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The future of commerce is composable, cookieless, sustainable, & personal

future of commerce 1
Peter Dam-Johnsen
Peter Dam-Johnsen
Commercial Director
Date
27 October 2022
the future of commerce

Each year, DEPT® Commerce Day brings the brightest minds in e-commerce to share their expertise and vision.

The following talks from October 2022 highlight the future of e-commerce and actionable steps brands can take to accelerate their e-commerce strategies across marketing and technology. 

The future of e-commerce is composable

In this discussion, Tim de Kamper & Jonathan Whiteside (DEPT®) talk about why composable commerce is soon to be the leading architecture for sophisticated e-commerce stores. 

Top takeaways

  • More than likely, all brands will move to composable commerce in 3-5 years.
  • Composable commerce is about selecting the best-of-breed e-commerce tools/solutions and bringing them all together to compose and build your own experiences. 
  • The reason brands are selecting composable commerce is that no single vendor can offer all the applications needed to deliver e-commerce experiences that meet the demands of today’s customers. 
  • The typical components that brands are seeking out for best-of-breed include content, search, merchandising, payment, shipping, taxation, product management, and marketing automation. 
  • While we’re big fans of composable commerce, there are a few drawbacks, namely, managing several vendors and contracts, development resources, and more complex architecture. Before diving in, brands should reach a level of digital maturity. 

It’s not just best of breed, it’s also a matter of being able to quickly change certain components in your architectural landscape without overhauling the whole system.

Tim de Kamper

The future of e-commerce is cookieless

Lisanne Maatman (Lead Data Consulting at DEPT®) reviews the new cookieless and privacy-driven reality, and how to handle your data going forward. 

Top takeaways

  • The cookieless future affects all industries but impacts e-commerce most of all, and it’s already had a massive impact. While Chrome has delayed its cookie policy, Safari has already updated its browser to purge this data. A future-proof data strategy is imperative. 
  • There are four layers of data management that e-commerce teams need to be aware of: consent, identity, audience, and campaign data.
  • In order to gain consent to track additional data, brands need to offer something of value via content. 
  • Think about implementing the privacy sandbox from Google or start working on a CDP roadmap so you can combine all types of data (online, in-store, CRMs) and use it. 
  • We will all depend on our self-collected first-party data or the “public” gardens of Google, Amazon, etc. 

You want to be able to connect that user across all touchpoints – the way you do that is by merging that data in one central database.

Lisanne Maatman

The future of e-commerce is sustainable  

Anusha Couttigane (Head of Advisory at Vogue Business) reveals research on consumers and sustainability, showcasing how brands can communicate their initiatives effectively. 

Top takeaways

  • Consumers are willing to do research to make sustainable choices. In fact, 71% of people will choose a luxury brand that supports sustainability over one that does not (Vogue Business Index, 2022).
  • Consumers in the West are more likely to trust legacy media, such as magazines and websites, over social media. In other words, if brands tout their sustainability on social media, it will not be as effective. 
  • Only 15% of brands put sustainability information on product pages on their e-commerce sites. 40% of brands have zero information on sustainability and another 38% bury it in the footer. 
  • Brands should be more upfront with consumers about their sustainability practices–putting information at the point of sale. 
  • Consider sustainability services (repair, warranties) as an extension of your customer service lines. 

The more information we provide to shoppers at the point of sale, the more confidence they will have in your product and brand.

Anusha Couttigane

The future of e-commerce is personal

Ali Mcclintock (Managing Director at BYTE/DEPT®) walks us through an example of scaled personalisation for the e-commerce brand Just Eat

Top takeaways

  • By not personalising ads and brand messaging, you risk inefficiencies by wasting ad dollars on unqualified markets or audiences.  
  • It’s all about showing the right message to the right person at the right time. To do that effectively, you need paid media, data, and technology. 
  • To create a single personalised piece of content, you need to take into account the market, funnel stage, customer mindset, product, brand attribute, and desired behaviour.
  • Automating personalisation as much as possible frees up marketing teams to work on things like sponsorships, partnerships, and innovation. 
  • In fact, Just Eat’s automated personalisation project was 400% cheaper than manual asset production. 

Today there are too many options. With personalisation, brands have the opportunity to say, ‘I think I know what you might like.’

Ali Mcclintock

The future of e-commerce is phygital 

Max Pinas (Executive creative director at DEPT®) gives examples of how digital and physical commerce are blending into one “phygital” experience. 

Top takeaways

  • AR is becoming more relevant than ever. We are shopping at home away from the main shopping streets, but we still want to see things. We want to know: how does this look, or how does this fit?
  • A lot of big names are reverse engineering tech toward stores. We call that “phygital,” where physical and digital meet. 
  • Two examples of this are Amazon and Nike–Amazon opened their own first fashion retail store, and Nike has opened Nike Style. These experiences feature a green screen studio where you see digital screens that are really intermixed with physical experiences. 
  • Shopify has said, “the future of retail is going to be retail everywhere,” and they are set on making this happen. Currently, they have a partnership with Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube that support in-app purchases.

If you look around, e-commerce is getting integrated into everything we do.

Max Pinas

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Commercial Director

Peter Dam-Johnsen

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Design systems 101

Dept Office Berlin 17 1200x750 c 1
Rasmus Keller Jansen
Rasmus Keller Jansen
Creative Director & Head of Design
Date
30 August 2022

Welcome to design systems 101, a five-step guide that anyone can use to begin to understand and implement design systems. 

Let’s start with the basics.

Define your team

The first lesson in any design system 101 class is to think about who needs to be involved to bring the concept to life. The people who use the design system will be the foundation of its success. 

As it may be a completely new way of working for your business, it’s imperative to have all key stakeholders involved from the get-go. This will ensure everyone moves forward in the same direction and enable them to collaborate optimally in both the short and long term as the design system is implemented and evolves.

Despite the name, we can assure you that it takes more than a team of designers to develop a successful design system. Design systems bridge the gap between visual designers, UX/ UI specialists, and front-end developers, so each of these teams will need to be involved… but that’s not it.

An ideal team would include

  • Designers to define the visual elements
  • Front-end developers to create modular code
  • Accessibility experts to ensure the system conforms to WCAG 2.1 standards
  • Performance and optimisation experts to ensure the system loads quickly on all devices
  • Product managers to ensure the system is aligning to customer needs
  • Leadership team to champion and align the vision throughout the company
  • Content strategists to advise on the tone of voice
  • UX researchers to help you to understand customer needs

Depending on the digital maturity and in-house resources of different companies, it is at this stage that some will decide to work with an external agency that has expertise in delivering these types of solutions.

Some organisations simply do not have the right people or skills to deliver a future-forward solution, while others do but appreciate the impartiality that comes with an external partner that can provide fresh perspectives and really elevate the project to ensure its success.

colors in a design system

Conduct a visual audit 

Before building a design system, it is fundamental to complete an audit of your current design, be that an individual digital product or your entire digital estate.

To understand how small or large the task will be, it is important to take stock of all visual elements such as colour, spacing, and typography, as well as UI elements like buttons, cards, lists, and forms, in order to see how much design debt needs to be addressed. 

This can be done as simply as screenshotting different elements of digital assets and storing them in a categorised document where you can review all the elements. However, it’s not a small task, so we suggest getting as many team members as possible involved. 

It is at this stage that many companies realise how inconsistent their brand identity has become without a modern solution in place; with numerous different hues of brand colours, font families and sizes, or variations of the same type of button.

But by gaining a complete and holistic view of these design and UI inconsistencies, the more effectively you will be able to merge or remove different elements to create a more streamlined and robust system. 

Create a visual language

The visual language is the backbone of a design system, this comprises the ‘basics’, ‘elements’, and ‘principles’ mentioned earlier. When looking at basics, there are four key areas that play a role in every component on the screen: colour; typography; sizing and spacing; imagery.

