Are You Ready for the Travel Boom?

Demand

Traditionally, the travel industry has been easy to forecast and predict. Calendar years could be categorised tidily into ‘peak seasons’, ‘shoulder seasons’ and ‘low seasons’. Seasonality affected this demand and dictated the popularity of travel destinations. For example, the summer seasons usually aligned to ‘peak’ periods of travel and school holidays, and winter travel destinations were usually based on either winter pursuits such as skiing, or sun-seeking ports of call to avoid the cold altogether. But while the travel sector continues to struggle under the strain of Covid-19, its subsequent variants, and ever-changing restrictions imposed by airlines and governments, too many businesses are waiting for ‘normal’ to return. They must understand that this wait is futile - both in time and in energy. There is a new normal for which the industry needs to adapt. This new normal is dictated by world events and by a consumer market that, now more than ever, seeks autonomy and control over their own experiences.

Reflexivity

The travel sector has been among the hardest hit by evolutions dictated by the past two years. As one destination or government opens up, others close. Airlines cancel flights - or entire routes. Travel agents and national carriers have collapsed under impossible financial burdens. Qualified staff must be retrained before airlines can even reinstate routes and flights.

Whilst in the early stages of the pandemic, it seemed rational to wait and see how global events would conclude. But now, two years on, it’s safe to say that disruption has become commonplace and that we ought to embrace it to survive and thrive. Reflexivity to demand is vital in harnessing this market. Seasons and trends are no longer easily predicted or follow logical patterns. They are fast to emerge and even faster to wane. To capitalise on these spikes of activity and opportunity, the structure and infrastructure of businesses in the travel sector must adapt.

 

User-Led

Adaptations to this shift must reflect the expectation of a user-led process. Placing control in the hands of the users necessitates design and infrastructure sympathising and reflecting with this expectation. So, what does that mean exactly? It means accepting that what you think you know, is no longer as accurate as it once was. It means that a lifetime of experience and customer insight in the travel industry has now been completely redefined. This dictates that to adapt and thrive in this new environment, the end-user must become the new expert.

The end-users will and should shape the new norm for the future of travel. But how does that reflect in a business approach to travel? End users are now the masters of their destinies, expect to be treated as such, and will seek and favour systems that allow them to act by this belief system. Antiquated systems that seek to control or define travel for them will continue to suffer.

P&O Cruises are a shining example of how the impacts of the travel sector can be harnessed to improve customer loyalty and pipeline sales. P&O Cruises Australia President Sture Myrmell said the company has “a big reservoir of loyal guests who are keen to cruise again as soon as it is possible to do so. Booking trends for the first part of 2022 are encouraging and compare well with the same period of pre-pandemic 2019”.

 

Summary

Price comparison sites, travel agencies, airlines and hotel booking sites are key features of the travel sector landscape. These business models require - now more than ever - a user-led design that places the power in the hands of the people. No longer can seasonal forecasts or annual trends be relied upon to deliver or regulate sales.

Sales spikes and troughs can occur suddenly and unexpectedly because of internal or external factors, such as governmental announcements, changes to airline policy, or spur-of-the-moment loopholes for foreign travellers. To prepare for, and capitalize on, this new world order design and infrastructure must facilitate a user-led approach to travel. P&O Cruises are a perfect example of how the downtime within the cruise ship industry was used wisely to prepare for a ‘new normal’ in the future of travel.

In the absence of forecastable material, the end-user becomes the new expert on the industry, and as such requires the power to act and control their experiences in a way that is suitable and pleasing to them. To allow them this control, a system that provides for ease and autonomous self-servicing must be prioritised. We are already starting to see the separation between the businesses that are proactive in this approach, compared to those that remain reactive.

Several established industry names have already fallen into administration, whilst others have prospered. For businesses that fall into the former camp, the time has never been riper to take the plunge and adapt to a new future in the travel business.


Visual Commerce: What it is and why it’s important

It’s hard to deny that we live in a visual world where the way a thing looks can and almost always will have a huge impact on how it is perceived. This goes for the front of a store or a house, often referred to as curb appeal, to what we see on social media platforms like Instagram. For an influencer image is everything.

Where the commerce bit comes into play has been hyper-relevant during the pandemic and as habits shift are becoming more and more important for any business that operates at kind of presence online.

It is essential where buyers may not or cannot have a chance to visit a brick-and-mortar store or handle products in person. They become entirely reliant on visuals and the days of just pictures are over.

 

Visual Commerce in a nutshell

It essentially involves using visual content, front and centre, for marketing, branding and sales purposes. It is core to the strategy for helping customers learn about products and create connections with the brand.

It includes way more than just product images. For it to sing, it needs to include high-resolution photography, videos, and augmented reality.

By adopting visual commerce you’re aiming to dramatically enhance the customer experience by offering more than just ‘regular’ visuals they’re either expecting or coming across when dealing with other retailers.

 

Here’s why customers love it

There are a bunch of reasons why customers gravitate toward visual commerce and here are just a few.

 

Drives Engagement & Purchases:

As mentioned before people are drawn toward things that look good or are interactive. Having compelling visuals attracts customers and encourages them to engage.

It only takes 13 milliseconds for the human brain to process an image, which is 60,000 times faster than text and it only takes 50 milliseconds for someone to form an opinion about what they’ve seen, like your website. If you’re trying to get information across images is a great way to do it.

And when we look at how it is shared, images produce 650% higher engagement than text-only, and they achieve an interaction rate of 87% compared to 4% or less for things that are text or links only.

