How User Experience matters in multichannel commerce – Part I

As customers are interacting with more and more channels and touchpoints, it becomes essential for brands to adapt to their context and deliver meaningful interactions in order to satisfy their growing expectations.

Following the relaunch of its ecommerce site at the end of 2013, Halfords online sales have risen 13.7% from the same time last year.

Whenever adding a new channel, improving an existing touchpoint or redesigning the entire omnichannel setup of a brand, User Experience expertise actively participates to increasing conversion rates, repeat purchase and ultimately market share.

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The changing role of the store

Consumer adoption of digital commerce, a great opportunity for the store

In today’s new retail landscape, synergies between offline and online channels of a merchant are ubiquitous.

Click & Collect (pick-up in the shop of an order placed online) is now a must-have service for any brick & mortar’s e-commerce given its rapid adoption by shoppers and uplift effect on basket value. According to Forrester, a third of customers collecting orders in store make an additional impulse purchase.

Another evidence of the value of the store in digital commerce is Amazon’s recent announcement to launch its first physical outlet in New York City, a revolution for the global e-tailer.

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The quality of e-commerce in the UAE has yet to come

More an Offer than a Demand issue

The lack of credible digital commerce offering in the UAE remains an ever true fact with only 15% of its population shopping online. Given the country has an Internet penetration of 80% and one of the world’s highest smartphone penetration (78%), the paradox is striking.

Any analyst of mature online markets would regard this as nothing but pure heresy, since the more connected consumers a brand has, the more additional revenue it can draw from them. The reality is somewhat more complex and the relatively weak development of e-commerce in the UAE has reasons beyond lack of trust and payment security concerns, as often raised by vendors in their pitches.

UAE connected consumers are increasingly relying on web and mobile services to communicate and facilitate aspects of their day-to-day life. The development of e-services and mobile apps in the region, heavily pushed by the government, is increasingly generalizing electronic payments. Online payment has actually been a common practice in the Emirates for traveling purposes for some time. UAE consumers are now ready for more relevant and actionable online content and services, which local retailers are yet to provide them.

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Designing a mobile touchpoint: the single-purpose app

When planning a new app, the current trend is to keep it simple and focus on its effectiveness to meet business objectives

Multi-purpose apps are progressively being abandoned as connected-consumers increasingly favour micro-interactions with specialised apps. One of the most eloquent illustration of this trend is Facebook’s “unbundling strategy”. The social media giant is moving away from multi-purpose apps (which they call “the portal syndrome”) and is now acquiring or developing a network of specialised apps, with very specific sets of functionalities: Paper, Instagram, Whatsapp to name a few.

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The Digital Storefront Revolution

Brands look for ways to merge offline and online worlds into a unified and innovative shopping experience

The store is increasingly tapping into e-commerce and online marketing techniques to serve digital-savvy consumers. The digital storefront is another evidence of the line-blurring. In addition to attracting traffic into the store, it can also allow consumers to browse and buy with the convenience they are used to online. This further empowers the customer, who can choose whether to enter the shop or not.

At present, only the most digitally advanced and integrated brands can deliver such level of shopping experience. For now, most retailers only turn to the digital storefront for differentiation and traffic acquisition purposes. Yet, as they shape-up and integrate their multichannel capabilities, the potential behind this new shopping interface is massive.

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Store Digitizing in the UAE

Global and local brands in the UAE are progressively introducing digital innovation into shopping malls

If brands in the UAE largely benefit from the strong mall traffic, they still need to differentiate from competition. This is what Hollister, the Abercrombie & Fitch’s brand, has successfully achieved in Dubai upon opening its first point of sale in the Middle East, at Mall of the Emirates.

By covering the storefront of its new outlet with a giant digital wall displaying a Californian beachfront, the retailer has immediately achieved massive brand awareness. Hiding what lies inside the store behind a digital storefront, in a darkish atmosphere, created an exclusive club environment that fosters consumers’ curiosity. The store has encountered significant traffic since its opening earlier this year.

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The new In-Store Experience

The role of the store is being reinvented to showcase, entertain and deliver a personalized experience through customer centricity and digital technology

The rise of the connected consumer and e-commerce is profoundly reshaping consumer expectations and behavior.
To remain relevant, retail and telecom are reinventing the role of their stores in the customer journey, turning them into entertaining shopping destinations.
New breeds of “flagship stores” and “stores of the future” have therefore emerged, making extensive use of digital technology to deliver unique brand experiences. Often articulated around lifestyle, they aim at reinventing the shopping experience by showcasing, entertaining and personalizing interactions.

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Mobile First

In this article, we share on the opportunities behind choosing mobile as first channel when devising new market strategies.

The New Default Form Factor

“Of the 10 million people in Egypt who access the mobile web, 70% of them are mobile only — they never use the desktop internet.”

In the MENA region more than anywhere else, mobile is increasingly becoming the default Internet access channel.

This is actually very good news for businesses as mobile touchpoints enable greater customer engagement and interactions with a brand.

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The Connected Consumer

Consumers are increasingly connected through a wide array of Internet-connected devices.

Customers no longer interact with companies from a pure “channel” perspective. They interact through different touchpoints opening up to many new possible journeys as they engage with brands and shop.

The Web is the most commonly employed touchpoint when shopping today (see the purchase lifecyle below), be it to search products online, read reviews, compare pricing or find store location. 83% of customers research products online before buying (66% in the Middle East). Customers are becoming savvier and they expect accurate and relevant information to be available in support of their purchase decision making.

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