users will now be able to select expedited shipping options.

the exchange
The Exchange

The Exchange is an open market area sponsored by the E-Commerce solution, explicitly stressed that these are non-native E-Commerce solution products and services. Users who aren’t able to find their products on the E-Commerce solution would also be directed to the appropriate product on The Exchange and be charged a service-fee from the E-Commerce solution for transactions on The Exchange.

Vendors who are either in approval or at least approved to be on The Exchange offer their products and services

host and sponsor of the site can collect a service fee for products ordered on The Exchange

the E-Commerce solution customer couldn’t find product and was re-directed to The Exchange

Customers on the exchange can select localized results for faster service

mobile mall
Mobile Mall

“Mobile Mall” is a simple mobile app to search for products, check your order status and manage your existing inventory.

A simple mobile interface that allows users to do their primary activities on the E-Commerce solution. Inventory management, checking on order status, and finding products

As a security measure, users can opt to not store GPC information and still purchase with a mobile add-on technology solution.


“R2D2” emphasizes the E-Commerce solution as a new portal that facilitates users ability to manage existing inventory, subscribe to products, re-order products, and access other sites from inside the current system.

Re-Ordering of products with either an algorithm that selects a vendor or the same vendor.

Users can manage their inventory items purchased in and outside of the E-Commerce platform.

Subscriptions of products to help save budget dollars where appropriate.

Identifying products that people purchase outside EMALL that are available on EMALL.

Single sign-on for other sites using the E-Commerce solution.

window puppy
Window Puppy

A system that allows for ratings of vendors and products, status levels for vendors and customers, sort-ability of products for customers based upon personalized filters, ability to accrue points that could be turned in for additional purchases like an annual user conference.

Vendors manage their stock on hand they provide to the E-Commerce solution customers.

Customers can evaluate products based upon other customer’s input as well as provide input on products.

Vendors receive analytics on their sales patterns and get helpful tips on how to improve their sales.

Customers are using personalized filters based upon their needs.

Customers are able to quickly see the prices of NSN and vendor prices.

Vendors are getting rated by customers experiences with them.

Customers acquire levels based upon their usage and activity on the site.

Vendors are able to acquire a status level within the E-Commerce solution based upon their behaviors in the system.

After prototyping a number of ideas at a lower fidelity, we then develop the final prototype and implement a solution that meets the future needs of the E-Commerce platform’s users. Implementation
what s next
What’s Next

Starting Point Activities for CY 2014 and Beyond

Planning & Analysis

  • Design Technical Requirements and System Architecture
  • Develop Systems Design Documentation supporting the future E-Commerce platform


  • Develop the Future solution in a test environment
  • Design a Development Lifecycle focused on rapid iteration and prototyping


  • Migrate data and users from Legacy to Future Platform
  • Migrate a working version of the E-Commerce solution into an environment where users can experience and provide feedback
  • Deploy Future Platform to a production environment

Develop and Integrate Additional Capabilities into Future Solution