When it comes to AR, 71% of shoppers said they would shop more often if they could use AR, 61% said they would choose to shop with stores that have AR over those without it and 72% of shoppers that used AR in their shopping journey said they purchased stuff they didn’t plan to buy, simply because of using AR.

 

Discovery and Education

Visual content is key to discovery and education for customers. Video tutorials can help solve problems, answer questions and drive desire whilst AR allows people to get closer to products that ordinarily can’t be picked up or seen in person.

And we’ve all been subject to that moment when we’re scrolling through Instagram and something makes us stop or even scroll back down to take a second look. That is the power of visuals and their ability to create a discovery moment.

70% of B2B buyers watch videos during the purchase process and 4 x as many consumers watch videos about a product rather than read about it. Generally, people are 85% more likely to buy a product after watching a product video and when it comes to AR, 77% of users said they use it to see product differences such as possible variations of colour and style and 65% use it to find out more information about a product.

 

So, what could it look like for you?

There are plenty of ways that it can be implemented using great images, video, and AR and of course, combining multiples into a single experience. This tends to be the case for the companies that are doing it well. Here are just a few examples that show it in action.

 

Configurators

These are becoming more and more popular with companies that offer products that can be ordered in customised configurations. A lot of car manufactures have adopted more advanced versions of these, but they can apply to just about any product where customisation or choice is part of the ordering process.

Tesla has a great example of a configurator at work. They have for the most part encouraged potential new owners to order their new cars online and as such have created a fantastic clean experience.

But they’re amongst great company. Manufacturers like BMW, Mercedes Benz, Porsche and Alfa Romeo all offer some kind of builder on their websites and the best combine it with a 360-product model, matched to the configuration so that people can experience the car from all angles.

 

 

Another company doing it well is Steelcase. Their range of home and office furniture is fantastic, and they offer the ability to match the accessories and finishing to match needs and interiors.

 

 

Again, combining the option of either 2D or 3D gives people the chance to interact further with the product during the ordering process.

 

Augmented Reality or AR

AR is a technology for many that is still somewhat unknown or misunderstood. The result of the pandemic and the popularity of games such as Pokemon Go has really driven interest from consumers and awareness from manufacturers and sellers.

There are plenty of companies already making great use of this technology by taking the 360-product models that others are using and allowing users to bring it into their homes or create try-on solutions.

One of those is Etsy. They rolled out the ability via their app to allow shoppers to try pictures for sale, in their homes, via AR.

 

 

Having this as an option means no more measuring tapes and trying to figure out if the picture will fit in the space you have. You can literally see it on the wall before you buy it. This is a great example of what AR can do to drive interaction and remove doubt from buyers’ minds.

Virtual try-on is another place where AR is really making strides. Be it a watch, shoes or sunglasses giving people the chance to get up close to products without the need to have to deal with shipping and returns is great not only for the customer as it is a lot more convenient, but businesses can save on the logistics and the environment benefits from not having to have extra parcels on the road that are essentially just going to do a great big loop.

One of those offering this service is Monc. They offer several of their sunglasses models as virtual try-ons from their website when using a mobile device. It allows a person to see what the glasses will look like on their face with an incredibly high level of accuracy, adapting to lighting and movement but they also offer the ability to see the glasses in 360 so that you can get up close with the detail of the product.

 

 

Video

When it comes to creating an incredible experience with exceptional video it is hard to beat Apple. It is so well incorporated into the total visual commerce experience that you can be forgiven for not even realising that you’re consuming video whilst navigating their website.

Every element where value can be enhanced using video, it has been implemented. They use it to tell stories and demonstrate features and functions teaching the users how to use their products as part of the product discovery process.

 

 

Another example of great use of video as part of the buying experience is being done by PrettyLittleThings. They use video in the form of catwalk videos. These show the clothes on real people moving and turning around in the items you’re looking at giving them a real sense of what they’ll be like to wear.

 

 

Most people are aware of the tricks of the trade when it comes to photography and by using video you remove any doubt that photoshop has been used to make the clothes look like they fit better than or that they have been size adjusted on the model with pins and clips to make them look better.

During our research, we came across entire threads on the internet where people were sharing links to sites that have this catwalk video option because they refused to shop with people online who did not have that option open to them.

 

360 Images

We have talked about this as part of configurators and within AR but they have a use in their own right. Giving people the option to view products, especially big ones, from all angles helps with decision making.

Heals have implemented this for their furniture and most notably with their sofas. When you load the product page, it is the first image you’re greeted with and it encourages you to drag the product around and take a look at it from all angles.

 

 

So, what are you waiting for?

We hope that we’ve been able to demonstrate the value that visual commerce has when it comes to creating incredible experiences and that more and more businesses will see that the longer, they take to adopt some of these tools and methods, the further behind their more forward-thinking competitors they’ll fall.

These things are not nice to have, they are expectations of the consumer and avoiding them is done at your own peril. It’s not too late to push forward and create memorable experiences people want to share.

And the good news is that if you’re serious about it and need help making it a reality, Eclipse can do just that. Come talk to us and let’s create more personalised experiences for your customers that genuinely make a difference.


Our Top 5 Most Read Posts in 2021

2021 is finally over and the new year has begun bringing with it the hope of normality and a return to life amongst our friends, family and work colleagues but we thought we'd take one last look back at our Top 5 Most Read Posts on our blog during 2021. Some of them date from earlier than last year and this highlights the value of great content.