Colour

Design systems most often have one to three primary colours that represent the brand. Most companies introduce a range of secondary tints to complement each primary colour, sometimes with light and dark variants of each, to give designers more options and flexibility. It may be that certain colours are reserved for certain uses, such as calls to action, to maintain consistency in colour use. 

Typography

Choosing the right typeface is one of the most important steps in creating a design system. Most design systems include a maximum of two fonts to avoid overloading and confusing users – one for headings and body copy – and a monospace font for code. Keeping the number of fonts low is not only the best practice from a typographic design perspective, but it also prevents performance issues caused by excessive use of web fonts. 

Spatial systems

Spatial systems, grids, and layouts provide rules that give your designs a consistent rhythm. The spacing and sizing system works best when it provides balance between elements. The 4-based scale is growing in popularity as the preferred option due to its use in iOS and Android standards, ICO formats, and even standard browser font size. 

Imagery

It’s important to set guidelines for the use of imagery, treatments, illustration, animation and iconography to ensure brand consistency. You won’t want all image assets to be identical, but they do need to look and feel part of a family. The key here is to have a plan and stick with it. 

color palette

Build a pattern library

With the ‘basics’, ‘elements’, and ‘principles’ defined, you can apply this visual language to build ‘components’ and ‘templates’. 

Components are the reusable parts that form many different pages (e.g. forms, mastheads, navigation, and articles), and templates show how elements and components can be put together in common layouts to achieve an effective design. Created by designers and coded by developers, these UX and UI and interaction patterns are the modular building blocks that will be stored in the pattern library and will become the core content of your design system. 

A pattern library is an online tool to capture, collect and share design patterns and guidelines and how to use and apply them. It enables teams to browse components and see how they can be applied in different platforms and circumstances. They can download source files or code to accelerate the production of their digital asset using these consistent patterns. It can be made available to all or limited stakeholders, either publicly or within a protected secure area. 

Traditionally, a style guide focuses on static elements and styles, such as iconography styles, colours, and typography. A pattern library builds on this to serve more as a toolbox of reusable components that can be combined to create an interface such as user flows, interactions, buttons, and text fields. This broader set of interactive patterns demonstrates how hierarchy can be used to produce consistency, but not at the detriment of flexibility. 

The atomic design methodology really comes into effect at this stage

This encourages consistency and reuse. To ensure this, the pattern library should be built in a hierarchical way.

On the base level, there will be simple design patterns like buttons, text boxes, or labels. At the next level in the hierarchy, you will have more complex patterns that combine a number of these features (e.g. an email submission form that includes a text box, button, and label).

Each ascending level of the hierarchy builds on the simpler patterns found in the previous levels. 

The benefits of this modular methodology are twofold.

First, when documenting a design pattern like an email submission form, the designer doesn’t have to rewrite how buttons or text boxes work. Secondly, the email submission form provides a real-life case study of how to use the button, text box, and label effectively. The atomic design approach and standardisation ensure consistency, as well as facilitate ease of use.

Documentation is what separates a pattern library from a true design system. This involves documenting what each component or template is and when to use it. The goal is to create cohesion between design and development teams to ensure the consistent and effective activation of the design system components and templates.

Most design system documentation includes the component’s name, description, example, and code. Others may show metadata, release history, and examples. The most important thing is that it shows what’s necessary for your team to implement that component or template.

Again, the documentation will be hosted with an accessible online tool, such as Frontify, to ensure that standards and guidelines can continue to evolve along with the digital products and assets they serve.

As projects grow and become more complex, everyone knows exactly how to proceed since all details are recorded in design templates and relevant documentation, enabling large organisations with multiple design teams to work harmoniously, and newcomers to the team can jump right in.

Define a governance strategy

Once your design system is in place, focus can turn to maintenance, which is equally important.

Design systems should be kept in constant motion in order to evolve with the business and its continually expanding digital estate, so a strong governance strategy is required to maintain its integrity and effectiveness of it in the long term.

A design system is a living system that needs to be regularly adapted and changed to meet new requirements and feedback. However, to maintain consistency and best practice approaches, changes and additions to the system need to be carefully considered and approved.

Creating a clear governance plan is essential for making sure the design system can adapt and thrive as time goes on.

A solid governance strategy starts by answering some important questions about handling change.

  • What happens when an existing pattern doesn’t quite work for a specific application?
  • Does the pattern get modified?
  • Do you recommend using a different pattern?
  • Does a new pattern need creating?
  • How are new pattern requests handled?
  • How are old patterns retired?
  • What happens when bugs are found?
  • Who approves changes to the design system?
  • Who is responsible for keeping documentation up to date?
  • Who actually makes changes to the system’s UI patterns?
  • How are design system changes deployed to live applications?
  • How will people find out about changes?
  • Page loading times (impact overall experience of our products)
  • The use of animations and transitions

To best manage this, we suggest establishing a design system governance group. This will help to define owners, their roles, and responsibilities, and ensure the ongoing review of digital products and assets in adherence with the design system.

It is also helpful to define workflows for modifying, adding, and removing components or templates as well as education and communication plans to ensure that all relevant teams are made aware of any changes to the system.

https://material.io/

Image courtesy of https://material.io/

Design systems we love

To wrap up design system 101, we recommend browsing the web for examples of design systems. The following are notable design systems that our team of UX/UI designers has selected as benchmarks and inspiration.

Want more? Download our guide to implementing design systems

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Creative Director & Head of Design

Rasmus Keller Jansen

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Production Trends: Virtual Production

mandalorian stagecraft 1 scaled
Lidia Weinstein
Lidia Weinstein
Producer
Date
26 July 2022

Virtual Production

Video production is changing rapidly. A plethora of formats which can be played back on a variety of devices dominate today’s digital space. In addition, the implementation of extended reality technologies (augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality) has made immersive content accessible to users via smartphone or tablet, opening up a space for almost infinite creative applications.

For some years now, the topic of immersion has also been increasingly explored in the production processes of film and video – virtual production.

The combination of state-of-the-art game technology and film has already made it possible to produce films in immersive studios for several years. Now this technology is mature and ready for use, experts report. What virtual production is and what impact it will have on film and video production in the future – and accordingly on brands and their marketing measures – is the subject of this insight.

What is virtual production?

Virtual production is a collective term that describes many different digital production processes. These include AR, VR, motion capture and volumetric video (more on this shortly). What we have recently become familiar with from productions such as “The Mandalorian” (2020) and what is commonly referred to as virtual production describes the possibility of producing films in an immersive studio. The entire production of a film is made possible by the combination of reality – i.e. actors and actresses, props – and digital backdrops that are generated in real time in game engines.

What does a virtual studio look like?

In principle, a virtual studio consists of an LED surface that runs in a semicircle or elliptical shape around the set and extends over the ceiling. This surface is covered with a digital backdrop, e.g. a mountain landscape with a sky above it. The possibilities for design are, as you might expect, endless. An immersive space is created with which the actors and crew can interact. For example, an actress can look at a mountain in the far distance without just imagining it, as previously on a set with a greenscreen. In addition, it is possible to experiment with the scenery: landscapes can be changed in real time or colour moods can be adjusted.

Auf dem Set von “The Mandalorian”. Filmcrew im immersiven Studio von ILM StageCraft, auch “The Volume” genannt.

On the set of “The Mandalorian”. Film crew in the immersive studio of ILM StageCraft, also called “The Volume”.

Technological developments in the gaming sector make this production process possible in the first place. To achieve a perspective match between the backdrop and the shooting angle, the camera movement in the room is tracked. The room is measured volumetrically beforehand – volumetry refers to a technical measuring procedure in which a room is measured three-dimensionally. The computer can then track all the elements in front of the camera lens and place them in a 3D environment. The game engine then renders the 3D environment in real time – currently, the Unreal Engine is probably the most powerful. The Meta Festival initiated by DEPT® and Journee is also based on the Unreal Engine.

Since the backdrop is already part of the production, the post-production is brought forward and integrated into the pre-production. In some cases, post-production is not necessary at all, since the backdrop exists for every scene and the light emitted by the LED surface already creates the desired colour world. The green screen can still be used to achieve certain effects. It is then simply projected over the LED surface as well. 

