Understanding & Designing for Cross Channel User Experience

February 19, 2013
Cozy Bakery/coffee Shop Interior On A Snowing Winter Day

In this day and age we’re used to seeing ecommerce companies putting brick and mortar retailers out of business – Amazon took out Borders and Netflix brought Blockbuster to its knees.  The question is, are brick-and-mortar stores passé?  It doesn’t seem that way if online-only stores like EBay, Etsy, Piperlime, Bonobos, and Warby Parker are all opening physical locations, according to a recent New York Times article.  So how does a business cater to customers across online websites, mobile and tablets (including apps and mobile-optimized websites) and physical stores?  The key is to keep in mind that customer experiences across all channels are interconnected so the user experience must align cross-channel.

An example of a business that takes advantage of cross-channel user experience is Kate Spade, a women’s fashion line. Kate Spade has brick and mortar stores, a regular website and a mobile site.  Tied together they all promote a very fashion-forward, vibrant, affable, and effortless brand image.

Kate Spade’s regular website features bold blocks of color, a layout that uses the space well and draws equal interest to both shop and blog.  The site is easy to navigate, allowing users to quickly delve into products of interest.

Kate Spade’s mobile site has an automated slideshow, elements of color, and tall, easy to finger-tap buttons, laid out vertically for a quick thumb scroll – easy-breezy just like the brand. The buttons highlight the categories that are most clicked on in the online website and further expand to include subcategories when clicked on.

Kate Spade stores are incredibly colorful and hint at a lifestyle worth aspiring to.  Salespeople are known for being helpful and candid.  Parting with $500 for a dress becomes a casual and friendly affair.

The visual union of all these platforms is done primarily through the use of color and patterned layouts. The fabrics that are used in the clothing are threaded thematically into the desktop website and mobile site. The choice of menu items, e.g. handbags, clothing, shoes is very graphic-heavy and (with an example picture of each), evident in both online and mobile versions. When clicking through to particular items, you can see how they combine to form potential group purchases.  For example, you can see that a pair of gold high heels pair well with a certain blue dress.  Similarly, the stores are divided and designed very carefully with shoes and clothing in their respective parts of the store but interspersed throughout to show potential combination purchases as well.  All-in-all, user experience

is emphasized through the use of thematic color and ease of use – whether through quickly tapping/clicking on categories or a welcoming interaction with a sales person.

This seamless blending of online and offline customer experiences is exactly what consumers have come to expect and what businesses are preparing for.  The New York Times writes of the online clothing and shoe site, Piperlime, opening a physical store: “Design was a focus, and white signs throughout the store give messages in the same fonts, color and language as the site’s: ‘Rachel Zoe’s Picks,’ ‘Girl on a Budget.’ Design details, like a pigeon eating birdseed, are rendered in the site’s signature lime green.”

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