Ecommerce best practice

It is not often that I am genuinely impressed with an ecommerce website and the online purchase experience. Most of the time you are left thinking “wouldn’t it be great if the site had this…” or “why haven’t they made that easier…“. However, this week I was left impressed (see first point below). It made me reflect on my best ecommerce experiences and the features and functionalities that made it so great. Below I have started a list of examples of buying experiences, functionality, UX and look and feel. Feel free to ping me other examples and I will add them to the list.

Best overall experience: Naked Wines (www.nakedwines.com)NakedWine

Most of the mainstream wine sites look and feel dated and have terrible UX. Not Naked Wines. Apart from a simple, easy on the eye look and feel, it is the user-journey that impressed me. Rather than presenting you with the traditional ecom site layout, Naked Wines chooses to break the usability rules and ask you some questions first. The fact is the questions immediately and effectively transmit their ethos and concept. After completing the questionnaire, assuming you have answered them ‘correctly’, they present you with a gift for being an ‘Angel’ – a £82 discount on a pre-prepared selection of wines. I was sold hook, line and sinker. After completing the seamless checkout process, I was surprised to find my account with a £20 credit, which they offered as a gift for placing my first order. Second order pretty much guaranteed. Nice touch!

  • Fresh look and feel
  • Compelling, yet not forceful commercial approach
  • Great user-experience
  • Interesting content
  • Personalisation throughout
  • Differentiated approach to online wine sales

Best checkout feature: Amazon (www.amazon.co.uk – as if you didn’t know!)

AmazonIt probably makes many of you cringe to see such a giant in this list but the reality is Amazon has the best checkout feature, bar none: 1-click. This feature makes it just too easy to buy on Amazon, whether on site, on mobile or by app. Need something? Quick search on Amazon and 1-click (literally) and the product is on its way to you. I wish they had some stiff competition. Could you imagine what they would come up with if they did…

  • 1-Click checkout
  • Prime – loyalty service for which you have to pay (happily!)
  • Recommended items
  • User and purchase friendly app

Best shopping list feature: Tesco (www.tesco.com/groceries)Tesco

I have a pet hate: buying groceries online. I can never remember what I want, the brands that I prefer and invariably forget the most important items. Not any more. Tesco’s integration of their Clubcard in the online shopping experience means I can now see what I have previously bought in-store from my Clubcard history. Such an obvious feature but missing for a long time. I also think their ‘multi-search’ functionality is brilliant. Easy to use, it allows you to search for your entire shopping list in one go.

  • Clubcard offline shopping history
  • Multisearch
  • Clean design
  • Recipe ‘add ingredients to shopping cart’ functionality

Best look and feel: Made.com (www.made.com) Madecom

This was a close run between Made.com and Fab.com, and I suppose it is down to taste. I like Made.com because I favour the clean design. It really is (apart from apple.com)one of the few ecommerce sites which is not cluttered with products and promotions. Each individual product takes centre stage, with impressive photography. There is plenty of content to allow you to make an informed choice, but somehow it is still totally minimalist. Really like the functionality that allows visitors to ask questions about a product and the staff recommendations.

  • Clean, non-cluttered design
  • Beautiful photography
  • Plenty of well organised and prioritised product info
  • Easy checkout process with guest option

Best shopping app: Mr Porter (iPhone app)

MrPorterI don’t buy there often, but it is a great experience. The app is easy to use. The home screen is intuitive and offers a minimal choice of options, however, you are only ever one click away from your product list page, which has the most comprehensive filters you will ever find on a fashion app. Plenty of product images and Editor notes for almost every item make it the best shopping app experience for me.

  • Intuitive & easy to use
  • Great content & product imagery
  • Comprehensive product filtering

Best comparison app: Google Shopper (Android and iPhone)Google

Although you can’t buy directly on Google Shopper, I wanted to include it as it has saved me a fortune over the last few months. Before I buy anything, especially at airports where you are confronted with very enticing discounts (mainly on products you don’t need!) I quickly go on Google Shopper to compare prices. Within seconds you can see whether you are getting a good deal, or whether you can get it cheaper elsewhere. The great thing about this app is that it not only compares prices from online shops and the likes of eBay, but it also compares the prices from high street shops in your local area. It also allows you to save your searched item to a ‘shopping list’ meaning that you can refer back to see which impulse buy you managed to avoid….Great money saver!

