online shopping

Superfront Dressing up Ikea Cabinets.

I am actually surprised that no one else has done this yet. Swedish firm, Superfront  has hitched their wagon to a solid, simple idea – Lets enhance Ikea storage modules. Superfront designs and manufactures new faces, tops, legs and handles for Ikea Kitchen, bath and bedroom storage modules. They offer you an opportunity to enhance, improve and dress up your current Ikea stuff. This is a great idea, and something that can extend the life of, or breath new life into your investment extending its life.

Everything is made to order by Superfront in Sweden. Then items are shipped directly to the customer. They currently have a showroom for design inspiration in Stockholm, but all sales take place through Superfront’s online store. In addition to the physical showroom, there is additional inspiration via Facebook and Instagram where Superfront has uploaded  beautiful lifestyle images and visual feedback from the customers.

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IKEA’s 2013 Catalog Goes Interactive, thanks to McCann-Erickson.

IKEA has always been a forward thinking company and a company that has embraced internet marketing and interactivity from the early days of online shopping. This latest foray is another great example of IKEA embracing technology to create a better customer experience for their catalog shoppers.

McCann-Erickson was enlisted by IKEA to develop the tablet and mobile based application that will launch with the 2013 catalog in a few weeks. The catalog is sent to more than 200 million individuals world wide, and with the rise in smartphone use this should have a solid impact on sales. Using QR code style technology where your devices camera reads a marker on the catalog page, additional content is unlocked enriching the overall experience.

This is a great example of print and digital integration that enhances the overall user experience across the brand.

Shop Virtual Super Markets with QR Codes.

I came across this video on YouTube today and was blown away by the figures at the end of it. This is a great example of integrating an online shopping experience with a traditional bricks and mortar brand.

Tesco, the second largest supermarket chain in South Korea wanted to move to the number one slot without adding any additional stores. Knowing that the Koreans are the 2nd most hard-working country in the world and where grocery shopping once a week is a dreaded task.

Cheil in Seoul, Korea. Tesco did two things, they changed their name to the much more inviting “Homeplus”, and developed a life like shopping experience for busy commuters with virtual stores located in areas like subway terminals. The result was a much more convenient way to shop for busy people, always on the go. The virtual stores blend a mobile based shopping experience into people’s everyday lives at common locations.

The virtual store displays are exactly the same as actual stores using life sized images designed to mirror the familiar setting of the Homeplus store itself.The one thing that was added to the images, were QR codes for each product on the shelf. Users simply scanned a QR code with their phone, and the product automatically loads to their online shopping cart. When the online purchase is complete the products are then boxed and delivered to the customer’s door the same day.

In the four months that followed after this campaign launched in November of 2010, online sales increased dramatically with 10,287 consumers visited the online Homeplus mall using smartphones. The number of new registered members rose by 76%, and on-line sales increased 130%. Currently, Homeplus has become No.1 in online market and is a very close 2nd offline.

3LiveShop, A New Kind of Online Shopping Experience.

It takes a lot to get me to say this is has the potential to reshape an entire industry, or our behavior and experience with a particular service. I have a feeling that 3Live is going to be one of those game changing pieces of technology. One of those things that in a few years we look back and try to remember what it was like without it. Not everyone is going to like 3Live, or for that matter even use it. None the less, this could be a real game changer in the online shopping business.

The 3LiveShop blends a seamless service and sales experience by using the camera on your computer or smartphone to interact with a living person in real-time. What this does is essentially deliver the bricks and mortar stores customer interaction benefits to pretty much anyone, anywhere, online.

What makes 3Live so different from what most of us currently experience (integrated chat application, or the occasional streaming webcam) is that 3Live is real, its seamless, and it is like having a personal concierge to the website while you browse a virtual brochure of products. If you watch the video, you will see how the multi-touch sales agent screen works, with a screen projected from underneath, onto a mirror that in turn is highlighted onto a glass panel with clearly marked navigation and interaction areas. This helps to create a more natural experience for the sales person, and allows them to have better and more meaningful interaction with the person on the other end. With the 3Live experience, the sales person isn’t just dragging, scaling and adjusting the auto-populated content as they take each customer down a thousands of user paths of online shopping. This way they can have multiple options on each screen so customers can clearly see the difference between products and services.

One of the largest benefits of the 3LiveShop is that the system helps take all of the thinking out of the process for the sales staff. The 3Live system helps provide them with the most relevant option at any given time, which allows the customer to be better informed about options.

There are probably a thousand reasons some of you will hate this, and there are somethings that big me as well. At the end of the day though, I could see this kind of system becoming more ubiquitous in our online shopping experiences. Especially as bandwidth becomes faster, and internet connected cameras become more prevalent world-wide. Hmmmm this brings up an interesting point. If you are connected to a person in realtime, helping you with your transaction, how will all the call and fulfillment centers overseas make out? Faking an accent is easy, faking a person not so much.

5 Frustrations of the Mobile Shopping Experience

Tis the season for online shopping, and this year in particular seems to have marked itself as the season for online mobile shopping. As the mobile marketplace evolves, and more and more people are using smart phones, you are now in a position to browse items, compare prices, read ratings and reviews, look for deals and more – all from their phone. As digitally savvy shoppers refine their smart phone skills, are retailers’ mobile shopping tools meeting the mark? For the most part, not really. The mobile experience is good, but in many cases it misses the mark and leaves shoppers frustrated. I for one hate the mobile Amazon app on my iPhone, and I am annoyed that I can’t switch to the standard Amazon website easily from the top of the page when I hit it.