We wrote a fair amount of articles over the year from opinion pieces on the industry to guides on how to get the most out of your digital store front through design and CRO and these 5 are the posts that our readers shared, engaged with and spent the most time with.

Here are the Top 5.

Convenience is Key for Customer Satisfaction

Read Post


The Good And Bad of Microcopy

The Good and Bad of Microcopy

Read Post


Person shopping on phone

Understanding the Buyers Journey and Why it is Important

Read Post


What will it take to Survive the Future of Retail

Read Post


6 Ways to find out what your Customers think about You.

Read Post

 

We hope you enjoyed all our posts and insights in 2021 and that you'll be joining us again this years as we've got even more great stuff planned.


Customer Experience Optimisation: Pivotal for the Recovery of the Travel Industry

The State of Travel

The world is desperate for some semblance of normality regarding travel. But the travel sector has been one of the hardest hit as a result of Covid-19, and a full recovery is far off. Due to both domestic and international restrictions, mass staff layoffs and sector bankruptcies, the travel sector is far from profitability and peak.

STA Travel and Specialist Leisure Group (running Shearings, and Cruise & Maritime Voyages) are examples of recent administrative closures since the outset of Covid-19. Global travel giant Flight Centre closed hundreds of underperforming high street offices during the pandemic. How then, are the end-users (holidaymakers) impacted? How can an entire sector and workforce bounce back from near obliteration, and do so swiftly? During this climate of hard lessons and even harder bottom lines, a handful of travel sector businesses flourished.

These businesses and their Covid-19 survival strategies offer a unique and valuable insight into how recovery for the wider industry might best be achieved. This article investigates exactly how and why these businesses were able to excel in such a complex and challenging sales environment. It aims to apply their approaches to a broader industry context, for the benefit of the travel sector (and end-users) as a whole.

 

Success Stories

The past two years saw profuse international coverage on Covid-19 cases aboard cruise ships. Often these ships were required to quarantine offshore for long periods, and passengers were restricted to their cabins for the duration of the quarantine period. It is no surprise that because of such coverage, the cruise ship market took a significant hit on current bookings, future sales, and the reimbursement of missed travel plans.

Despite this, however, two key industry players were able to stabilise and improve their market position. P&O Cruises and Cunard Line are Covid-19 success stories. They offer the wider travel industry not just a glimmer of hope for future recovery, but also a methodology to apply to accelerate that recovery. P&O Cruises Australia President Sture Myrmell said the company has “a big reservoir of loyal guests who are keen to cruise again as soon as it is possible to do so. Booking trends for the first part of 2022 are encouraging and compare well with the same period of pre-pandemic 2019”.

Cunard Line boasts their own Covid-19 Hub, which aims to promote ‘sailing with confidence’ amongst their loyal customers. Assurances relating to updated Covid-19 travel restrictions, travel flexibility options, booking guarantees and expectation management of onboard and onshore experiences all play a part in keeping their customers informed, inspired and faithful to the brand (Cunard Line, 2021). But these trust-building experiences are deceptively complex. They are not produced and promoted in a day. They are considered, strategic investments that serve their investors well in both good times and in bad. Such investments can be simple to overlook in times of booming business. But in times of negligible margins, such strategies can mark the difference between success and failure in the fates of many businesses.

 

Customer Experience Optimisation

The encouraging results of P&O Cruises and Cunard Lines in the face of adversity offer a roadmap to others in need of a strategic lifeline. Though each business, market share and audience are unique, broader parallels in learning can be applied for the benefit of other struggling businesses within the travel industry. For example, applying the principles of transparency, assurance, flexibility, and expectation management hold relevance to most other businesses.

Deeper strategic decisions and investments relating to the optimisation of customer experience then become the sticking point for those businesses willing to take survival strategies seriously or not. Much of the resistance comes from a lack of understanding of concepts and values. Decision-makers must empower themselves with knowledge on the concept of customer experience optimisation and learn from the success of others the value that such strategies offer to a business. Customer experience is not simply the services that they encounter during a transaction.

They are an ecosystem that includes attitudes, values, experiences, highs, lows, pleasant surprises, and disappointments. Understanding and valuing this ecosystem for your customers is pivotal. Incorporating this ideology into company culture and infrastructure is vital for the ecosystem to flourish. Investment in digital assets, customer service support, up-to-date information sources and communication lines to users are all part and parcel of this methodology.

 

Summary

Within a scarred industry, two leaders have emerged as front runners during the difficult times of Covid-19. P&O Cruises and Cunard Lines have demonstrated the value of applying a Customer Experience Optimisation strategy within their business. As an investment in growth as well as customer satisfaction, this approach has delivered positive results in the buffering against a perilous market. It has also seen growth within an otherwise bleak industry outlook. The travel industry as a whole ought to take notice of this approach and apply similar learnings within their strategic plans. At a time when the focus is on recovery, it is easy to forget that if the focus remains on the customer, recovery will surely follow.

 

Need a Little Help or got Some Questions?

At Eclipse we’ve got an incredibly talented, multi-award-winning bunch of people ready to help you and your business. Our Experience team are experts at this stuff and can guide you or offer advice and answer questions that you might have. All you need to do is reach out and talk to us.

There’s not much that can’t be solved with a few cups of tea, some bright people and a (currently virtual) whiteboard.


The Importance of Personalisation

The picture in the news media around retail spending, especially in-store is not great but online is still standing strong and is substantially higher than it was in February 2020, before the pandemic started.

