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Fashions change fast. What was once innovative, suddenly becomes adopted by the mainstream and is seen and expected everywhere — just like technology.

Retail customers who have become used to free access to Wi-Fi in coffee shops and restaurants now expect in-store Wi-Fi — they want to be able to check in with their email and stay connected to social media while they’re shopping, just as they would at home or on the move.

However, retailers have been reluctant to offer free Wi-Fi as customers have previously come to the store to see the product up close, tried an item on, and then gone online to get the cheapest price.

Therefore, a retailer’s dilemma is: how can we use Wi-Fi to further enhance the advantages of a store?

Enabling consumer’s Wi-Fi access allows retailers to offer a more interactive experience; they can engage directly with a shopper while providing a truly personalised experience. They are able to present customers with a virtual and in-store journey and increase loyalty with unique promotions, geo-localised offers, click and collect, extended aisles, e-wallets and augmented reality

It also provides customers with the chance to communicate with staff in that store, in others stores, or even their call centre.

It’s proved successful for eight of the leading Prupim UK shopping centres which giving retailers the opportunity to promote their stores, and highlight special centre events and messages to 118 million shoppers.

With 52 per cent of people now using a tablet or smartphone while they are out shopping, it only seems natural to improve their in-store visit with an interactive experience: are you going to be offering customers free Wi-Fi?

 Posted by Ralph Hengstenberg, Marketing Director UK Markets, BT Global Services

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We’ve just taken the first (pretty major) step in our technical investment roadmap with a brand new e-commerce site. We’d had a bit of refresh, design-wise, last year, but the new platform that now underpins it all has really brought the change to the fore.

Long before the project kicked off, we’d drawn up a hit-list of what the new platform should be capable of. Getting something stable in place, something that wouldn’t fall over as we continued to grow was a given; but we also wanted a genuine multichannel hub, and one that could be a springboard for an ambitious international expansion plan.

Top of the list, however, was getting an engine that would help us trade the site better. So what have got for our money?

In terms of the roll-out itself, it was a textbook project, delivered on time and within budget. This was no doubt due to the fab project team we had. It was all very collaborative and confirmed that we were right to go with a supplier who knew the retail sector just as well as it did the technology.

Behind the scenes, we now have a centrally managed online presence, with one central database. Previously, we had to manage separate sites for each country manually so there was a lot of duplication and things tended to not get updated. With a new French site on the horizon, this is going to be much easier to maintain.

We’ve also got a mobile site in the pipeline, to make things as easy as possible for our customers.

The redesign also means we have more space to showcase our beautiful products and, for a visual brand like Cath Kidston, this is absolutely vital. The new BT FrescaCommerce platform enables us to pull up products and promote them easily, with a simple drag and drop utility.

So for example, on the old platform our ‘Big Spot Dog Bed’ always appeared at the top of pages no matter what we tried! It’s a lovely bed, and any dog would be proud of it, but the fact is, we don’t sell a huge amount of them and we have so many other items that were never promoted. Now the dog bed – or anything else we choose to promote – has to earn its place on the site…

Posted by Amy Bastow, Ecommerce Director at Cath Kidston

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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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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.

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

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Online shopping stats from our e-commerce platform, FrescaCommerce have revealed a new trend. It seems more and more of us are tuning in, switching on, and checking out with a significant number of ‘Downton Abbey shoppers’ buying items on mobile devices between the hours of 9pm and 10pm – while watching TV.

These multitasking second screeners are part of a general mobile commerce revolution in the UK, which resulted in orders placed on mobile devices (including tablets) increasing by 125 per cent during the Christmas shopping period.

This was just one of a number of record breaking figures achieved during the festive period. In fact, the Platform’s busiest shopping day, ‘Mega Monday’ (3 December), saw a 25% increase in orders compared to the busiest day for Christmas 2011 (5 December).

The overall figures for 2012 also highlight another trend when compared to the year before:

2012 Year on Year summary

  • order volume +17%
  • order value +14%
  • average value of each order -3%

Christmas 2012 Year on Year comparison


So it seems the modern shopper is getting more and more comfortable ordering on a mobile device – and has an eye for a bargain.

As these trends mature and the stats reveal more about shopping habits, it’ll be interesting to see if we have to sub-divide the mobile channel and its marketing strategy between those who are truly mobile (out and about) and the “immobile mobiles” logging on to a wi-fi connection at home.

And with smart TVs hooked up to the wi-fi network in more and more homes, how far away are we from genuine TV-commerce, with personalised, interactive advertising and programming? It’ll give multi-channel shopping a whole new meaning. In the meantime, we just have to hope that the spring TV schedule is full of repeats.

Posted by Richard Vining, Head of QA & Performance, BT Expedite


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