Fast results for Arnotts

How a 25 day UX project resulted in a 100% uplift in mobile revenue for Arnotts.

Choosing between what is right and what is easy isn’t always a straightforward choice but it doesn’t have to be an either-or situation.

Catching up with Dermot O’Shea (Founder – WONDR) and Oisin Hurst (Director of Creative Brand Strategy – WONDR) and Sarah Jane Lynch, Head of Digital Innovation at Brown Thomas/Arnotts to discuss how making the right combination of choices led to an agile 25 day User Experience project that resulted in a 100% uplift in mobile revenue for the Irish retailer.

When WONDR first started working with Arnotts over two years ago to help them transform the brand for digital there were some serious decisions to be made. The brand’s overhaul for digital required the launch of an entirely new eCommerce site that would align with the brand’s quality credentials, not to mention demanding customer expectations. But what should be done with the existing site in the meantime, particularly on mobile?

The team at WONDR came up with a plan to both redesign and re-platform the brand while also ensuring key fixes on the existing site would work alongside to significantly boost revenues.

Oisin explains “The initial plan was to look mainly at the new eCommerce website but it became apparent very quickly that there were existing opportunities — ones that would immediately generate more revenue for Arnotts. We looked at it as a win-win — start increasing sales and revenue on the live site, while developing the strategy for the new site in parallel.”

To start, WONDR convinced the Arnotts team that it could apply a “hotfix” approach to optimise the front-end of the platform without having to modify the current platform it was running on. Time is money in retail and this short and medium term approach was essential, especially considering the re-platforming project was due to take several month.

Re-platforming can take a while, but during that time nothing should ever stop for the business. The retailer needs to be able to continue performing user experience changes to keep the business and brand growing

Oisín Hurst WONDR

Dermot adds “WONDR already had a very strong working relationship with Arnotts, having worked on a number of projects together — but this time there was the opportunity to tap into a far wider range of techniques and tactics. It was a chance to prove that some of the techniques we planned to deploy in the wider and more ambitious re-platforming project could actually be used right away.

“When you’re working on a project like this it can be very easy to gravitate towards the ‘big ideas” he continues. “Our job was to ensure Arnotts could make the most of the existing platform whilst delivering a mobile and multi-platform brand that would be fit for the future.”

Measuring Impact

WONDR’s brand philosophy is very much in line with delivering results that matter — every idea proposed and decision made by the team was based on doing the best for the customer while also ensuring the brand remains differentiated and distinctive. As a quality retail brand with “experience” as a core principle we needed to deliver on both.”

We needed to make sure that every piece of work had a clear and demonstrable impact on the bottom line.

Sarah Jane Lynch Head of Digital Innovation - Arnotts

She goes on to explain “The team at WONDR spent time analysing site analytics to get a clear picture of what was happening and how to deliver the best site experience and revenue potential. As well as their knowledge of brand building and experience design they really understood that any investment needed to deliver real financial pay-back. Putting strong measurement in place allowed us to measure this against every change made.”

The up-front analysis carried out by the Arnotts and WONDR team clearly helped avoid the costly pitfalls often associated with both hot-fix and major re-platforming projects.

Dermot explains: “Time that you would normally spend in the boardroom coming up with ideas, prepping presentations or polishing minor ideas is better spent working on the actual nuts and bolts of the project itself. It may sound pretty basic, but on projects like this it really is better to sketch out on paper rather than spend valuable time on a Mac polishing detail that may not go anywhere. This project had no time for pontificating or the stroking of crusty beards around a whiteboard — retail moves too fast and is too competitive for that.”

“Once I had a solid system in mind, I quickly moved into prototyping the key journeys that were critical for performance, testing and iterating a real mobile experience.”

“We skipped the usual presentations with exhaustive and quite frankly unnecessary explanations. We were working with a team of “digital doers” — both in WONDR and in Arnotts. It’s amazing what can be achieved by taking a mobile device — the device the customer will actually end up using — and with a savvy, motivated team testing, iterating and implementing quickly.”

A Customer-Centric, Brand-Centric Approach

As soon as ambitious timelines and the right level of investment was agreed the challenge was clearly set. Bridge the gap between the present site and the re-platform and deliver both a long-term and interim customer-centric experience worthy of the Arnotts brand.

Oisin explains the approach. “After we prototyped the ideal mobile experience, we gave our team the painstaking task of redesigning it — significantly, I might add — with CSS and JavaScript amends only,”

We set our best creative developer to lead the team, and his mission was simple: descale as little of the ideal prototype while retaining all mission critical functionality”.

Just improving design and functionality on it’s own though wouldn’t be enough. In the competitive retail category, where many brands are failing to cut-through or disappointing consumers with poor digital experiences, delivering above expectations is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity.

Dermot adds. “We had to start with a basic mobile iteration of their current platform to allow us to build the brand for the future.

The site couldn’t just be a catalogue of products. It had to be a rewarding retail experience online.”

He continues “Anyone who knows anything about retail store design will tell you, it’s very much about understanding customer psychology. So why wouldn’t the same be true online? The big opportunity for Arnotts was transferring this to the digital shopper journey.

We’re living through a cultural and retail revolution and mobile is at the heart of it. For Arnotts, the opportunities are boundless.

Dermot O'Shea Founder - WONDR

Key psychological truths like ‘choice anxiety,’ ‘future memory’ and ‘personal self-doubt’ are all deeply ingrained in shopping behaviour. These important human factors combined with changes in style and culture were taken into consideration during the design process.

User-design is much more than just keeping things simple. It’s about appealing to users on a deep and emotional level while being differentiated as a brand in the mind of consumers.”

Oisin agrees with this perspective. “Designing for retail in digital is much more than optimising opportunistic online transactions. You have to create a true retail destination. A place that people will want too go to because it inspires them, not just helps them carry out pre-considered tasks. People should want to come back to it naturally, like their favourite news site or social media network. That’s the real retail challenge. Brands like Arnotts see it as an opportunity and are already reaping the rewards.

Selling Success

The approach paid off. The project was delivered on time and on budget with the mobile solution delivering significant and immediate impact on revenue.
“It was agile, innovative, cost-effective and financially measurable,” says Sarah Jane, “It was a positive experience to work on too. A real partnership between the teams.”

Oisin adds, “What we’re most proud of is that we proved that properly engaging with a re-platform project, in increments, not just single goals, can bring significant benefits. Taking on a front-end only project is never the ideal solution. Yet for so many businesses in Ireland they can’t afford not to to this.” he says.

“I’m glad we were able to demonstrate in a very tangible way that investing in the proper design and people-centric experience can bring forth much more returns. You don’t have to wait for the big re-platform project to happen. Losing money on a poor site is more expensive in the interim than breaking hot fixes on an existing platform into smaller work streams to create real results from day one.”

So, if time is money in retail, then waiting for the “big new site reveal” without also making what you have work even harder through solid brand and UX thinking could be costing alot of brands more than they realise.

Dermot concludes “We established WONDR to work with progressive, businesses that want to build their brands around people in a digital world. The Arnotts team understood this from the start and we had the backing of the senior team. This is the sort of partnership that creates great work, in the immediate term as well as the long term and as we’ve seen with this project, great return for the business.”