It’s just more signs that shopping habits have shifted and even when spending is down, the people that are shopping are choosing to do it online first.

What this means for customers is more choice and for those who are running online commerce stores, more competition.

It is your job as a business owner to find a way to stand out in the crowd, create incredible customer experiences and win and keep new and existing customers. There are a few ways to do this, and we’ve talked about several of them on this blog but one that we think needs a special mention, especially since it is so powerful, is personalisation.

 

What is Personalisation?

Optimizely explains it well. “Website Personalisation is the process of creating customised experiences for visitors to a website. Rather than providing a single, broad experience, website personalisation allows companies to present visitors with unique experiences tailored to their needs and desires.”

The concept behind this isn’t new. We’ve been exposed to it for years. It might be that your favourite café or restaurant just knows what you’re going to order, or they can suggest something new based on what you’ve had in the past. It might even be that whilst you’re in a store your experience changes based on what you’re looking at, the time you’ve been in the store, how you’re dressed or who you’re with. They are all cues to the sales team to offer help, make suggestions and recommendations and just make your shopping experience feel like it is tailored to you.

 

Making It Digital

As Optimizely puts it “Website personalisation attempts to use data to take that same level of one-on-one attentiveness and translate it into the digital world”

It could look like this:

  • Online retailers provide targeted offers to shoppers based on browsing and buying behaviour.
  • Travel sites can present visitors with promotions based on the current weather or season.
  • News and other media outlets can surface specific videos to viewers based on where they live.

But it can also go beyond just the website and even into mediums such as email, linking it back to a personalised experience online.

 

Why it’s Important

Customers’ expectations have shifted and continue to shift through this incredible change we’re going through.  So much so that it is as the point that people expect a personal digital experience that mirrors the typical level of personalisation, they receive offline. They want to spend their money with people that get them, make their lives easier and offer incredible levels of convenience. And this is not just our opinion. Research continues to tell us this is what people want.

 

It’s in the Numbers

We’ve scoured the research and pulled together the numbers that you need to know. They’re everything that will convince you that personalisation is the way forward and they’ll help you build a business case for why it needs to be included in your strategy.

We’ve put them together in a handy e-book that you can download and keep or read it online if you’d like. Just click the image below and the pdf will open in a new tab for you.

 

 

Need Some Help Making it all Work?

If you’re ready to start working on ways to create incredibly personalised experiences we’re here to help. Our experience team has worked with very well-known names on their personalisation and have gotten some awesome results. You’ll find a case study of just one of them in the e-book, but we have other case studies in our work section too.

All it takes is for you to reach out and one of our experts can talk you through how to get started.


Design Is Boring

There is a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things.

 

I lied – the above statement is not at all true. Yes, there are certain things we know we shouldn’t do, or we should avoid when designing experiences but to say that there’s a golden bullet is completely wrong.

There are guiding principles and ‘best practice’ approaches that we’re led to believe is the correct thing to do, but does that mean we should treat these as rules?

Absolutely not. If that was the case, then how do we advance the industry? How would humanity move forward if this approach was always taken? In the well-weathered and referenced words of Henry Ford:

 

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”

 

So why would this be the case? It’s because the car didn’t exist at the time and no one else had the foresight or confidence to think beyond what they already knew.

This is also the danger with competitor research and analysis. I’ve lost count of the number of times I hear “I like what this business does so we want to do that”. This raises several questions; “Do you want to be your competitor? And if that’s the case, what differentiates you as a business? Why would anyone buy from you over your competitor?”.

In some instances, there’s a genuine answer to this based on price or faster delivery, but there’s a limit to how far this can go. It’s impossible to compete infinitely on price and certainly huge logistic challenges to promise things like next day delivery.

 

 Best Practice Should be your Foundation, not your Goal

This isn’t a post to completely disregard the proven approaches and methodologies. This is a post highlighting the fact this should be your starting point. The whole idea of starting these best practices is to create something that ‘works’.

But creating something that ‘works’ doesn’t provide a memorable experience. Just creating something that ‘works’ doesn’t build brand loyalty. Building something that just ‘works’ is emotionless and non-descript. In the words of Charlie Chaplin:

 

“To those who can hear me, I say, do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress.  Don't give yourselves to these unnatural men! Machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Let us use that power. Let us all unite!”

Please note that the above quote has been shortened for succinctness

 

 Where Process Makes Sense

There are instances much like the checkout process where having something that ‘just works’ is a good thing. Once the user has got to this level of their journey, it’s about a transaction.

In essence, it’s a process, so recognisable patterns and best practice makes it much easier to complete that process. In many instances you don’t even need a checkout anymore – you can simply use PayPal or mobile payments to complete that transaction without having to engage any further.

 

Where Process Doesn’t Work

On the flip side, the browsing of products is a much more emotive experience. If your shopping experience is the same as everyone else, how will they remember you? Why would they come back? The same rules apply in physical retail experiences and can be seen all over the place

 

 

Apple is a classic example of this. The grey storefront with towering glass panels and a giant Apple logo front and centre is a staple look of their stores.

 

 

And the inside the stores themselves are just as striking. The minimal look, drawing all attention and lack of checkouts is a staple to their physical retail spaces. Even the uniform alignment of the tables is carefully considered to create smooth flowing footfall around their stores.

The same can be said about Victoria’s Secret and their bold pink and black statement so they capture the attention of passing footfall. It’s recognition. The association of a statement look or mark with a brand.