Leo Burnett recently did a down and dirty study of online shopping experiences on Black Friday 2010. This is what they found out from the mobile shoppers they surveyed.

1. Don’t make me wait: Load time counts.  Mobile connections are still advancing, and we’re left with what can sometimes remind us of our dial-up Internet days. While much of the blame lies with a person’s connection and/or phone, there are optimizations that can be made to mobile websites and apps to speed up the user experience. For example, mobile sites should use compressed file sizes for content rendering and look to eliminate excess scripts and code. Test your mobile site and apps and look for ways to improve delays.

2. Don’t make me opt in: I just want to use your app!  These users are on the hunt and don’t want to take time to register for your database. Allow them to shop first and then opt in. The more value you can give, the more likely they’ll want to hear from you.

3. Don’t bump me from a great experience to a poor experience: Keep it streamlined.  Pushing your app shopper to a website that’s not yet optimized for mobile is going to cause an instant drop-off. If you cannot add all desired functionality into your app, ensure your website is optimized for mobile. Also, don’t limit your mobile website’s functionality. HTML 5 brings features like geo-location and offline usage to mobile websites. Take advantage of this to deliver smarter experiences that can be used just as seamlessly as an app.

4. Give me context: Be meaningful.  Shopping on Black Friday can be ruthless. When one of our shoppers caught another shopper beating her to the store’s last discounted vacuum cleaner, she felt discouraged and defeated. While the same deal rested on the store’s website, she had no way of knowing this without tracking down a busy store representative. Don’t forget to tell shoppers about your mobile shopping tools. Add in-store signage and reminders on your circulars, emails and desktop websites.

5. Let it be fun: Great experiences go a long way.  Shopping apps feel dull and boring. How do you capture the attention away from those Angry Birds? While the most successful mobile experiences are customized and utilitarian, smartphones, like iPhone and Android-powered phones, were built for experiencing music, games, hi-res photos and beautiful designs. Why not dial-up the entertainment factor of your experience? One of our shoppers wished he could hold up a sweater’s color next to a photo of his mom to help him visualize whether or not it matched her style. If Benjamin Moore can make buying paint fun, can’t we make shopping for clothes more fun?

Collete vs J.Crew. Online Store Fronts.

The other night while I was researching on the net, I came across the  online store front for “Colette”. Since I have no prior history with the brand, product line or reputation my  reaction to their online store after clicking around a bit was, “this makes me believe that there is an even more compelling bricks and mortar store out there, and I’d like to see it”.

So I while digging around, I started chatting with a friend online, and that friend asked me what is it you like so much about this e-shop as compared to others online clothing retailers?  One of my favorite online retailers for navigation, browsing etc. is J.Crew. So I decided to do a little comparison shopping between J.Crew and Colette to try to figure out what had got me all excited about it.

When you look at each site, it is fair to say each site is designed particularly well for their target audience. The J.Crew site targets a slightly more affluent individual. The age range leaning to young professional or college student. While Colette is focused on a younger trend focused audience. Keeping this in mind is important because it allows us to remove the user segmentation, and focus on design, branding and the compelling reason to make the trip to the actual store. Both sites are good, they’re just different.

Now as I was clicking around on the Colette site, there were some observations worth noting that I didn’t find on the J.Crew site. Things that are worth thinking about.

Up until the last ten years or so physical stores didn’t have much of an online presence. On the other hand you have Amazon which isn’t pretty but you can buy almost anything online very quickly, Amazon doesn’t have any physical assets like a storefront, but they are and have been the 800 pound gorilla of online shopping for the last 12 years. In today’s interconnected world stores like J.Crew understand that an easy online presence is going to help their online sales front immensely. They also realize that by developing an easy to use online store, their website will generate ass much revenue as two to three large physical stores over the course of a year. (and this number continues to rise year over year) As someone who likes to shop online, I have to say the J.Crew site is so clean and easy to use, you have to ask the question why would you bother ever going to their physical store again? This might seem like a strange rational but when you compare it to the Colette site you are placed in a position where find yourself in a non frustrating  exploratory situation, one that makes you say “I’d be really curious to see what their physical store is like”. It’s an reversal of the offline and online retailer. The physical store front is going to try to squeeze their brand experience into the digital space while the digital store front tries to create a compelling reason to go to the physical store. Bottom line, if you have a physical bricks and mortar store, you want people to come in and shop. If your website doesn’t make shoppers want to do this then you lose.

Here are a couple of other distinctions that I noticed while looking at these two sites. J.Crew is essential an online extension of the mail order catalog. This is fitting since J.Crew has a deep history with the mail order business model. Colette on the other hand is emphasizing a lifestyle, and they are using the lifestyle brand component to create a level of curiosity. Curiosity that makes you want to see what the physical store front is all about.  A common rule of thumb is that most web sites should avoid music but with Collete it drew me in.  Their music choice makes a statement about what they like, and what their brand stands for. More over it would appeal to their target audience. In addition Collete’s brand and product line is magnified with the choice of interrelated products, while J.Crew is stuck showing all their stuff together. (Maybe it’s just me but a person should rarely dress head to foot in the same brand of clothing.) But that’s all J.Crew can push.

So if we take a bunch of elements like exploration + music + lifestyle + product variation & it is presented in a way that makes you want to visit their store, it beats out what is essentially an online catalog, with minimal hooks to a physical store presence. And that is why I think the Collete site works and why it drew me in.