A selection of films made on virtual sets: “The Batman” (2022), “The Mandalorian” (2020), “Ripple Effect” (2020), “Lion King” (2019), “First Man” (2018). Another innovation in the field of virtual production is volumetric video.

What is volumetric video?

Volumetric video is produced in a special volumetric studio and refers to a video where pixels have not two but three spatial coordinates – giving it volume. In a volumetric studio, cameras are installed so that the object is recorded from all perspectives. Through this recording process, the object can later be viewed from any perspective, similar to gaming, with the difference that the degree of representation is much more realistic.
 
This technology is particularly interesting for use in the metaverse, e.g. for the creation of photorealistic avatars. A film in which volumetric video was used is, for example, “Matrix Resurrections” (2021). Many shots from the film were created in the Babelsberg studio Volucap

Das Volucap Studio in Babelsberg.

The Volucap Studio in Babelsberg.

Volumetric video has the further advantage that the camera perspective can be changed in post-production and is not limited by the camera movement as before. This is particularly interesting for interactive films in which the viewers can explore the space themselves. 

The possibilities of virtual production grant filmmakers unprecedented control over all elements and brings great flexibility. For example, the film crew is no longer dependent on local weather conditions and can avoid long journeys to locations. Scenes can be replicated afterwards, as lighting conditions and backdrops can be recreated exactly. 

Virtual production has also accelerated production processes tremendously. This is reflected above all in production costs, which means that virtual production is increasingly becoming the focus of producers.

What do these developments mean for future film and video production?

The transition to digital production will change the professional field from the ground up; for example, think of production designers who will no longer build physical sets but digital ones in the future. Art departments will become virtual art departments or hybrids. Virtual set objects will become reusable and monetisable, e.g. in the form of NFTs

There are several arguments in favour of entering virtual production: maximum creative control, flexibility, sustainability – the elimination of building huge sets on locations, transporting film crews and the associated logistics – and correspondingly lower costs.

Will virtual production replace conventional production? Not quite, because it doesn’t make sense in every case. It is therefore worthwhile to subject a project to a proof-of-concept at the beginning to determine which production method is best suited. Nevertheless, one can follow this development with interest.

DEPT® has experts on hand to advise and support you throughout all phases of production. Further information is available on our Production service page. We look forward to working with you!

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Lidia Weinstein

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How to accelerate your omnichannel retail experience

Which B2C Commerce Platform is right for your Business1
Lizzie Powell
Lizzie Powell
Strategy Director
Date
4 July 2022

The face of retail is forever changing. With constant changes in consumer behaviour paired with increased competition, it’s becoming more and more difficult to gain competitive advantage, not to mention the heightened pressure on brand’s bottom line.

Retailers are well aware of their expectations of them. According to Adobe, 53% are expecting demands on their digital experience to accelerate beyond what they’ve already witnessed over the past two years. And although retail growth is set to slow down, from an estimated 3.7% in 2022 to an optimistic 1.2% in 2023, there is still a real opportunity for retailers to deliver an out-of-this-world shopping experience to strengthen consumer connections and drive sales.

And it’s not all about digital. Footfall at bricks-and-mortar stores increased by 4.1% across the UK in June. The future of retail isn’t solely digital or in-store, it’s phygital. Believe it or not customers still want that in-store experience, but they want a seamless brand experience across all touchpoints, wherever they may be. 

Ultimately, being ahead of the curve is going to be essential to thrive. So how can retailers stay ahead, stand out from the competition and ensure they are present and optimising every stage of the customer journey?

Cue omnichannel, again

Yes, omnichannel has been a hot topic for a number of years, but retailers are struggling to execute it well. Long-term survival requires retailers to move from a multichannel to an omnichannel approach to deliver the frictionless brand experiences your customers are demanding. 

Almost half of e-commerce decision-makers in Europe and North America agree that omnichannel strategies are ‘very important’. But what about the other half? This suggests that not everyone is getting it right and improvements are required to deliver results and push omnichannel up the importance list! But let’s refresh, what is omnichannel? And how is it different from multichannel? 

A multichannel approach treats each channel as its own independent entity, delivering a consistent brand message but not necessarily connected. Therefore the way customers interact with each channel is siloed, preventing internal teams from having a full view of their customers and data. You could have an amazing website and an engaging social media campaign, but if they’re not working together then you’re not giving the customer a seamless experience.

Whereas omnichannel marketing is all about coordination activity across all channels to deliver a personalised brand experience with the customer at the heart, removing any friction along the buyer’s journey, whether that’s online or in-store. This also allows internal teams to build a full customer profile with valuable data to continuously improve and deliver personalisation. 

The future of omnichannel

To us, the future of omnichannel is all about delivering a true ‘phygital’ shopping experience. Phygital retail is combining the best of physical and digital into one. A popular example of this now is click and collect, but that’s only touching the tip of the iceberg. We’re seeing more immersive brand experiences bringing both worlds together, from Charlotte Tilbury’s virtual store to H&M’s virtual showroom

Taking this a step further, we expect to see these virtual stores and showrooms, as well as brick and mortar stores harnessing the power of data to become more and more personalised to the customer in the future. Whether that’s a sales assistant knowing what is in your favourites, or a customised virtual store showing you the products you’re running low on. The possibilities are endless. 

HM Virtual Showroom Hero Image

Here are 3 key considerations for retailers when implementing an omnichannel strategy: 

01 Get ready for a cookieless world 

Data is at the heart of any personalised experience retailers deliver. Therefore the demise of third party cookies will pose a challenge, but it also presents an exciting opportunity for brands to optimise their omnichannel strategy. At the end of the day, the more first-party data retailers have at their disposal, the more personailsed, omnichannel experience they can deliver.

However, according to Adobe, 37% of retailers believe their organisation is ill-prepared for the post-cookie world. And surprisingly, only 16% of senior executives chose “improving our ability to establish identity without cookies” as one of their top two investment areas in 2022. 

It may have been postponed until 2023, but that’s not an excuse to put it on the backburner this year. It’s time for brands to up their first-party data strategies now, in order to stay ahead. Value exchange and complete transparency are key here. Consumers aren’t going to part with their precious data unless they trust you and what they get in return is of high value to them. 

02 Using data the right way

First-party strategy nailed? Good. Now use it… but in the right way! Let’s be honest, there’s no point having all of this valuable data to hand if it’s not used correctly. Nearly a third of retailers say they are ineffective in using their first-party data to personalise the customer experience. 

An omnichannel strategy will help to collect customer data from each touchpoint, but it’s important to manage and analyse your data to develop a full customer profile and get a deep understanding of their wants, needs and motivations. 

Then it’s all about using that data to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right message to deliver a strong personalised experience to the customer.  

And H&M does just that. On their app you can ‘activate in-store mode’ which allows your shopping assistant to help you find what you’re looking for, whether that’s checking your favourite items are in stock in a local store or whether another size or colour is available. Using their customer’s data and providing them with the exact information they need at the right time and in the right place gives them the convenience and ease of use they are wanting. They also serve personalised offers based on your previous shopping habits, all which can be used either online, in-store or on the app. 

03 Put the customer first

Customer loyalty is dwindling, especially with such fierce competition in the retail space. But we all know it costs less to retain customers than it does to acquire new ones, so a personalised, omnichannel customer experience could pay dividends.

The essence of an omnichannel strategy is all about putting the customer first. If your customers feel valued, a part of your brand and always have a positive interaction at every touchpoint, then they’re likely to become repeat customers, which in turn increases your customer lifetime value – a no brainer. And, there are so many ways you can deliver just that, whether it be through loyalty programs, timely emails or exclusive in-store events.

By preparing for the cookieless world and then using your first-party data in the right way, you’ll already be making great strides in improving customer loyalty and retention rates.

