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Lots of retailers are wrestling with the challenges that mobile customers bring. But trying to meet different customer needs on a variety of screen sizes – from snug smartphones to widescreen laptops via touchscreen tablets – needs careful planning and design. We recently completed a project with The Perfume Shop that shows just how powerful a good mobile site can be.

As an increasingly important part of The Perfume Shop’s omni-channel business model, the retailer wanted to improve the customer experience on smartphones and create a consistent experience across all of customer connections.

The solution we designed, which was shortlisted for Best Mobile Optimised Site at the recent Drapers and Retail Week PayPal Etail Awards, is helping to get more customers buying on mobiles (with PayPal integration) and visiting stores (with location-based store finder functionality).

The mobile optimised site has only been up and running for a few months, but already The perfume Shop is seeing massive improvement across mobile, in both conversion and transaction rates.

You can try out The Perfume Shop’s mobile site here.

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This year’s BT for Retail Summit was held in the motorsport-themed Whittlebury Hall, just a champagne cork’s pop from Silverstone. As they pulled in from the high speed High Street chase, what did the nearly 200 delegates get out of this two-day technology pit stop?

It wasn’t a rest, that’s for sure. Two days, packed with retail technology presentations, demonstrations, articulations and explanations. And, just as Formula One winners are decided by the tiniest of margins, everyone attending was making full use of every second at the event to try and gain an advantage when they rejoined the race.

The focus was on the practical, the here and now. So we had BT futurologist Nicola Millard describing herself as a ‘now-ologist’ while unveiling the latest customer loyalty research which highlighted the importance of reducing effort for customers. Then John Ryan, stores editor at Retail Week and Drapers, raced through a whistle stop tour of the best in-store theatre around the world, ending with “I have one second left…”

This ‘every second counts’ approach ran through the whole event. Even in between formal sessions – in the Indianapolis, Hockenheim and Hungoraring suites – retailers were rattling through a room full of technology demonstrations. Clienteling? Check. In-store wi-fi? Check. PayPal integration? Check? Cloud-based infrastructure? Check. Go, go, go!!

Every one of the delegates would have come armed with analysis of how the race had been unfolding and where remedial work was needed – they’d also have predictions of the conditions they’d be likely to face and an interest in what the competition was up to.

But what shone through was the collaborative spirit. The tone was set by our new CEO David Grossman, who kicked everything off by lifting the lid on some of the latest innovations he’d seen after a recent trip to Silicon Valley.

It was an event that was geared up for sharing as retailers got together to discuss experiences, solutions, insights and challenges. So Brown Thomas, Notcutts and Thomas Pink shared centre stage in a presentation on customer loyalty; Claire’s, Jigsaw UK and Jigsaw24 shared their web design experiences; PayPal and the Logic Group shared a vision of payments beyond plastic; WH Smith and The Co-operative Food Group explained how Elfs and beetles had helped stock shelves and serve customers; and Crabtree & Evelyn and Fat Face had an open discussion on the future of the store.

All too quickly, the pit stop was over and people rejoined the race – fired up for the next few laps. The brand takes all the glory, of course, but the IT, e-commerce, marketing, CRM and operational teams underpinning it are the ones really driving the business.

We’ll have videos, photos and presentations from the event available shortly. In the meantime, you can see the Fat Face case study video shown during the event.

Posted by Justine Arthur, Head of Communications and Campaigns, BT Expedite & Fresca

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Accessories retailer Claire’s uses next generation technology to reach next generation consumers

by David Devany, European eCommerce and Digital Director, Claire’s

We’ve just launched an e-commerce site for the UK and Europe that’s going to help bring us closer to our customers. It’s a real step forward for us, in terms of our online presence, but we think the real benefits will be felt in our stores.

We’re obviously well aware of our target market – and three things stick out about a Claire’s girl.

She’s very sociable – and will connect through a number of social media sites, including Twitter and Facebook. She’s mobile – out and about and as comfortable on a smartphone as any Apple geek. And she’s probably too young to have her own credit card, one of the main reasons we’d shied away from establishing a transactional site before.

So an e-commerce site was never primarily about sales for Claire’s. We’re obviously happy if parents get pestered into buying online from us, but the site is more of a social gathering area and trend influencer than it is strictly business.

That’s not to say we’ve not taken advantage of the very latest technology to help make it easy to buy online. Our new platform supports delivery to over 180 countries and includes the option to buy in £ sterling or Euros. There’s also an intuitive gift finder feature and clever merchandising tools that enable customers to shop by themes, looks or moods.

But the really clever stuff come with the social and mobile aspects. We’ve put Facebook and Twitter front and centre of the site as well as integrating a Spotify plug-in to pump out the latest hits (so I’m told…). And a ton of ‘how to’ video content with style ideas featuring real Claire’s consumers creating the latest hair and fashion look.

That’s because our customers are comfortable in their virtual social circles. Almost 73% of teens are active on social media and two-thirds of 14-23 year olds own a smartphone. So our site is very much an extension of our customers’ lifestyles – an engaging destination to explore the latest trends and share ideas.

The mobile optimised site makes using the features on a smartphone an absolute breeze. We’ve thought long and hard about the needs and motivations of people while out and about and so we’ve made that level of interaction very simple – making it easy to find stores and buy from us.

The off-the-shelf e-commerce platform, FrescaCommerce, from BT Expedite & Fresca makes it possible to easily support free returns and exchanges in store, taking some of the hassle out of online shopping and again driving that all-important footfall. It’s helped create a genuine 360 degree shopping experience for customers – connecting online, mobile and store.

