The Dawn of the U-Commerce Era

User experience design is a cornerstone of business today — it’s something that is being created whether the company intends to do it or not. It is an integral aspect of business that every company has to reckon with because its growth and success depends not just on meeting the customer’s needs, but also on being able to make the whole experience seamless, easy and smooth. Extensive research and data has proven beyond a doubt that good UX is good business. Having now matured into an independent discipline as integral to the company’s growth as marketing, operations or customer service, UX design can no longer be considered an afterthought or be ignored. It can make or break your business.

In this age of what I call “universal commerce”, no matter what the size of your company, it’s important that you pay attention to this powerful tool that can make your brand experience truly unforgettable. Universal commerce (“u-commerce”) is a powerful framework of thinking used by the most influential UX designers today. While it acknowledges the fact that a customer has many touchpoints with a company such as the website, mobile app, Facebook, WhatsApp and physical stores, it goes beyond this by also recognising that each touchpoint can influence the design of the other. It is a giant step forward from omni-channel commerce which extends from brick-and-mortar outlets, online stores, mobile websites and applications, social media marketing and sales to email marketing. However, omni-channel commerce or marketing doesn’t consider how one platform could determine and influence the design of another to change business outcomes in crucial and significant ways, to the extent of being able to transact seamlessly across all of these channels.

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Consider a retail store that sells prescription and non-prescription eyewear. Imagine a scenario in which instead of having sales executives hand out frames for customers to try out from locked display cases, the outlet adopts an open-store design that encourages their customers to pick up any pair of glasses that appeal to them and try them on. This simple change in store design will see customers spending more than 90 minutes per visit at the store, trying on more than 32 frames before making a selection (3 times the industry average) and deliver a conversion rate that’s higher than any of their competition. This is how valuable UX design can be to a brand.

This thoroughly researched case study is that of one of my clients, a reputed and popular eyewear brand, who hired Redd to redesign their web experience to increase customer conversion rates. Our team began the process by researching customer behaviour and purchase styles at the brand’s physical stores. Through our investigation, we learned that one key aspect determined buyer behaviour — the more number of glasses customers could try on, the higher were their chances of purchasing something. Learning this from the retail stores then allowed us to design a web experience that enabled customers to view more pairs of glasses per visit causing as little “browser fatigue” as possible during the process.

Image credit — The awesome people submitting to Unsplash

In the above example, the information we learned in the real world influenced what we designed for the web. Conversely, in the case of a real-estate client, we applied something that we learnt in the digital world to the real world to achieve exceptional results. In this case, the client wanted to place several billboards across the city to promote a new venture that they were in the process of developing in Bangalore. Not only did we choose the billboard artwork based on the one that was performing well on Google Ads, but we also placed different phone numbers on each of their ads, allowing us to track whether a billboard placed in Richmond Circle was performing as well as the one placed on R. V. Road, à la Google Ads. This exercise resulted in tremendous results at a fraction of the marketing costs!

These two examples are just the tip of the u-commerce iceberg. Think of the possibilities: designing window displays that showcase products that are performing brilliantly on the web, resulting in increasing footfalls at the store; the reception at a hospital quickly triaging patients into lines dedicated to illnesses whose symptoms are being looked up on their mobile app; products in department stores receiving the least amount of interest going on sale through a newsletter announcement. The implications of u-commerce for business growth is undeniable.

Image credit — The awesome people submitting to Unsplash

Plugging into this framework of thinking also creates immense opportunities for integrating machine learning to enable user customisation to a level where every experience of every single customer can be highly personalised to serve her/his specific needs. Added to the mix, consider customer profiling technologies such as Plumb5 that allow interactions between the company and its customers to be tracked across physical and digital media. This capability in the hands of a skilled UX designer can be converted into very interesting UX experiences. Imagine that you are contemplating buying a new home and you walk to a building that you have been considering for a site visit. A customer service executive greets you and immediately leads you to the 4-bedroom model home without wasting time asking you to explain your requirements all over again because you’ve done that simply by browsing their website!

Never before has there been such a seamless experience and overlap between the physical world and the digital one. The challenges that businesses face today cannot be managed with the same traditional tools that we used in the era before the advent of u-commerce. Gen UX requires new-age design thinkers who work on delivering superior customer experiences in ways that make products and brands memorable and, in turn, ensure that businesses stay agile and resilient.

— Sharan Grandigae, Founder and CEO of Redd Experience Design