KFC partnered with DEPT® to deliver an omnichannel digital transformation. We created an online and mobile experience by using insight-driven personalisation to give customers a fun and convenient experience, connecting online ad in-person experiences. In the app, customers were able to re-order their favourites and be served recommendations based on their previous purchases and behaviours. The app also included new features such as progress bars and digital ticketing, which enables a more seamless pick-up and drive-thru.

Choosing the right tech architecture

Delivering a successful omnichannel strategy isn’t possible without the right tech architecture in place. Traditionally, retailers kept e-commerce and their in-store tech architecture separate, but this hinders retailers from being able to implement a true omnichannel experience.

The right technology solution can provide seamless integration of online and offline channels, facilitating the end-to-end customer experience, as well as providing retailers with the ability to manage data at scale. But how do you know which solution is best? There’s no one-size-fits-all, it boils down to each brand’s unique requirements. 

A headless technology stack is becoming increasingly popular. This has meant that many DXP providers have started to move away from the monolithic approach to offer a hybrid solution: composable DXPs. These allow retailers to have a greater degree of flexibility, breaking free from the constraints of large implementation updates and platform lock-ins. It also lets teams adopt a best-of-breed methodology.

But a composable solution is by no means the only option. A ‘Monolithic’ digital experience platform, also referred to as suites, can provide retailers with everything they may need to execute an omnichannel strategy. Providing a single platform to manage and optimise all stages of the customer journey could be the ideal solution. It does however come with some limitations, such as being locked into a single vendor or technology. 

Ultimately, it’s all about having a platform with the right systems connected to enable omnichannel and that is best suited to your business. 

The phygital shopping experience is here to stay, and an omnichannel retail strategy allows brands to deliver just that. Retailers need to invest now or risk being left behind. With the right solution in place and a strong omnichannel strategy, you will take your customers on a seamless, personalised experience, however and wherever they choose to shop with you. 

Get in touch with our experts today to find out how we can help you define or accelerate your omnichannel retail strategy.

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Strategy Director

Lizzie Powell

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Guide to user testing – types & timeline

user testing guide focus group
Jesse Stevens
Jesse Stevens
Senior Product Strategist
Date
15 June 2022

The only way to get a product right is through user testing. 

While assumptions can be useful, ultimately a product needs to be put in the hands of users to see if it solves their core needs. 

In fact, pairing user testing alongside market and product fit is the trifecta in building your product strategy. When teams do these things, they are more efficient in every other area of development, accelerating product roadmaps and finding ROI faster. 

This knowledge only comes from solving your user’s underlying problems, which comes from testing.

In this guide to user testing, we’ll take you through the types of user testing, when each should be used, and how to use them in a realistic product life cycle. 

user testing guide focus group

Types of User Tests 

There are two categories of user testing, qualitative vs quantitative.

Qualitative testing is learning about a user’s interpretations and feelings, while quantitative is number-based and measurable. An example might be interviewing a single user about their needs and motivations vs A/B testing a single interface element or user flow. 

When conducting your quantitative data, be sure to account for statistical significance, otherwise, your results could be by chance and not a real consensus of users. 

For the best results, you need both qualitative and quantitative testing. Here are the top user tests and how they help.  

Usability testing

One of the most important and popular tests, usability testing asks a user to complete a particular task with feedback while a moderator watches and documents. These kinds of tests are essential because they put a real human behind a device.

With this, you can learn about their problems, how they navigate, how they search for information, and what they like/dislike about a certain product. 

Direct observation

With direct observation, you observe without interaction. Seeing a user easily find information or struggle to complete a sign-up can shed light on how easy your application is to use. 

Prototyping

With prototyping, your user is reviewing a prototype, not a full-fledged app. Sometimes these prototypes are low fidelity wireframes, sometimes they’re high fidelity and clickable. Since development is expensive and time-consuming, you don’t want to begin developing without testing some kind of prototype. 

A/B testing

Comparing two options to find the superior one can be a fast way to iterate. Is a user more likely to respond to a “Contact Us” CTA or “Let’s Talk”? Does a blue button work better than a red button? With A/B testing, you can get useful data and make rapid-fire decisions. 

Treejack testing

Treejack testing is ideal for information architecture testing, which is essential for any complex website or product. You can ask questions like, “if you wanted to find the location nearest to you, what page would you click on?” and then record all interactions. 

Eye-tracking and heat mapping

Eye-tracking and heat map testing can be expensive, but it’s worthwhile for some products. With these tests, you can measure where your users are looking and where they’re clicking on your app– to understand if you are providing the right information in the right place. 

In-person vs remote

You can conduct all of these tests in-person, remote, or automatically. Remember to take these different environments into account when analyzing data, because different atmospheres can affect users’ opinions and how they interact with technology. 

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When & how often should a team test?

Like most answers to design-related questions, “It depends.” 

Minimum viable products (MVPs) need different testing compared to a legacy app. A single-page web app needs different testing versus a large e-commerce store. So, unfortunately, there is no one size fits all solution. 

A robust discovery session is a good practice. This process helps strategists understand the problem space and craft a program to tackle the issue. It also helps designers determine how to test and when. 

However, we can provide some general guidelines which are:

Test often

A strong design process starts with discovery and definition, before diving into ideation. Then, repetition is essential. 

Ideate – Prototype – Test as needed

Ideate – Prototype – Test as needed  

Every time you iterate, you need to ask yourself, “should we test this?” While a single colour swap won’t require standalone testing, a new feature will. 

You also have a budget to consider. Testing every small thing will cost you time and money, so have discussions, ask questions, and keep testing on your team’s mind. 

Lightweight iterations = quantitative tests 

There are always exceptions to this rule, but it’s generally true. 

A “lightweight iteration” is difficult to define, but it’s likely something that can be A/B tested and decided upon with analytics. 

Heavyweight iterations = qualitative tests 

Also exceptions here, but when you do more intensive iterations, like developing new features or launching to a new audience, you need to sit down and talk to users. Understanding not just what they like, but why they like it can be incredibly insightful. 

Internal vs external testing 

If you’re in the very beginning stages of product development (think wireframes), we recommend testing with internal stakeholders. 

Don’t go outside of your organisation until you have high-fidelity prototypes. After all, every product needs stakeholders to sign off before digging into the design. 

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Real product testing: eMoney 

Rooted in comprehensive financial planning, eMoney’s products strengthen client relationships, streamline business operations, and drive overall growth. 

eMoney’s goal was to extend its product to a new audience: millennials. 

Together with eMoney, we came up with five concepts that could potentially reach their target of millennial users. We then kicked off a series of design sprints, where we built out prototypes for eMoney concepts and tested them with real users. It became clear that users gravitated towards one of the concepts more than others, which was a mobile app that could provide financial wellness advice and complement the existing eMoney software-as-a-service platform. 

This was the beginning of what became eMoney Incentive.

We learned through testing and development that Incentive appealed to a wider audience beyond millennials.

Because of this rigorous testing, eMoney’s pilot program created a strong pipeline of interested users, including current users, retirement plan advisors, and employers.  

If your product needs a user testing strategy put in place, reach out to the designers and product innovators at DEPT®. 

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Jesse Stevens

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Tag førertrøjen på i B2B-handel

people escalator

Date
10 February 2022

B2B-handel har tidligere været præget af en meget traditionel måde at drive forretning på, med relationer bygget på og plejet gennem ansigt-til-ansigt interaktioner mellem virksomheder og sælgere. Men på tværs af alle brancher satte pandemien skub i et skift til digitale løsninger, og det globale B2B e-handelsmarked er nu værdisat til 14,9 milliarder USD, mere end fem gange større end B2C-markedet.

Mange virksomheder investerer kraftigt i at etablere og optimere e-handelsplatforme, der vil hjælpe dem med at blive store spillere i den digitale verden. Men der er en række udfordringer, som skal overvindes. B2B-handel kan være ekstremt kompleks: fra lange købscyklusser og komplicerede krav og love til prisforstyrrelser. Men bare fordi noget er komplekst, betyder det ikke, at det ikke både kan gå gnidningsfrit og være virkningsfuldt.