 

What’s in a Colour?

The same risks of identity can also be applied to colour psychology. There’s a very particular reason that so many of the largest social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn use blue as a brand colour.

Blue is associated with trust and stability – something that all social media platforms can never be short of. The same can be applied to many other brands such as IBM, Intel, American Express, Salesforce and Visa. All these brands are dealing with sensitive or private information and need to do whatever they can to build trust and confidence in their users.

When you apply the same colour theory to other industries such as fashion, you have very similar issues. You could arguably say that the clothes and apparel should make the brands stand out, or the larger brands relying on reputation.

However, at a face-value brand level, so many high-end websites look the same. Standard patterns, excessive use of black to portray ‘luxury’, small typeface to draw attention to the clothes and away from the price. This is an example of brands following one of two approaches; we should do this because we aspire to be an elite label, or this is what we’ve always done.

Neither of these is a measure of success and unless brands begin accepting experimentation, it’s going to remain this way for a while. The issue with this is that this removes multiple levels of visual hierarchy making and all levels of identity. Suddenly, these brands are merely competing and relying on status, more than that of having their own identity.

 

 

The use of colour doesn’t only apply to the brand, but also the UI in which they sell their products as shown here:

 

 

All the images here are from each of these brands (that’s right, they’re not the same site), but they all start to look the same. All use black and white in excess and lack a visual hierarchy or identity. That could switch around the logos on any of these sites and you wouldn’t know the difference.

So now we’ve moved from a conversation of ‘best practice’ to a conversation of ‘commonality’ in UI, but both are interlinked.

 

Take a Piece of Advice from Apple and ‘Think Different’

So, let’s hope brands open themselves to more creative execution and innovation and avoiding getting sucked into a copy and paste future of faceless, legacy-reliant brands.

Brands, be proud of who you are and what you stand for. Be seen and be noticed. After all, a world without innovation and identity is a world that’s going nowhere.


The Power of User-Generated Content

It should come as little surprise to literally everyone that the pandemic and its continued persistence has significantly shifted the buying habits of all consumers. This has left many brands scratching their heads and scrambling to find ways to get these consumers attention, bring them to their websites and turn these visits from just a casual browse to that of buying stuff.

The big question here is have the effects of 2020, and even a big chunk of 2021, fundamentally shifted and permanently changed how people discover, shop, and engage with businesses?

 

New Research is Helping Provide an Answer

A new research report from the team at Stackla offers insight into this and reveals that not only is the increase in online shopping here to stay but also, that today’s consumers want brands to provide them with a more authentic, personalised shopping experience.

The report, Post-Pandemic Shifts in Consumer Shopping Habits: Authenticity, Personalization and the Power of UGC, surveyed more than 2,000 consumers across the US, UK and Australia. It found that consumers “increasingly seek out and value the social content that real customers are creating about brands. This means that visual social proof—like user-generated content (UGC)— is more important now than ever for brands to leverage as part of their online marketing strategy.”

We’re going to look at some key findings of the report, but we encourage you to head over and download a copy for yourself. It has a ton of great information that will help you develop solid strategies when thinking about how to deal with this huge consumer shift.

 

Creating the Authentic Experience Shoppers are looking for

In the report, Stackla found that 88% of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding which brands, they like and support (with 50% saying it’s very important) and that 83% of consumers believe retailers need to provide more authentic shopping experiences to customers like them.

That’s great we hear you say but how do we do that? Well, the report can help with that too. Let’s start by looking at content.

We know content is incredibly powerful when it comes to marketing and advertising with some of the most successful businesses spending 40% of their entire marketing budget on it but is it being spent on the right kind.

Stackla Report: Post-Pandemic Shifts in Consumer Shopping Habits: Authenticity, Personalization and the Power of UGC

A strong majority of businesses are either already spending large amounts of budget on influencer marketing strategies these days or are looking to include it in their marketing strategy. However, as you can see from the image above, only 10% of consumers say influencer content resonates as authentic with them, and a mere 19% say that brand-created content is the most authentic.

The real authenticity winner, with 59% of consumers, is content created by other consumers or in other words user-generated content (UGC). It is by far and away the most authentic type of content — meaning people are 3.1x more likely to say user-generated content is authentic compared to brand-created content and 5.9x more likely to say it's the most authentic compared to influencer content.

 

And it Does More than just Offer Authenticity

UGC is clearly ticking the box for the consumer, but it also has a big impact on their decision to make a purchase.

In the report, it was found that UGC is 8.7x more impactful in influencing purchasing decisions than influencer content. 79% of people say UGC highly impacts their purchasing decisions, while a very small 9% said influencer content impacts their purchases.

Stackla Report: Post-Pandemic Shifts in Consumer Shopping Habits: Authenticity, Personalization and the Power of UGC

And it doesn’t stop there, UGC just keeps on giving. 72% of consumers say real customer photos and videos are the content they most want to see on eCommerce sites when making purchasing decisions and 80% of consumers say they’d be more likely to purchase a product from an online store if its website had photos and videos from real customers.

It is hard to argue with those numbers. UGC is clearly an area that if you’re not currently thinking about you might want to start, and here is the reason why. 58% of consumers have left an eCommerce store without purchasing because the site didn’t have customer reviews or photos.

 

UGC is Easier than You Might Think

Consumers are happy to engage with brands that want to share their content and they’re eager for the content they create to be seen and used by their favourite brands.