We’re already discussing with the BT team how best to implement new features, such as the virtual piggy bank and e-gift cards. But for now we’re celebrating what we’ve got. We’ve an official VIP launch party next week – when I’ll find myself being entertained by the sounds of Conor Maynard, Delilah, DJ Burn and Bip Ling among others.

Posted by David Devany, European eCommerce and Digital Director, Claire’s

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A new research paper on the future of mobile commerce, published by Strategy Analytics, reveals that 67% of smartphone owners use their phones to find deals and compare prices. But the actual point of purchase is the least popular activity on all mobile devices. Mobile clearly can’t be ignored as a channel to attract and interact with customers, but what should retailers be doing about mobile payments?

Many retailers are wrestling with the challenges set by increasingly mobile customers. But “mobile” itself may be a bit of a red herring. “Mobile” shoppers will most likely fall into one of three camps:

1. at home
2. in store
3. out and about

And that’s the key: creating a mobile strategy that meets the needs of customers at a particular time and place – putting things into context.

On location

There’s a general trend among people browsing at home, away from desktop computers and towards tablets. It’s easy to understand why, as tablets are both more convenient and more engaging than PCs, while having bigger screens than smartphones.

But once these “Downton Abbey shoppers” leave the house, they’re more likely to resort to a mobile phone. It’ll be this device that your customers carry into your store – and that changes the dynamic.

It’s all about identifying opportunities to add value and improve the experience at each stage.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Why are they using a smartphone? While they’re out and about they’ll expect quick and easy access to information about your nearest store and available stock. In the store they might benefit from store layout help, easy access to further product information or current offers – through things such as QR codes, which make jumping off to sites easier and quicker on a mobile.

Special effects

Of course, retail is all about securing the sale. But one thing that came through loud and clear at NRF this year was the fact that new payments technologies have to make the consumer’s life simpler and easier. So, while there’s a lot of noise about mobile payments, technologies such as NFC – one of the main contenders for linking mobile phones and payments – aren’t necessarily putting the interests of the customer first.

However they choose to pay, customers want a frictionless process wherever they are – and that’s one of the stumbling blocks with mobile at the moment.

The fact is, retailers can take money quite easily in-store just now. NFC for payments in store is not a problem that needs to be solved. That doesn’t mean NFC has no role to play in store, but its strength may lie elsewhere, for example, as a way to provide easy access to information and offers through in-store contact points.

Big budget production

So how do you solve the problem of mobile payments? There were three main approaches put forward at NRF:

1. The ‘wallet in the cloud’ – led by PayPal and Google
2. The mobile device – championed by NFC technology suppliers
3. Direct transfer exchanges – run by retailers fed up paying the middle men

Strategy Analytics’ research into NFC reveals: “The ramp up is extremely slow and even years from now we are expecting only a minority of consumers will use mobile payments; 158M users, or 2.9% of total cellular users in 2017.”

If we once again put ourselves in the shoes of the consumer and ask what’s best for them, the wallet in the cloud seems to be the most convenient. It promises a frictionless payment experience regardless of channel, and customers can bundle loyalty cards and e-vouchers. But this still doesn’t help with the here and now.

Out now!

There’s no future proof answer to mobile payments as the dance between the different technologies and approaches plays out. But what is clear from these latest findings is that it’s vital that you take mobile seriously and build a solid foundation for your mobile channel.

Just now, that means ensuring your mobile channels provide a brand experience consistent with your other channels. And creating a mobile friendly site that’s designed to meet the needs of mobile users – so that it works on a smaller screen, with the most appropriate information brought to the fore and easy to access (through bigger buttons and simpler buying steps).

Like most other aspects of retail, it’s all about having the right things in the right place, at the right time.

Video: Watch a BBC report on NFC, mobiles and e-wallets

Posted by Jason Shorrock, Product Director, BT Expedite

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Jigsaw24 is the largest supplier of Apple products to the UK’s creative industry. With such tech savvy customers, the company’s site needed to hit the mark in terms of its UI (user interface) and the experience of using the site for research, advice and purchasing.

Having ordered Apple products through Jigsaw24 ourselves, we knew that it has fantastic customer service and expert advisors, and a strong, unique brand identity. However the website was letting the side down – the navigation was difficult to use, requiring many more clicks than you’d hope to get to the product you want, and the bold brand wasn’t coming through, either in terms of look and feel or the customer experience.

Reflecting the brand

So, that became the basis of the brief: create a site that was an extension of the way customers interact with the brand elsewhere – through friendly and knowledgeable staff and print design work that captures the vibrant brand in a market that can seem dry and where products often look much the same. Being intuitive and easy to use was paramount.

The key was to consider all of these things while designing and building each part of the site.

We made use of the core brand elements: a strong orange, an informal hand-drawn script typeface (drawn by the design team at Jigsaw24 themselves) along with illustrations in the same loose style and friendly photos of the actual people you’d be dealing with. It all came together in a site which is eye-catching and modern while also being clear and friendly.

From browsing to buying

Look and feel is one thing, but what the site really needed was to make the find-and-buy process a breeze. A pleasure even. In order to achieve this we used clear navigation, intuitive and intelligent filtering on list pages (that change according to the product-set) and a slick product comparison tool.

All of this means that any product list page feels customised to the products being shown (from the vast catalogue), while comparing that long list of all-important specs is very easy.

“With an abundance of information, it’s sometimes hard for customers buying technology to decide on the product right for them,” says Matt Duncan, Head of Client Services at BT Fresca, “but with the enhanced search and filtering ability on the new website, customers can make an informed decision by comparing multiple product choices.”

We hope we’ve provided a website that shows just how ‘Insanely great’ Jigsaw24 really is.

http://www.jigsaw24.com/

Posted by Dean Taylor, Head of Creative. BT Expedite & Fresca

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