Dette tema blev vendt ved ‘Optimising the Future’, DEPT® o
Optimizelys fælles virtuelle event designet til at inspirere og accelerere digitale strategier i 2022 og fremover. Head of Strategy & Innovation hos DEPT®, Philipp Bruns, satte sig sammen med Optimizelys Product Management Director, Marc Bohnes, for at diskutere, hvordan B2B-handelsplatforme kan udvikle sig for at matche de B2C-oplevelser, vi alle har lært at kende og efterhånden forventer. Her kan du læse deres tre bedste bud på, hvordan virksomheder kan revolutionere deres B2B-handelsløsninger.

#1 Tag forbrugerens briller på

Både pandemien og kundernes stigende forventninger til den digitale kunderejse har været med til at drive den digitale forandring inden for B2B-handel. Det skyldes, at kunderne har været tilbøjelige til at basere deres krav på deres personlige oplevelser inden for den mere digitalt fremskredne B2C-handel.

Standarden af den digitale shoppingoplevelse sættes af B2C-virksomhederne. Og virksomheder på B2B-markedet bliver nødt til at
følge med udviklingen. Forbrugerne forventer intuitiv UX, der fører dem gennem en gennemført købsoplevelse, der henvender sig til den enkelte bruger og netop dennnes behov.

Med de rigtige teknologiske løsninger kan problematikker som komplicerede ordresystemer eller bekymringer om shipping løsespå mere effektive og interessante måder, end det ofte er tilfældet inden for B2B. Det er muligt, at B2B-produkter ikke altid er lige så spændende som B2C-produkter. Men kundekontakten bliver nødt til at være det. For når alt kommer til alt, så er B2B-kunderne også B2C-kunder når de har fri.

#2 Udnyt styrken ved personalisering

De fleste virksomheder ville aldrig drømme om at begrænse fremragende kundeservice til deres B2C-kunder, og det samme burde gælde for  personalisering. Ikke desto mindre har taktikken hidtil udelukkende været målrettet forbrugerne. Men B2B-kunder efterspørger også mere personlige oplevelser. Ifølge Accenture har 73% af B2B-ledere et voksende antal kunder, der ønsker en mere personlig digital interaktion med virksomhederne.

Den kolde og generiske interaktionstaktik, der dominerer B2B-landskabet, kræver en overhaling. Personalisering giver brands mulighed for at interagere med kunder på mere relevante måder, baseret på deres præferencer eller onlineadfærd, og kan samtidig adskille deres digitale oplevelser fra konkurrenterne.

Mange B2C-brands oplever succes som resultat af øget personalisering. Hele 80% af forbrugerne er mere tilbøjelige til at købe fra virksomheder, der tilbyder en personlig oplevelse, 44% af de kunder, der oplever personalisering, er parate til at købe igen. Og ligesom det kan fremme brandloyalitet blandt B2C-kunderne, kan det også hjælpe B2B-brands med at opbygge profitable, langsigtede relationer med købere.

#3 Vær klar til forandring

Vedtagelse af digitale processer er blot det første skridt mod at blive en udfordrer inden for e-handel på B2B-området.

Hvis virksomheder skal kunne overgå kundernes konstant skiftende forventninger og implementere nye forretningsstrategier for at opnå eller bibeholde en konkurrencefordel, kræver det kontinuerlig forbedring og innovation. Virksomhederne  skal også overvåge og reagere på den kontinuerlige udvikling af digital handel.


Digitaliseringen af ​​B2B-handel tager fart, og det vil kun fortsætte. For virksomheder, der er villige til at investere i at blive virkelig kundecentrerede, er mulighederne uendelige.

Skal vi hjælpe dig forvandle dit B2B-handels-set-up fra kedeligt og konventionelt til intelligent og fremtidssikret? Klik nedenfor for at se hele samtalen eller kontakt en specialist fra vores team.

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Optimising the Future: B2B commerce

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Eksperimentering: Den hemmelige ingrediens i digitale oplevelser

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Jonas Roland Therkildsen
Jonas Roland Therkildsen
Managing Director
Date
25 January 2022

Ifølge McKinsey, er virksomheder, der baserer deres beslutninger på data frem for intuition 19 gange mere profitable og 23 gange mere tilbøjelige til at hverve nye kunder end andre. Alligevel træffer hele 62% af virksomheder stadig deres beslutninger alene på baggrund af mavefornemmelse. Denne tilgang er hverken fornuftig eller bæredygtig i den digitale verden. For at forblive relevant arbejder førende brands med strategier og teknologier for at finde nye og mere meningsfulde måder at skabe og pleje relationen til deres kunder.

Eksperimentering dækker over den proces, det er at drive tests på jeres site med rigtige brugere med henblik på at lære af resultaterne. A/B-tests og multivariable tests er eksempler på eksperimentering, som alle gør virksomheder i stand til at samle feedback, kassere de løsninger, der ikke fungerer, og bygge videre på de løsninger, der gør. 

Dette tema blev afsøgt til det virtuelle event “Optimising the Future”, som DEPT® og Optimizely i fællesskab havde arrangeret for at inspirere og accelerere digitale strategier i 2022 og fremover. Depts globale Head of Data, Cristian van Nispen, og Optimizelys Director of Strategy and Value Consulting, Elizabeth Gabster, undersøgte hvorfor kunderejser i kontinuerlig forandring kræver en robust, fremtidssikret eksperimenterings- og optimeringsløsning.

Her er de tre vigtigste indsigter i, hvorfor og hvordan eksperimentering kan hjælpe jer tage jeres forretning til det næste niveau og levere de oplevelser, kunderne vil have.

#1 Boost jeres strategi gennem sofistikerede test

For at opnå langsigtet succes med jeres forretning er det afgørende, at I integrerer jeres digitale tilstedeværelse i jeres forretningsstrategi. Det illustreres klart af det faktum, at der nu er direkte korrelation mellem digital transformation og vækst i omsætning. Virksomheder kan ikke længere operere med silo-inddeling mellem deres forretningsstrategi og deres digitale strategi: Det er nødvendigt at tage en holistisk tilgang, der giver et helstøbt billede af, hvordan I kan skabe den bedste oplevelse og service for jeres kunder.

Eksperimenteringsløsninger kan implementeres for at bygge bro mellem forretningsstrategi og digital strategi. Noget så simpelt som at kopiere en smule kode ind på en side, som I gerne vil teste, kan eliminere gætværk og gøre virksomheder i stand til at træffe beslutninger om optimering på baggrund kundernes holdninger. Det kan altså bidrage til at sænke prisen på kundeerhvervelse uden at øge hverken omkostningerne til annoncering eller udviklernes arbejdsbyrde.

#2 Overgå jeres KPI’er gennem objektiv evaluering

Desværre har de fleste, der har arbejdet med digitale oplevelser, mindst en historie at fortælle om en forfejlet opdatering, der blev implementeret på baggrund af nogens mavefornemmelse. En erfaren medarbejder foreslår eksempelvis at ændre farven på “tilføj til kurv”-knappen fra blå til grå, fordi han eller hun har hørt, at det gav gode resultater hos en konkurrent. Teamet indvilger, men farveskiftet har en negativ effekt, da kunderne nu overser knappen. Resultatet er øjeblikkelige tab i indtægt for virksomheden. 

Denne tilgang er den digitale version af at prøve sig frem og håbe på det bedste. Og det er ikke en robust strategi i 2022. Den eksperimenterende tankegang opfordrer derimod virksomheder til at tage en mere holistisk tilgang og gennemtænke, hvad de gerne vil lære eller opnå og definere KPI’er, for derefter at gennemføre tests i et kontrolleret miljø.

Ved at bruge et værktøj konsistent og teste idéer objektivt bliver virksomheder i stand til at optimere deres digitale oplevelser. Optimizelys web experimentation platform giver eksempelvis teams mulighed for at drive flere tests på samme tid og tilgå statistisk valide resultater for herefter at bruge dem til at implementere den bedste oplevelse for kunderne.