Stackla Report: Post-Pandemic Shifts in Consumer Shopping Habits: Authenticity, Personalization and the Power of UGC

As you can see, consumers would grant a brand permission to use an image or video they posted of clothing or accessories (58%), a home goods product (58%), a beauty/health/wellness product (54%), a sporting goods product (53%) or a recent trip/excursion (52%) throughout their marketing.

And there are rewards for using this content outside of the ones we’ve already talked about.

43% of consumers — and 47% of Gen Z — say they would be more likely to continue engaging with and purchasing from a brand if it shared their photos or videos throughout its marketing.

 

The Full Report has so Much More

We’ve just scratched the surface of the insights in this report and again we’d encourage you to head over and download a copy for yourself. You’ll find a stack of insights on the importance of personalisation within the shopping experience and why it is so important as well as key insights at the industry level.

 

Putting it Into Action

Hopefully, you’ve seen the overwhelming benefits of including UGC into your strategy and now you’re thinking about how to make it a reality.

The Experience team at Eclipse is here to help. We can work with you to define the best way to include it in the user journey and make it part of the personalisation that your site offers. All you need to do is reach out to us and we can start talking options.


CX, UX and UI. What’s the difference?

If you’re in the world of digital commerce or to be honest delivering anything via the medium of digital, you’ve no doubt heard these 3 terms before. These are often used interchangeably and can mean different things to different people.

The news here is that they aren’t but when you look at things from the perspective of someone who doesn’t work with these things every day, it’s easy to see how people get confused with terminologies that have similar meanings yet are fundamentally different.

So, were here to clear up any confusion. We’ll explain these terms individually and show up how they are related.

 

CX or Customer Experience

We’ve talked about Customer experience before in some detail, but we’ll give a quick overview here for context.

Customer experience (CX) is closely linked to user experience (UX), but there is a difference. Unlike UX which focuses solely on a customer’s satisfaction with a product or service, CX is centred on the customer's entire experience. Think of it as a large circle that wraps itself around UX.

It is fundamental to user experiences in different places and at different times. A consumer can have a bunch of different experiences with the same brand. CX is a combination of all these, across all channels where you as a brand engage with your customers.

Because customer experience covers all these different user experiences, it doesn’t just concern your online channels, but in-store ones as well. Great brands often go the extra mile to establish a good CX, aligning different channels such as social media and customer service.

A thing to note here, as we mentioned in a previous blog, customer experience is not customer service. Customer service is a user experience that falls into the customer experience circle.

 

UX or User Experience

The term user experience has an interesting history.

It first appeared when Donald Norman, the acclaimed UX design expert wrote about it in his book, The Design of Everyday Things. It was first published in 1988 and marked a shift from the previous term “user-centred system design” where instead of focusing on the system itself and the aesthetics of the interface, Norman concentrated on the needs of the user.

It wasn’t until the early 90s when Norman joined Apple Computer first as a fellow, and then as a “user experience architect” that the term made its way into a job title.

According to Donald Norman “User experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”

Looking at that definition it doesn’t make mention of tech or the internet. It’s not surprising really because the world wasn’t so digitised back when it was defined. While in the original sense of the definition UX could include any engagement of prospects and customers with a brand, its definition has become strictly digital. It is pretty clear to now see how the confusion between UX and CX can come about.

If we take it to the brass tacks, user experience (UX) at its core has the purpose of optimising a product or service to the total satisfaction of the customer. It achieves this goal by enhancing the usability, accessibility, and enjoyment of whatever is being offered.

UX should create a smooth journey for customers. This journey will encompass your customers visiting your website, browsing around, selecting a product, and navigating to the checkout. But it doesn’t end there. It also covers the confirmation of the order, delivery, and customer services. Again, when you look at this you can see how the confusion with CX can happen.

Fundamentally, UX is what helps users accomplish their goals and solve a particular problem they might have.

 

UI or User Interface but also User Interaction

We’re going to need you to stay with us a little here as we’re about to go down a bit of a rabbit hole.

When you look up UI, you may be faced with either user interface or user interaction as the answer. They are not the same thing, but they’re very very closely related. Essentially you can’t have one without the other, but you can alter one without having to touch the other.

User interface design focuses on the design of the visual interface, user interaction design focuses on the design of the global interaction behaviour of the system.

To add in a further complication some people have started to refer to user interaction as interaction design or IxD. Either way, we will explain what they both are and how they link right now, and we’ll attempt to simplify it as much as possible.

 

Let’s start with User Interaction

As the name suggests, it is concerned with how a user interacts with something. As an example, if you look at a website or an app the user interaction would be things like deciding if the user should swipe, tap, press, or maybe even hold to achieve an outcome.

Think Tinder with the interaction of swiping left, right or up. The user interaction or interaction design here was about being able to achieve a result, quickly and easily without the need to find the button on the screen. At this point, it is not about what it looks like but how the person is going to do what needs to be done to achieve a goal.

 

Now Let’s talk User Interface

This is where the visual aspect comes into play. You may have designed a great interaction but if the design of information on screen does not lend itself to the interaction that has been designed, you’re going to be delivering a poor user experience.

The UI should be putting the relevant information in a place that makes sense and is easy to read and understand. It should be making sure it is accessible and that colours and fonts are not creating issues for users making it unusable.

It’s about layout, imagery and animations coming together in a coherent design formula that when supported with intuitive user interaction make for an exceptional user experience.