  • Easy to use and extremely quick
  • Compares online and offline prices
  • Add to shopping list feature
  • Ability to view & buy without leaving app

I hope you like the list and, as mentioned above, if you want to share your favourite ecommerce site or feature(s), use the comment box below and I will add them to the list.

2012 – What a year…!!!

As the last day of 2012 is only hours away, it seems appropriate to briefly reflect on the past year, which has been anything but boring.

It has been a year of exciting and diverse projects for me, ranging from Thames Water‘s online drought campaign to one of the most impactful social networking and collaboration proof of concepts for one of the world’s favourite airlines.

I have had the pleasure of working on external digital marketing projects and internal comms strategies for the likes of Experian, Deutsche Bank, Old Mutual Group, Camelot and Betfair amongst many others and would like to thank all the clients for entrusting their digital strategies in our hands.

Together with my team I hosted two hugely successful events and would like to thank the guest speakers, in particular Paul Hewitt from Deutsche Bank and Nick Crawford then from Bupa, as well as the guys from Yammer and Jive for their time and involvement. A special mention also needs to go to my colleagues Neil Clayton and Mark Smith for their support and effort in helping me make it happen.

In terms of trends, 2012 was certainly an exciting year for digital internal comms. Social networking and collaboration continued to be the main talking point, heightened by the purchase by Microsoft of Yammer. Whether this did the industry any favours will remain to be seen but it had a reflective effect on a sector that was probably getting a little bit carried away with itself, which was a good thing.

Another important talking point was mobile & mobility and whether native apps or web apps were the future (see overview here). This conversation will no doubt dominate in 2013 and in my opinion web apps will steal some market share from native apps, particularly in marketing and communications. Whichever is the ultimate winner or whether they share top spot, mobility will be key. Doing everything everywhere, on fully integrated devices, working in the clouds is in my opinion the trend for 2013 and it offers many exciting opportunities.

On a personal level, I will start 2013 with a completely new challenge which will see me back in the B2C arena, working with big data and intelligence, enabling organisations to engage and interact more effectively with their customers. It is a very exciting opportunity and I truthfully can’t wait for the start to the new year!

I wish everyone the very best for 2013 and thank you for reading my digital ramblings. I look forward to continuing in the New Year.

The workplace is becoming an ‘i’-mocracy

Recently I posted a question on LinkedIn asking people: what they thought the workplace would look like in 5 to 10 years time. My reason was extremely selfish, as it is a question that I have to ask myself quite a lot in my line of work, and thought I would make my life easier by getting other people to answer it for me. For 2 days I waited and waited. Nothing!

Then slowly but surely people started to respond and a week or so later there are 20 comments from people all over the world giving their personal vision of the future of their workplaces. And as I don’t want to be selfish any longer, I want to share some main points raised, and my conclusion with you.

Mobility & flexibility

Almost all the comments to some degree or other touched on mobility being a major influencing factor in the future. Organisations need to embrace mobility and provide their staff with the tools not only to access data but to interact with it wherever they may be (and across multiple devices!).

Collaboration

I was fully expecting this, as it is the single most talked about topic in my conversations with clients. How can we become more collaborative? How can we crowd-source more effectively? Ideation and gamifaction are of course always darting in and out of this conversation, but the reality is that organisations need to stop pretending they are collaborating and really provide substantial tools (and culture!) that enable effective and meaningful collaboration.

Fluid workspace

I loved this expression, as it immediately conjures up visions of what that would look like. The conversation around this went well beyond hot-desking or open spaced offices. As Joyce put it: imagine a big open space with clusters around projects and the ability to join in the various clusters that are relevant to you. Picture leaders walking around this big space and almost indistinguishable for the other participants.

A bit too far out? No!… That is what social intranets or ESN are all about! The technology is real and it is here accessible to all.

Bringing order to chaos

Another point made was around environments that have less noise, and are less chaotic. I interpret this to mean that information is easy to find. Relevant conversations and content are easily identifiable. Relevant people stand out from the crowd.  The mad rush to find content is over. The confusion about who reports to who and who is involved in what are things from the past. Bliss.