#3 Afklar projektets ROI på forhånd

Uanset om det gælder udvikling af nye produkter eller et justering af eksisterende features er udvikling ressourcekrævende og kan være uøkonomisk, hvis udfaldet ikke positivt. I sidste ende ønsker virksomheder at vide, om deres produkt skaber værdi for kunderne eller ej. For at holde fast i produkter, som ingen vil have, eller features, som ikke virker, er spild af ressourcer. 

Ved at gøre tests til et af de første led i en udviklingscyklus har virksomheder bedre mulighed for at identificere ROI og træffe hurtigere og mere velinformerede beslutninger, omkring hvorvidt et projekt bør fuldføres eller ej. Tests og eksperimentering gør teams i stand til at at stille spørgsmålstegn ved, om et produkt er værd at satse på, eller om en gammel feature bør forbedres eller fjernes. Det er nogle af de svære spørgsmål, som det er bedst at få svar på med det samme, før der bruges tid, penge og timer på projekter, som sandsynligvis vil kuldsejle. 

Ved at kombinere en eksperimenterende tankegang og det rette værktøj kan I få adgang til unik og pålidelig data, der kan tage jeres virksomhed til det næste niveau. Beslutninger baseret på mavefornemmelse vil ikke klare sig i den nye digitale virkelighed, men ved at samle ressourcer og udvikle projekter baseret på fakta og evidens, kan virksomheder operere effektivt og samtidig tilbyde deres kunder mest mulig værdi.
 
Klik på linket nedenfor for at blive klogere på, hvordan eksperimentering kan skabe værdi for jeres virksomhed, eller kontakt os.

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Optimising the Future: Experimentation

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B2B commerce trends

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Jonas Roland Therkildsen
Jonas Roland Therkildsen
Managing Director
Date
21 June 2021

B2B commerce is characterised by a traditional, almost romantic way of doing business: sales reps with specialised knowledge travel around the country with a story and forge and maintain customer relationships.

But just like in all other sectors, a digital, data-driven change is taking place in B2B commerce: the competition is coming from different fronts and customers are getting more and more demanding due to their own personal experiences with B2C companies that are much further along. At the same time, the position in the value chain of many B2B businesses is changing. This poses certain challenges, but also offers opportunities. The trends listed below show the most important developments in B2B commerce and serve as inspiration to make that all-too-necessary changeover to digital.

But just like in all other sectors, a digital, data-driven change is taking place in B2B commerce: the competition is coming from different fronts and customers are getting more and more demanding due to their own personal experiences with B2C companies that are much further along. At the same time, the position in the value chain of many B2B businesses is changing. This poses certain challenges, but also offers opportunities. The trends listed below show the most important developments in B2B commerce and serve as inspiration to make that all-too-necessary changeover to digital.

1.Increasing competition

Lately DEPT® has been receiving frequent requests for help with the design of corporate start-ups. Funnily enough, all of these have been from B2B businesses. They are brands that want to reinvent themselves because they have to catch up with B2C businesses, which are characterised by high quality, short cycle sales and marketing, plus larger groups of individual decision makers/customers. B2B customers also use services like Uber and Airbnb and expect similar user experiences from a B2B platform. In fact, there is a huge gap that needs to be closed.

Customers increasingly want to be able to compare and buy online, but B2B marketing is currently mainly about people. Companies like Florensis and Brenntag have customer-facing account managers who have known their customers for 20 years. They get together for coffee and the account managers give advice. So, at these companies, it is not just about buying a product or service, but also about advice and customisation. A premium service, if you will. At these businesses, much effort goes to the top segment, the major customers with large orders, often with products tailored to the customer, but the entire middle segment, which represents a huge turnover, could actually be offered digital services, including premium ones.

While B2C businesses are under pressure and platforms like Amazon and Zalando attract more and more business, there is plenty of potential for growth for B2B marketing. On top of that, taking action is imperative, there really is no way around it. Digitally, the B2B market still has a lot of growing up to do. Old business models still exist and the underlying technology tends to be outdated. Faxing is still very common, for example. So, B2B must really learn much faster than everyone is used to. That requires a lot of investments, but it must be done because the competition is doing the same and the B2B customer is more and more likely to choose providers who offer the best service at the lowest price.

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Companies are increasingly using corporate startups as a vehicle for achieving this. Setting up a ‘sub-brand’ outside the company’s own structures, such as New10, is now the trendy thing to do. But, depending on how much catching up, organisation and knowledge is required, it could also be a department within the existing corporate structures. No matter the choice, it should eventually become the core business.

2.Digital transformation of your organisation

Digital transformation requires different skills. The ‘real’ work is (partly) replaced by people who build ‘the machine’ and have the ability to view business models and customer relationships as concepts. They are the ones who find solutions in UXdata, AR, etc. Previously, sales representatives had to be trained and they had to build customer relationships themselves, but these processes are becoming increasingly data-driven. If, as B2B marketer, you are already able to sort out your data centrally, you will have to re-train all your people to plug this data to the customers. Of course, it is much easier if this is done digitally and automatically.

The market is becoming more and more transparent. It is easy to find out what you can get and what something costs. That means that, as B2B business, you will have to distinguish yourself in a different way. B2B marketing is characterised by sales reps who give specific advice to clients. And these are exactly the kinds of things you should be offering online. Using data, you can also automate and continually update and optimise this advice, leaving you more time to provide larger customers with excellent service. Ultimately, the knowledge will be stored in a database rather than in just the one person.

A good example is the trend that sees static prices turning into dynamic ones based on factors such as inventory, planning, market prices, parts, season, requirements and competitors. These are all variables you can put into a dynamic pricing engine. The model is becoming more intelligent by the day. So, the skill shifts from selling to managing the dynamic model.

But if everyone starts implementing this technique, the question will be: are you still distinguishing yourself from the others? Your touch points are everything, so design is equivalent to sales. It is essential that anyone in B2B management gets to grips with this as soon as possible. So, if you launch a corporate startup, don’t base it on the traditional business model of the parent company because then you are just a clone of the corporate parent.

Innovate, keep up and make sure you stay ahead of the game. There are huge opportunities everywhere. Digital transformation is not just about the front end, but also about the numerous background processes. It’s all about the human-process-technology switch. You need to get a move on and learn – as fast as you can!

3. Innovation

A German company that sells components for lifts has a team of installers to periodically expect the lifts. Nowadays, the status of the lifts can also be checked using sensors. That information is then linked to the product catalogue and the sensor indicates what part needs replacement. In the old days, the lift would have been out of service for repairs for a week, but now, thanks to the link between the systems, there has been a huge increase in efficiency.

This is an example of the omni-channel trend in the B2B sector, which shows an increase in the data flows between the customer and supplier, meaning inventory management can be automated and making it possible to supply products that meet extremely specific requirements. It also reinforces the bond between the supplier and customer. An added bonus is that you are actually creating more than just a digital version of the old business and you can use your own sales data and your customer’s data to improve the advice you give to your customer. You are adding value in entirely new ways.

Bonus meta trend: B2B2C

Florensis ‘creates flowers’: they use seeds and cuttings to grow small plants, which they then sell to horticulturists. The horticulturists then grow them into larger plants. Next, they sell the plants to retailers such as Intratuin, which, in turn, sell them to the consumer. Florensis has started concentrating more on the deal with the retailer. At the same time, you get retail startups like Bloomon, which go straight to the horticulturist and the breeder. So, the competition comes at you from two sides: from new, consumer-facing companies on the one side and companies that actually have the source on the other. As a result, B2B business quickly touches B2C business, which is a new phenomenon in many sectors.

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And even though it is not actually a new phenomenon in the taxi industry, you notice that clubs like Uber and Lyft have a solid grip on both the B2B and the B2C side – all through the use of a single, solid app that communicates with both sides. It is a kind of ‘meta’ competition that affects the business model. That means not only doing things smarter and faster, or that the UX should be solid, but that you, as a B2B marketer, must decide what your position is, which service you should work on and perfect and which kind of business you need to let go.