If we go back to Tinder as the example, the user interface of having the large image front and centre with the information you need to make a quick decision on the front page make the interaction of swiping left, right or up easy.

The addition of tab indicators across the top of the picture let people know there are more pictures to see and that tapping on the left or right of the image moves the user onto the next.

Without that piece of user interface design, the interaction is dead. There would be nothing to tell a user that the tap is the key to more information. And at the same time, they have added a small icon to indicated that there is other information hidden within the profile.

Giving it a tap opens it up but if the icon was not there and you were a first-time user, you may completely miss that interaction or possibly stumble upon it by accident.

 

Bringing it all together

Hopefully, we’ve managed to offer a clear explanation of each of the elements and how they link together. It is easy to see how they can be confused but when you understand that they all need to coexist in harmony and that they all hold an equal weight of importance you’re able to harness them and create truly special things for your customers.

Just remember that UI is a part of UX, which is a part of CX. All of these are dependent on one another, and you can create an engaging experience when they’re in sync.

Exceptional customer experience needs exceptional user experiences, which requires an exceptional user interface and interactions.

And at Eclipse, this is exactly what we do. We make good things happen by putting data and your customers at the heart of every strategy, design, and experience decision to create more personalised experiences that make a genuine difference.

If you need a hand with any of these elements, we’re here to help. Just reach out to our Experience team and we can get to creating exceptional experiences together.


Tactics to Consider as you Prepare for Christmas 2021

You may be asking why we’re talking about Christmas in September but for a lot of businesses this may be a make or break moment for them and so far, the news has been packed with potential supply issues and price increases as a result.

What we’ve got for you in this post are some things you can do to get customers coming to the site, keep them there and make it as easy as possible for them to find the perfect gift, drop it in their cart and checkout without any worries.

 

Convenience is King

We’ve talked about this a lot, but it is super important. Customers are putting this so high on their list of reasons why they choose to shop with the stores they do, you can’t ignore it.

And when you think about Christmas it is even more important. People have several gifts that they need to buy and if the process is made too difficult for them, they go and look for an easier way somewhere else.

Some of the things we’ll talk about below will have long term benefits that will continue to pay back well after the Holiday period is over.

 

Offer Inspiration

We all know that one person who has everything and when it comes to finding them a gift, we’re left with no place to start.

Helping those customers is easy. Take the time to create curated lists of gifts that filter into different categories. It’s super easy to do and removes a step that the customer must take when looking around what you have to offer.

Think prices. Having options to see gifts under different pricing takes people right to a selection that meets budget restrictions. Create an option for Him and for Her. You could even break it down by activity. Gifts for those who love to cook or love to garden. The options are endless and will differ depending on what it is you sell but customers love it.

By creating these filter options you’re taking people straight to the stuff they’re looking for, removing things that aren’t relevant and offering a level of personalization. It removes frustration and reduces the chances of people bouncing off the website from a perception that you just don’t have what they’re looking for.

I can tell you I am one of these shoppers. There are websites that I will always go back to specifically because they have gift finders. If I don’t know where to start, they become the start. And I do this year-round, not just at Christmas. Birthdays, Easter, you name it. If I must buy a gift and I need a little help, these sites will get a visit and almost always a purchase from me.

 

Create Bundles and Make Related Buys Super Relevant

As a retailer, we’re always looking for ways to increase the average order value. Creating gifting bundles is a great way to do this.

Fashion retailers do some of this by highlighting ‘complete the look’ on a single product where the model is wearing other items. If you can do the same for your product range, do it. Make it easier by giving them the option to click a single button and add it all to the cart without the need for going to multiple pages.

This also works well with gift foods or interior décor. If you’ve gone through the hassle of creating beautiful images that create a lifestyle for people, make it easy to get everything they see in the picture.

And when it comes to related products as add-ons things like batteries, cables, and things that make the first product work are a must. Everybody hates buying something and then not being able to use it because they need to buy something else for that to happen.

Make it clear that they will need this extra item for it to function. However, be smart about this. Make sure that the original item does not have it included.

I was subject to this just after buying my new house. I had to do some renovation work in the cloakroom that required a toilet and taps. When I picked what I wanted I was given a ‘you’ll need this’ list, so I clicked them all and added them to the basket, but something got me to pause, and I went back and looked at the individual items like the taps and the basin.

I had been told you needed to buy the flex pipes for the tap and the waste for the basin, I assume because 99% of them don’t come with these extras, but the ones I had picked did include them so I would have ended up with two of everything if I had just gone with it and then I would have been left with the need to return things and a feeling of having been cheated.

You can’t always shortcut these things with a one size fits all in the back of your website. Triple check and make sure that what you’re telling people they need, they actually need.

 

Remove Doubt as Early as Possible

One of the biggest barriers to a person buying, especially over Christmas, is uncertainty around delivery and returns.

Customers want to make sure that what they’re buying is going to arrive on time and should there be an issue it can be returned or exchanged easily.

By putting this information front and centre on the website, so that it can be found easily, you’re removing this doubt. And if you keep the delivery information updated so that they are aware of the last time that they can order to guarantee delivery before a particular date, you will pick up last-minute shoppers and get those who might be on the fence to a decision point faster.

Put the messages in multiple places and if there are products that have special delivery restrictions or returns guidelines, put that info on the product pages. This kind of information can’t be over-communicated.

And if you’re offering extended return times, tell people. It might just get them to buy from you rather than another retailer.

