My team and I have been hard at work shaping up an interesting solution to the problem of mobile web discovery.
By “the problem of mobile web discovery” I mean how hard it is for consumers to discover products when they’re using their mobile devices to shop online (as opposed to finding things that they know exist which they are actively searching for). My colleague Simon has talked about this issue, while I’ve looked more at the precise role of mobile devices in defining consumer expectations and how the design conventions of mobile so far may be limiting the success of mobile commerce.
Framing the problem
This time last year we started observing the trends in ecommerce, and two core themes stood out.
Firstly — and most obviously — people now carry powerful micro computers all the time. This is changing behavior and has some noticeable knock-on effects:
- How we behave online (and shop) is changing: we’re at an inflection point where mobile usage is about to surpass desktop, but because of when, where and how we use our devices, conversion rates are down
- Social media is everywhere, and it changes how we absorb information (some thoughts here)
- We expect more from the brands we engage with on mobile. However, the sophistication of the technology isn’t always reflected in the experiences we’re exposed to
Secondly, Amazon is dominating the landscape, leaving many ecommerce companies watching powerlessly while their lunch gets eaten. You can read more on this here.
We took these findings and set out to explore different ways to make the mobile web better.
Observing existing design patterns, across several industries, it was clear that one of the major problems is visual clutter. Existing ecommerce experiences are full of distractions that don’t support site visitors’ main goals (a problem that comes from thinking about what’s possible, rather than what customers want).
Defining the solution
We wanted to focus in on the visitors’ goals and introduce new ways to explore mobile sites, without disrupting the user experience. We started with experiences that were familiar to the majority of users and deconstructed the mobile web commerce experience. We identified the core elements and started building from the ground up.
Our first thought was to create a conversational interface (think chatbot).
We took our ideas to brands, and their end users — taking feedback to refine our initial thinking. And these conversations steered us towards something more intuitive.
We analysed how people shop online, and offline to learn what they like and dislike most about real world and online shopping. This enabled us to focus on the shoppers’ priorities like:
- Being shown things that interest them the most
- Getting quick access to what they loved
- Having consistent experiences across their interactions with brands
But the shopper is only half the story. So we also spoke to brands — our customers, and others — to find out what their priorities were, and what they valued the most:
- Automation, so that experts can focus on more creative tasks
- Being able to show more of their product catalog, so people can find things that might otherwise be hidden
- To learn constantly from visitors’ interactions and behaviors
- A sustainable, evolving solution that will always stay relevant
Bringing a new experience to life
Over the years at Qubit, we developed several technologies that help brands connect with their visitors better, providing a personalised and more relevant shopping experience. We took some of the best Qubit tech and consolidated it for mobile.
It looks simple from the outside, but underneath there’s some of the most sophisticated machine learning technology. Just like the best shopping assistants, Qubit Aura learns from you. It listens to what you like, and what you don’t, and suggests items that match your taste. And as with most AI-powered algorithms, the more you interact with it, the smarter it gets.
The experience starts when a user taps the icon, which triggers Aura’s interface, inspired by the popular design patterns we find on Instagram and Pinterest — apps we rely on everyday to get inspired.
To make the most out of the space on mobile and create an immersive experience, there are three layers to the interface:
- The header, which provides context
- The navigation, which adapts based on the user’s interactions
- The product feed, which also updates based on user interactions
Within the product feeds, there are:
- Individual product cards, to display the product and provide the essential details
- The product context, telling people why Aura decided to show that particular product to them
The categories exposed, and the related products part of each feed, are prioritised based on how relevant they are for the users. Here AI does the curation for you, exposing products based on how much the users like them, not what they are.
Our goal with Qubit Aura was to provide a more engaging and immersive personalized experience on mobile which revolves around the items visitors love, without all the unnecessary distractions.
Before releasing Qubit Aura at WIRED UK, we tested the effectiveness of the product on a range of clients’ websites, as part of a closed Beta program announced back in July and there were some promising results and insights. If you want to check out the results, the case studies are here.
The people who worked on this product and our beta customers who helped shape the product all deserve massive thanks, but this isn’t the finishing line. Launching Qubit Aura is another step on our journey to make personalised experiences more concrete, accessible and meaningful.
Special thanks to the Aura Team, Simon Jeffery, Karolis Narkevicius, Alan Clarke, Igor Kuzmitsov, Dan Kruchinin, Bud Goswami, Matthew Tamsett, Sarah Benson, Suganya Sivaskantharajah, Robert Tod, Pete Shaw, Richard Lake, Sam Thomas, Tom Woodruff, and the many others Qubytes that helped us and contributed 🙏