BYOD (Bring your own device)

Not longer than ten years ago, we used to go to work because that is where we had access to (fast) internet connections,  the latest computer and some of us were given mobile phones we didn’t need to pay for. Those were perks. Fast forward to today, and the reality is totally inverse. Our personal mobile phone is the latest smartphone on an ‘all you can eat’ data and call package. It is sync’ed with our iPad (or tablet), giving us access to all our songs, photos and other content in a totally seamless way. We have a stylish thin laptop or a top of the range, faster than lighting PC. At work? We are lucky if we get a Dell Latitude laptop and a poxy 3G iPhone.

What does that mean? It means that there is a massive disconnect between our expectations of user-experience and tools that we are expected to work with. Companies will have to focus on improving the user-experience and move away from “they should be happy they are getting a phone” to providing the employees with tools that at least match what they have in their personal lives. Or they will have to accept “bring our own”, and iron out any security issues that may imply.

© Hollywood Pictures

Conclusion:

Reading the above and the response on the Linkedin page, one thing becomes clear to me: we are shaping our own workplace. The balance of power is shifting and employers are having to play catch up to our demands.We share our private lives (FB, Twitter, etc.) – so businesses have to provide platforms that allow us to share (collaborate) our working lives.

We have cool toys – businesses will have to provide us with cool toys or accept that we will bring our own to work.

We value our time – businesses are going to have to provide more flexibility and the ability to work any time anywhere, or we will look for other places to work.

The workplace is no longer feudal (dedicated top down), nor is it a democracy (lets all work it out together).

The workplace is an i-mocracy – I decide!

Thank you the all the participants of the LinkedIn discussion: Stephen RussellSumit RoyLinda BjorkBala SubraStephen RussellPiyush MangalIvan IsaacsMatthew AikenMikko MalmivaaraRandy HerbertsonCatherine Zang, MBAJoyce Wilson-Sanford

Corporate web design trends

Conscious of the fact that I have been very much focused on the internal digital landscape, I decided to have a look at what is happening on the external front. The most notable development in external web design, for me, is the shift in focus and importance placed on ‘user-experience’ (hallelujah!). And I dont just mean visual user-experience.

Gone are (…or ‘should be’) the traditional heavy corporate rhetoric and the self-gratifying websites that the CEO could show-off to his family and friends. Gone are the big images that are completely irrelevant to the content and what the visitor is looking for. Gone are the long lists of over-glorifying ‘news’ stories and gone is content for content sake. We are moving from ‘look how big/important we are!‘ to ‘how can we help you?‘.

Below I have selected some sites that I believe are best-in-class examples of these new trends.

I must stress at this stage that I have deliberately avoided any designs from my own agency as I don’t want to be accused of bias or favouritism, and also to show that I am a very good sport. I am a firm believer that good work should be recognised even if it is not our own.

If you have any other suggestions please feel free to add the link in the comments below.

Bloomberg

Visually engaging and definitely different. The user-experience (UX) is one step ahead of most sites. The information is well organised and you are immediately and subconsciously drawn to the most important content. Everything is only one-click away and I like the ‘get to know the company at a glance’ approach. Bloomberg is ‘selling’ itself but in a refreshingly direct and no nonsense manner.

Petrofac

I really like the practicality of this design. There are definite hints of the new Facebook layout. It is clean, easy to navigate and still visually engaging. Great use of font sizes to attract your attention to content, and the imagery tells the story.

Standard Chartered

Normally I am not a great fan of sites with heavy background images, but I really like the way that the background image is part of the content on the page and the interactivity it brings to the page.

Xstrata

Although I like the layout (it is fresh and colourful), the main thing I like about this site is the story….and everyone knows that a good story is not just about content but how you tell it. The colours and imagery do the content justice.

ARUP

I really like this. It is a great example of liquid design (fluid layout), making it not only ideal for the different screen resolution but also for mobile devices (according to Office of National Statistics 50% of us are now going online via mobile devices). It also follows the trend of blog-style layout, which is easy to read yet not often used for corporate sites. It works and I like it a lot.

I hope you like the examples and, as mentioned above, please use the comments box to highlight other good corporate design examples…or let me know your thoughts on the trends that you feel are important (examples please!).