Another thing that is important here is information about delays, should they arise. Being totally transparent about these kinds of things builds trust and should reduce the amount of inbound contact about these issues.

 

Make it Easy for People to Checkout

This is another frustration for people that are shopping across different sites whilst Christmas shopping. Having to go through a 400 step sign up process sends people in the other direction.

Having a guest checkout with the ability to turn it into an account after the purchase is a much easier way to get people through. The hook to create the account is to keep up to date with the delivery of the items but having to create an account before you can do things like see delivery costs will kill a sale.

As important as the guest checkout is the payment options you offer. Offering options such as Apple or Google Pay and PayPal Express essentially gives people a ‘one click’ checkout. It pulls all the information around delivery and billing details and sticks them right into the checkout.

I use this all the time. I never have to find my wallet to triple check numbers on cards and during the hunt for the wallet rethink my purchase.

If you don’t offer these yet, think about getting them on before Christmas shopping really kicks off. Those who shop via mobile will love you for it.

 

Create a Gifting Experience

If people are buying gifts and sending them directly to the people getting them, having the option to have something gift wrapped is brilliant. Also including the option to include a gift receipt and keep invoices out of the delivery is great too.

Gift wrapping creates a great impression not only for you as the retailer but for the person getting the parcel and for the person that bought it.

A few years back when I was still in New Zealand, I bought some gifts from Harvey Nichols and had them gifted wrapped and sent as Christmas gifts to my sisters. I was blown away by how easy it was and when I got a chance to see what had been delivered, I was amazed. My sisters loved it and whenever I need to send a gift to someone and want them to have an incredible opening experience, they’re my go-to.

Having this as an option can help you stand out in the crowd, and it is also a great upsell opportunity.

 

Together they Create an Exceptional Experience

Having all or some of these will help give your customers a great shopping experience. The easier it is for them to do what it is they want, the more likely they are to do it.

And if you’re not sure where to start with these things, reach out to us. We’re here to help and our Experience team have a bag full of tricks to give you the edge.


What is Aspire? (and why you need it)

Making the best-uary, of your estuary

“I have a dream…and that dream evolves based on new data and learnings”

Just to clarify in case my attempt at creating a clever headline has confused anyone. Much like rivers flowing into a single point, I’m referring to aligning multiple workstreams and projects into a single vision.

As businesses increasingly compete and challenge each other to reach the top of their respective markets, one of the challenges faced is throwing things at the fan and seeing what sticks. This type of action can have great results but ultimately results in a completely disjointed experience on their website.

These are some of the reasons why, at Eclipse, we offer a programme we call Aspire.

 

What is Aspire?

We all love to dream. We all have our own interpretations of what ‘great’ or ‘next-level’ looks like. This ultimately creates extensive discussions and debates on who is right and who is wrong (hint: neither answer is correct until proven).

The cause of debate is generally around where time, effort and budget should be spent. But let’s wait a moment…let’s take a step back – what is the objective? Is this aimed at a short-term gain or long-term sustainability of the business? Whatever the answer may be, projects often head off in different directions and create a disjointed experience.

Think about it. I’m sure you can remember multiple times when you’ve been on a website and one part of the site feels significantly better/different than the other. “Meh” you may be thinking…as long as it works. This view, I can absolutely tell you, is short-term thinking and can seriously damage your long-term objectives.

This can lead to a stage when you feel you really need to invest heavily in an unplanned redesign of the whole website, or you turn users away as the journey no longer makes sense. You may not even realise it till late on as visitor numbers have gradually (or sharply) declined and you’re not sure why.

Our Aspire programme is about going beyond the short-term. Aspire is about removing all the barriers of today, be that technology, process, budget or limitations to create the best experience you can envisage for your customers.

Aspire is about making you stand out in the market as being the “best of the best”…the “Top Gun!” (apologies Tony Scott). Most importantly, Aspire is about aligning all experiments, changes or parallel workstreams within teams or organisations to ensure everything and everyone is driving towards achieving the same vision.

Whether you’re a single team running multiple channels of experimentation, or multiple teams operating individually, Aspire is here to help you align your workstreams to create consistency from both a UX (User Experience), UI (User Interface) and CX (Customer Experience) perspective.

 

How often should you run Aspire programme?

This is a really important question to ask. Aspire creates this long-term vision, but this is a constantly evolving thing.

As you learn more about how your customers are interacting with your website, and you as a business, this vision will evolve. This can be due to new technology hitting the market, change of circumstance or even changes in the political and public landscape (particularly relevant over the last year).

We monitor this through behavioural analysis using data and predictive patterns. “X has just been announced – how can we mitigate the impact now, so it doesn’t affect us going forward” is just one example of how that may emerge.

 

Cheesy analogy time…

A post like this wouldn’t be the same without a cheesy analogy, so here we go. Think carefully about how you align business objectives. I’ll compare Aspire to rockets and fireworks.

The short-term way of thinking can be seen as a firework. All these channels shooting off in all directions. All are exciting, all are great and can end up providing a beautiful array of colour and success, however, ultimately fade away and come floating down to earth as ash.

Aspire on the other hand is comparable to a rocket. Aspire is your launchpad, that looks beyond the initial excitement of colour and wonderment, to a longer-term future that shoots you into orbit and allows you to stay there.

The Aspire approach can be run as an individual programme, but we aim to use this thinking in everything we do. We consider the pros and cons based on your individual business objectives and goals.

So, if you’d like to have a chat about how this can work for you, give us a call and we’d be more than happy to see how we can help.