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At the same time, we are seeing a movement in the other direction, with the addition of a party, such as JustEat. You used to go and get fish and chips around the corner, now there is a one-stop-shop for all your takeaway needs. So, as a party, you want a strong connection with your end customer, but you also want to have a say in the basic product, so you can get as much as possible from the value chain and influence it wherever you can.

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It doesn’t matter if they are new players or existing players, you tend to see fewer and fewer players in the same value chain: it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there.

In short, digital transformation is essential. It is important to work with all the ingredients required for a digital business (data, inspiration, UX, etc.). In addition, B2B businesses need to look at their strategic position in the value chain and check what this means for the business model. What will you be emphasising? UX? Data? Which partnerships will you be entering into? Which ones will you avoid? One thing is clear: you must seriously get started on B2B Commerce as soon as you can.

This article was written by Tim de Kamper and Jeroen Heydendael.

Like to know more about what B2B can learn from Commerce? Join our DEPT® Talks on July 12th in Amsterdam.

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The future of multi-experience commerce

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Line Grastveit Rosenkvist
Line Grastveit Rosenkvist
Marketing Coordinator
Date
17 March 2021

The evolution of consumer behaviour is not a fixed timeline; it changes according to social movements and cultural shifts. Technology has had a tremendous impact on advancing consumer expectations by literally placing the power in their hands, while adding pressure on businesses to adapt operations and reinvent strategies to keep up with emerging demands.

The global pandemic has reset the playing field, accelerating digital innovation in a way that puts brands back in the driver seat. The era of adapting to consumer needs and finding solutions to rising challenges has passed. Leading brands are predicting new behaviour and enabling the change through advancements in technology.

To continue to thrive in the new reality, businesses must make bold decisions and embrace how dynamic commerce has become. This future of commerce is all about creating new and unexpected ways for customers to interact with brands across both digital platforms and physical destinations.

The retail revolution

If the pandemic has proven one thing in retail, it’s how powerful an innovative culture is,” said Jonathan Whiteside, Principal Technology Consultant at Dept“Brands that have collapsed during the pandemic are rooted in traditional ways of retailing and aren’t flexible to change.” For example, Phillip Green, chairman of the retail company Arcadia Group and owner of Topshop, made a public point of rejecting smartphone culture and continuing to use an analogue mobile. This type of resistance at the top-level trickles down throughout the company. In February, Asos acquired Topshop and three other Arcadia Group brands, but not the shops. It was a similar story with Boohoo taking over retail stalwarts Debenhams, Karen Millen, Dorothy Perkins, Burton and Wallis to live exclusively online. While the strategic decision to strengthen their digital platforms with these shopping centre anchors may have been controversial at the time, it’s helped to expedite the next phase of retail. 

Recent changes on the high street aren’t an indication that legacy brands will continue to be swooped up by digital-native companies, but it does demonstrate how critical it is for these companies to continuously innovate to retain their market position. “Business culture and open-mindedness are key factors in maintaining a competitive advantage. John Lewis, for example, is not only one of Britain’s longest-standing department stores, but it’s also the largest employee-owned business in the UK. When The John Lewis Partnership was created it was an unconventional way of putting people first, and involving the workforce in key decision-making. This mindset of continuously evolving the business model just happens to transfer really well into technological transformation,” Whiteside said. 

An experiential future

High street retail is evolving from a place people primarily went shopping into an experiential destination. Nowadays, almost every purchase is started online. And, even though shoppers are accustomed to using digital channels and many prefer purchasing through them, they find it lacks experience. This sentiment nods to the need for a physical brand presence for consumers to see, touch and engage with products; not necessarily to buy or seek assistance. Adding an experiential human component within the brand ecosystem resonates with a wider demographic and builds loyalty. 

With the information we have now, it’s easy to understand how missed opportunities led to the collapse of many businesses, including Toys R Us, explains Whiteside: “Once at the centre of the industry for child’s play, the brand failed to implement digital channels and relied heavily on its storefront locations. Eventually, a trip to the shop alone was no longer enough for a fun day out. There was no hands-on experience to draw kids in, like what you get in a Hamleys or a Lego store. If they did more to keep customers happy, been less functional and more on-trend, their fate may have been different. The demise of Toys R Us was not inevitable, they just weren’t dynamic enough. Perhaps if they utilised their real estate for multi-sensory play centres, and invested in social media and e-commerce they would still be leading today.” 

A transformative future for the hight street

Tesla is a game-changer for car showrooms. They’re a place to experience the vehicles rather than buy them, and if you’ve indicated in the store that you’re interested in purchasing a vehicle, you’ll receive details via email about how to order it online. “Tesla has reinvented how an automaker should sell its vehicles, and is rewriting the industry’s negative history associated with price haggling, pushy salespeople and ignorant consumer profiling,” said Whiteside. “The only way for brands to take inherited biases out of the customer experience is to remove humans in some cases, and make every stage objective, providing the same brand experience for everyone.” Tesla’s approach to using data to educate and excite customers, rather than a generic sales strategy, is well known for converting consumers into buyers and brand advocates. 

Bricks and mortar retail stores are expected to follow suit, giving a new reason for consumers to visit. Nike is testing a new experiential store format in China called Nike Rise that serves as a hub for sports enthusiasts, with in-store events and new app features. Nike hopes the initiative will boost its direct-to-consumer sales with increased foot traffic and increased customer insights via the app. 

Banks are reimagining their branches into coffee shops, providing a complimentary lounge for their members to use their facilities and relax. With the turn to online banking and a cashless society, people are less likely to go to the bank. Repurposing their city-centre spaces into a cafe, with banking staff available if you need them, is a great tactic to boost membership and loyalty. 

Introducing commerce everywhere

In the age of experimental retail, ‘commerce everywhere’ has emerged as a marketing strategy to facilitate transactions across multiple customer touchpoints. Technology that promotes products and enables sales is being implemented into both digital channels and physical locations.

This strategy is already being rolled out by fashion and luxury brands, who are turning to live shopping and social media commerce. Also blurring the lines between entertainment, editorial and shopping are media companies such as online fashion publisher Highsnobiety, who introduced e-commerce functionality into its media brand. This allows Highsnobiety to provide an end-to-end experience for its audience by connecting the products they are referencing in their content with a gateway to purchase. It also allows the brand to launch new and limited product drops on a continuous basis to drive consistent web traffic and sales. BuzzFeed also launched into e-commerce by supplementing its articles and listicles with feature items from retail partners. Shoppers are not directed away from BuzzFeed at any point during the transaction, allowing BuzzFeed to own the entire consumer journey. 

Devices used to power smart homes may have been the inspiration for this next innovation in automotive. The widely popular cloud-based technology is used to control everything in the household from security to feeding pets, maintaining temperature and automating grocery orders. Vehicle manufacturers are taking the ‘commerce everywhere’ strategy to the next level by introducing big data, AI and IoT into the dashboard. This technology can detect when maintenance is required and enable the vehicle owner to take action. For example, if a part needs to be replaced, not only will the driver be notified on the user interface screen, but they can verbally order items to their home or schedule appointments with their preferred garage, based on their details programmed into their profile. 

Take inspiration for your next innovation

It wasn’t long ago that shoppers made impulse decisions inspired by aisle promotions or window displays. Now, consumers are making informed choices based on their own findings and values. Advancements in technology are changing consumer behaviour. Apple has laid a lot of the groundwork by launching Apple Pay, making it normal practice for users to store card details in their mobile devices, accelerating touchless in-store payment. The introduction of fingerprint and facial recognition has made the digital checkout process even easier. How quickly society adapted to virtual wallets should signal to brands to evolve this concept. 

 “Commerce is quickly becoming ingrained in every aspect of our lives, and brands that leverage new technology to predict when items are needed or most desirable will lead the way. The next phase of retail is all about understanding customers, serving up relevant options, and creating a seamless purchasing journey; one where the customer doesn’t need to switch apps or close their browser to further the research or purchase,” said Whiteside. 

