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Carhartt and the art of data-driven product design.

December 9, 2020 By: Alex Torres

When a company engages in continuous, data-driven product design, they make customer experience decisions that are based on analytics, customer data, and user behavior. 

By focusing on numbers and behaviors, UX design and engineering teams develop a stronger sense of what their customers need and want. In turn, this helps teams to build systems, features, and tools that are easy-to-use and accessible.

Carhartt, a US-based apparel company that was founded in 1889, is known across the globe as a premium workwear brand with a rich history of developing products for workers on and off the clock, including hats, jackets, coats, and overalls.

Now, over 100 years after its founding, Carhartt has adapted to our new digital-first world by capitalizing on continuous, data-driven product design methods to improve its online shopping experience.

Here’s a brief look at how Carthartt has responded to major historical changes over the past century, including how the company has continued to adapt to technological innovations. 

A brief history of Carhartt.

Carhartt is a family-owned company that has seen it all, including the worst global economic depression in US history.

Founded in Dearborn, Michigan by Hamilton Carhartt, the US-based apparel company expanded abroad to Canada and the United Kingdom within just 2 decades of its founding, before downsizing during the Great Depression. 

But the company quickly rebounded after World War II by redesigning “rugged clothing for the next generation,” according to Tonya Riley. As Americans returned to work in the 1940s, Carhartt was at the forefront of technological innovation, capitalizing on the country’s advances in mass production.

By the end of the twentieth century, Carhartt had expanded its customer base beyond rural and suburban blue collar workers to include hip-hop fans, urbanites, and other taste makers. Today, Carhartt is a popular choice across the globe among hipsters, teenagers, and millennials.

It’s safe to say that Carhartt has remained one of the most adaptable apparel companies in US history. Just earlier this year, the clothing company pivoted to producing protective masks and other PPE equipment to help first responders during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Over 100 years after its founding, Carhartt turns to data-driven design.

Before Carhartt partnered with Quantum Metric, the apparel company’s online system focused on responding to help tickets that were submitted to the customer service desk. 

This approach made it difficult for developers to identify critical errors and moments of customer friction, leading to a very high time to resolution. 

Simply put, the Carhartt team couldn’t measure and monitor their website’s user experience and performanceat least not at scale.

Eventually, Carhartt partnered with Quantum Metric, a Continuous Product Design (CPD) platform that helped the apparel company boost product visibility, uncover friction, and reduce resolution time.  

Addressing UX issues.

The Carhartt team quickly realized that they could greatly improve their customer experience by identifying UX issues based on actual end user behavior, rather than just technical errors. This is the core idea of data-driven product design. 

According to Donavan Marchywka, Carthartt’s Director of Digital Solutions, “Before Quantum Metric, we always initially assumed our errors were code based. But we found that sometimes it can simply be a confusing user experience.”

Marchywka recalled how a “confusing user experience” made it difficult for customers to ship to PO Boxes. As it turned out, the checkout page had a checkbox (or a form field) for PO box addresses. And although the checkbox was poorly placed and not clearly labeled, there was no technical error to speak of!

So the Carhartt team turned to Quantum Metric’s uniquely secure data capture method and session replay technology. In no time flat, they discovered that the PO Box form field “was not a clear option to click on,” according to Marchywka. 

“We could have dug through our logs forever looking for a technical problem,” Marchywka added, “but with Quantum Metric we understood it was simply a usability issue.” 

Making data-driven product design decisions.

But identifying UX issues is just one piece of the puzzle. 

The Carhartt team also benefited from Quantum Metric’s advanced analytics tools, which provides important context for major issues. 

According to Steven Kachnowski, Carthartt’s Manager of Application Support for Digital Engineering, “The segmentation between devices and browsers is a huge win for us. We will see an error and say ‘Oh! It is always hitting on Safari Version 12’ and we can pinpoint it immediately.” 

Now, the Carhartt team quickly identifies how UX problems and technical errors impact users across their digital portfolio, including desktop and mobile devices. 

Choosing Continuous Product Design (CPD).

For more than a century, Carhartt has adapted to their customers’ ever-changing needs, a crucial step for engaging in Continuous Product Design (CPD).

Quantum Metric is the global leader in Continuous Product Design, a data-driven product design approach that focuses on building digital products that customers need. Platforms like Quantum Metric provide teams with real-time insights into customer behaviors so that they can test, learn, and iterate faster. The platform’s advanced anomaly detection technology makes it easier for teams to identify crucial trends and drive conversion rates. 

Like data-driven product design, Continuous Product Design makes it easier for teams to align on priorities, overcome disciplinary siloing, and focus on the elements that impact a company’s bottom line the most

After all, Continuous Product design is all about building the products that customers need here and now, not last year or even last week. And Carhartt, which has been in business for over 130 years, knows a thing or two about adapting to their customers’ needs.

It’s no secret that Covid-19 has accelerated the already momentous shift from in-person shopping experiences to online ones. Thanks to its partnership with Quantum Metric, Carhartt was poised to continue delivering standout digital customer experiences.

Are you interested in learning more about how Quantum Metric can help your organization? Learn more about how other companies have benefited from Continuous Product Design today.

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