1. Some more background reading on the Apple Store

    Posted February 3, 2011 in links  |  No Comments so far

    A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the design strategy of Apple’s store on Regent Street. I was interested in how, by stripping out money and its visual signifiers, Apple were deliberately creating a space where a direct and emotional connection could form between visitors and the products.

    Anyway, here are a few links about the Apple Store that I thought I’d post up here, in case anyone’s interested.

    • Bohlin Cywinski Jackson is the firm of architects that has designed Apple stores across the globe. Their approach to the Regent Street store was to “edit distracting elements from the visual field” to create a serene environment in which “Apple’s products gracefully assume center stage”.
    • The Atlantic reported in October last year that more than 74.5 million people had visited one of the 317 Apple stores across the world in the preceding quarter, setting a new record for footfall in retail.
    • Back in 2009, Social Episodes wrote about the Apple Store customer experience far more extensively than I did, relating it to six “laws” of customer service. I like the story of the Apple staff keeping their cool when, after spending lots of time with a customer complaining about iTunes syncing, they discovered that he didn’t even have it installed on his PC.
    • So whatever Apple is doing with its retail stores, it’s obviously doing it well.

  2. Online behaviour and the economic downturn

    Posted October 1, 2008 in research, strategy  |  No Comments so far

    Online intelligence service Hitwise released a report last week claiming that UK internet usage patterns were changing in response to the current economic situation. The full press release is here.

    Hitwise gathers its data by looking at the traffic logs of its clients’ websites, which number around 1,500. These websites are divided up into a range of categories and sub-categories. Hitwise is therefore aware of traffic volumes to sites in different categories, and has attempted to draw conclusions from changing patterns in these.

    This methodology may be imperfect—1,500 websites may sound like a lot but is just a drop in the ocean—but the findings seem to be intuitively correct. For around a year now the subject of how a slowdown would affect online behaviour has been coming up more and more frequently, and the general consensus has been that online retail and price comparison sites are not going to be as exposed to the effects of a drop in consumer spending. Smaller household budgets lead to an increase in price-sensitivity, and price-sensitive consumers spend more time researching and planning purchases as opposed to buying on impulse.

    An example of this in the Hitwise research is that traffic to what it identifies as price comparison, voucher or cashback sites increased by 20% between July 2007 and July 2008, after a slight drop in traffic to such sites between 2005 and 2007. Voucher sites seem to be the biggest beneficiaries (to the uninitiated, voucher sites collate promotional codes & vouchers from various retailers, which can be redeemed at checkout for discounts – here’s an example).

    However, another contributor to this trend could also be quite simply that British people have become, on average, more sophisticated online shoppers. It’ll be interesting to look at how traffic to voucher and price comparison sites bears up when the growth phase of the next business cycle begins. Will those sites become the online equivalents of Poundstretcher, shunned by all but the most price-sensitive? Or will they remain the first port of call for the clued-up online shopper?

  3. The dregs of e-commerce

    Posted September 26, 2008 in research, web  |  1 Comment so far

    http://www.eioclothing.com/mens/t-shirts/till-death-do-us-party-white.htmlI’m currently carrying out some research into open-source e-commerce platforms. The research is at a pretty early stage and I’m still putting together the list of packages that we’ll then go on to assess in detail.

    While putting this short-list together I’m visiting quite a lot of ‘showcase’ sites for each package on my long-list. And sheesh, some of them are bad.

    I don’t mean “bad” in the sense of bad user experience design, even though it’s fair to say that many of them are guilty of that. I mean “bad” in that the products themselves are bad, some of them really bad.

    It’s a consequence, I suppose, of the barriers to entry for e-commerce being so low these days. In fact, my preliminary exploration of open source e-commerce options has established that they’re even lower than I’d assumed them to be.


    For example, I’ve come across an Australian site that sells t-shirts saying “The first rule about Kite Club is never talk about Kite Club”. Erk. It reminds me of a t-shirt I saw in Paris once, which I still think of as the worst t-shirt I’ve ever seen. It said, “the first rule about computer club is that you don’t talk about computer club”.

    But aside from bad t-shirt slogans, of which there are plenty, the biggest culprits are the numerous arts’n’crafts retailers.

    Before the internet, a lot of this stuff – the results of amateur pottery classes and the like – would have just been given to relatives or left to accumulate in cupboards and boxes. But now, the arguments against creating an online retail site for these efforts get weaker all the time as e-commerce gets easier. And it seems as though there’s a market out there for a lot of this twee, throwaway kind of stuff. That’s the “long tail” for you, I guess!

    However critical I might sound in this post, though, I should point out that I’m not advocating the eradication of such sites from the internet. I’m just noting my vague fascination with this underbelly of online retail that I hadn’t really explored until today.