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Line Grastveit Rosenkvist

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How to tackle complex B2B customer journey mapping

workshop glass

Date
11 March 2021

B2B commerce can be a complex process. Buyers often face multiple layers of internal decision making involving several stakeholders, before instigating what can be a complex research and buying process. These dynamics make it increasingly difficult for customers to make purchases efficiently. In fact, 77% of B2B buyers described their latest purchase as “very complex” or “challenging” in a Gartner survey. Customer journey mapping is the route for B2B businesses to start guiding their customers to successfully finalising purchases. By fully understanding your customers’ unique needs, you can offer tailored solutions at every stage: problem identification; solution exploration; requirements building; supplier selection; validation, and consensus creation.

The process of drilling into customers’ interactions has become prolific in B2C for companies to strategically improve engagement and conversions. However, B2B customer journey mapping isn’t nearly as popular, and often gets missed by large international corporations who could benefit from the insights the most.

Customer journey mapping: a three step guide

As Lead UX Designer at DEPT®, I have led major research projects for our clients including St. James’s Place, Triumph and Omron. Here’s my handy 3-step guide for mapping B2B customer journeys: 

#1 Start with discovery

Understand what happens in each department. How do they communicate? What tools do they use? How do they interact with customers? If they’re customer-facing, who’s behind the scenes? Run a series of workshops with a cross-section of people representing all areas of the business to flush out key details. If operating remotely, Miro is a great tool to facilitate collaborative working. 

Focus on discovering information rather than solving problems at this stage and, once you have collected all the pain points, start thinking about how challenges can turn into opportunities. For example, if multiple departments have mentioned disjointed technology and issues with creating new accounts, make a note to explore single sign-on. Focus on internal infrastructure and processes, and how they fuel external experiences. Immerse yourself in the business as an employee and as a customer. Determine the goals for each type of customer and figure out the on and offline touchpoints to achieving them. Likewise, for new business prospects.

  • Pro tip: Don’t underestimate how diverse a B2B customer base is. The more businesses understand the extent of their services and how products flow throughout the distribution chain to end users, the faster the discovery phase will run. Before researchers can even begin fieldwork speaking with customers, they need to have a general understanding of the journeys they usually take. Streamline this step by prepping information before by working with a UX consultant; jot down the types of people that use products and how their application differs. For example, a C-suite at a distributor centre will interact with business channels differently than an engineer at a heating and ventilation company.

#2 Conduct in-depth research 

Gather quantitative and qualitative insights. Analyse the digital estate. Use heat mapping technology to examine user behaviour and review analytics to find out what pages are most popular. Run surveys to collect general feedback and narrow down a selection of people to speak with. Conduct one-on-one interviews and pilot a diary study with a dedicated group. Check-in regularly to find out how they’re interacting with the business and record all instances, whether that involves having a subpar experience with a sales representative or not being able to find a product online. Pay attention to customer expectations and how opinions vary per type.

The final phase is user testing. Log onto systems with the customer, have them take you through their journeys and explain what they like and dislike. Ask if they’ve seen better features within the industry and what would improve their experience. Highlight key points of frictions and if the software is also being used internally, observe if the frustrations are shared.

It’s time to create personas. In a D2C setting, personas zero in on the person; their backstory, motivations, behaviours, characteristics, emotional responses, daily routine and so on. Whereas in B2B, you map out their professional footprint. Outlining their role in decision making, how they fit into the business, touchpoints, and influencers.  

examplepersona 1

Pro tip: There is a misconception of cold, transactional interactions in the B2B world but throughout research, we observe a lot of close personal relationships. Business success is linked to customer success, so trust leads to a more productive business. Knowing your customers in a digital world can be an issue when people become numbers to a business. At the end of the day people buy into people, adding heart and personality into the process builds a human connection. 

When relationships run deep and employees turnover, the partnership can become much more transactional. Avoid this by having sales associates regularly log customer experiences and their touchpoints, digitally marking in-person meetings, social events, instant messaging platforms, emails, and calls. To get an overall satisfaction score, separate rankings for products and services to pinpoint where shortcomings may be arising. 

#3 Journey mapping brings all of the insights together

Create a separate map for each main user group organised by their customer flow, starting with awareness and advancing through to loyalty. At each step give the persona a score. By comparing these maps, the business can easily view what customer groups thought of various aspects of the brand experience and how their responses coincide with each other. If one area has low scores across all customer types, such as the purchasing journey, you know that’s a critical area to change. Identifying overlapping problems and key areas for improvement is the biggest deliverable in B2B customer journey mapping.

It’s not enough to just highlight these areas for improvement, it’s also important to prioritise these learnings. Run another workshop with the business to plot each of these opportunities into sections, using a matrix to compare the ‘impact on customer journeys’ vs ‘effort to implement.’ Add another layer to clarify internal action points, for example, categorise:

  • Tactical improvements where people and processes are already in place and it’s just a matter of getting the change off the ground running. These could be related to digital advertising or repurposing digital products that the company already owns. 
  • Operational changes require revamping internal processes or behaviours first before they can have a knock-on effect on the customer. For example, moving offline procedures online. 
  • Strategic ideas benefit the business and the customer in the long run. With large, international organisations this may require sign off from head office and new infrastructure that could be game-changing and grow market share. 

Keep in mind some improvements, regardless of their category, will need to be complete before another can start. For instance updating product categorisation, descriptions, FAQs and help guides will need to run before personalisation can take full effect. After all of these opportunities have been allocated, collaboratively create a timeline that essentially solves all of the issues in the background and incrementally increases sales and customer satisfaction. 

Continue to work with the client and their technology partners to bring solutions to fruition, ensuring the products delivered are in line with customer expectations. 

Mapping the entire OMRON customer experience

DEPT® teamed up with Omron, a multinational manufacturer of automation components, equipment and systems, to conduct its largest customer research project to date. With the vision of becoming more customer-centric and digitally-enabled, the business was aiming to create a seamless cross-channel experience that drives market share growth. After gaining a deep understanding of how Omron operates, DEPT® led a phase of in-depth customer research. This involved analysing Omron’s technical estate, on and offline touchpoints, and speaking with people across all levels of the business from C-suite and director to inside and outside sales, as well as upwards of 130 customers.

More than 3,000 quantitative and qualitative insights were collected from internal teams, data analysis and customer search. We held 12 stakeholder workshops involving 45 people across the business from 12 departments. Our correspondence with customers produced over 30 hours of recorded video interviews and thousands of direct messages. 

With this information, we created 8 new personas that fit into three key customer types: distributors,  OEMs (Original equipment manufacturer) and system integrators, and end-users. DEPT® developed customer journey maps to help identify gaps and uncover opportunities relating to search solutions, product purchasing and customer care. A roadmap of improvements was created that would benefit the greatest number of customers. DEPT® is now continuing to work with Omron to bring these solutions forward. 

Be ahead of the game

The B2B buying journey is no longer a linear process. With an increasing amount of resources and choices available digitally, it’s become less predictable and fiercely competitive. Buyers are more educated and the sales process begins not with an introduction, but with an assessment of how much the prospect already knows about you. Get ahead of the game by segmenting and drip-feeding relevant content at every stage. 

Customer retention is no longer granted on legacy relationships alone. This new generation of digital-native buyers rewards innovative product improvement and unparalleled customer service with loyalty. And if you’re lagging behind the industry, they’re quick to jump to a more advanced solution. Throughout our research, we often hear purchasing and returning items should be a one-click-process, as seamless as Amazon, yet tends to involve several steps on and offline. Merging B2B and B2C customer experience has quickly become industry standard, and sets the groundwork for businesses looking to launch into new markets. 

Customer journey mapping is the first step to better understanding your customers. Complex international organisations, in particular, can easily lose sight of the granular detail that’s having a big impact on end-users. Don’t let oversights hinder growth in the new digital reality. We’re here to help you get started; get in touch to discuss your business requirements

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Managing Director

Jonas Roland Therkildsen

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