Cross-Channel Design: thinking and practice


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Simon Norris' presentation from Viscom in October 2013.

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  • Nomensa opening slide.
    Guten Morgen.
  • I’m a digital guy. Since 1995 I have been researching and designing digital technologies.
    My background is biology, psychology and cognition. I’m interested in designing humanistic technology hence our strap-line ‘humanising technology.
    One of my passions is understanding why we use technology and the meaning it represents in our lives.
  • Title: Cross-Channel Design: thinking and practice.
    Information Architecture has become ecosystems. Everything has changed. Complexity and data now rule!
    The physical and digital worlds are becoming increasingly ‘blended’ and as designers we need to understand how we can successfully embed digital into an organisation completely. This idea transcends thinking about websites, apps, services, products or even interactions. We need to take an ‘ecological’ perspective as well as an healthy dose of architectural thinking.
  • The inauguration of Pope Francis on 19th March 2013.
    They are not candles but lights from smart devices.
    The world in 2013 is very different compared with the previous inauguration of Pope Benedict in 2005. Today we can take photos and share them immediately something that was harder to do in 2005. Our world is infinitely more connected.
    So how different is our world becoming?
  • In Japan people can shop for food shopping by just scanning bar codes. Not just in stores but places that once would have seemed ludicrous to shop from e.g. underground railway stations!
  • People can choose a phone by looking at an image of a phone and scanning a QR code.
  • A Marks and Spencer virtual boutique in France using touch screens allowing people to look at style combinations which may also be connected to loyal schemes and reward programmes.
    Technology allows relationships to develop in non-traditional ways.
    The world is different.
  • So, if the store exists online, on my mobile phone or in a bar code then...
    Where is the store?
  • We know the store exists when we look Google Maps street view because we can see stores all over the map on all the roads and corners.
    An example of the Oxford Street area in London.
  • Oxford Street area as a satellite view shows a different perspective. A different layer of meaning. These different layers or views reveal the importance on ‘data’. It also reveals that stores are part of a distribution process.
  • The House of Fraser store in my home town of Bristol in Cabot Circus. It’s positioned so lots of people pass it and know where it sits within the whole complex!
  • A physical store is composed of many layers. There is a physical layer; a information layer; and, a functionality layer.
  • There is also a human layer.
    In the human layer there are employees and customers.
    Customers also can operate under a number of modes including information seeking; buying; browsing, etc. Whereas both employees and customers can be engaged in relationship management.
    Fundamentally, in the human layer there is a lot of behaviour going on.
  • There is also a digital layer.
    This may include websites, apps, sale systems, CRM systems, stock systems and the digital ‘bells and whistles’ e.g. virtual boutiques.
    Whilst this represents a good start it is not what will persist. We need to think ecologically and how we relate to places, systems and people together.
  • The dots between products, sales and CRM all need to be joined-up.
    This idea is called the Golden Thread and it was conceived by Jason Hobbs (Nomensa Director of IA).
  • Again, Where is the store? Online or on the high street?
    Apple understand ecosystems and totally ‘get’ how people, technology and branding fit into the ecosystem equation.
  • Designing for multiple devices with a responsive web design.
    Not only is there a connection between the physical store and the ecommerce website.
    The store can also exist across multiple devices, in multiple environments, for a multitude of purposes.
    The idea of ‘multiplicity’ becomes very important when we take an ecological view.
  • A typical Argos store front.
    There is a phrase that is used in the UK - ‘Argos it’!
  • A close-up of the store front window promotes a range of channels to ‘Argos it’ including brochure, computer and phone.
  • Jon Fisher and I conducted research into the Cross-Channel experience provided by Agros.
    We wanted to evaluate how consistent the experience was between the different channels.
    We published the study as part of an article titled: Sense-making in Cross-channel Design ( )
  • What’s the issue?
  • Information Architecture is a great way to consider the bigger picture and join the dots between people, channels, services, products and environments.
    Resmini and Rosati have written a fantastic book titled Pervasive Information Architecture and outlined 5 cross-channel information architecture heuristics:
    - Place Making
    - Consistency
    - Resilience
    - Reduction
    - Correlation
  • Place-Making: There’s a difference between space and place.
    A house is a space and a home is a place. What we want to create are homes NOT houses. You need to figure out what the role of the store is within the larger relationship a customer has with the brand.
    Facebook is a great example of a place.
  • Consistency: Halo the computer game was one of the first instances of building a community around multiple games that existed both on your console, in your living room and online via websites visited by the broader community.
    The developers of Halo were the pioneers of digital ecosystems before Apple and Google.
    Consistency is the ability of the system to remain relevant and real to a user regardless of channel. Consistency is achieved when relevance remains when a person moves across multiple channels.
  • Resilience: A classic Escher image.
    The logic and meaning of a system needs to be robust enough to withstand changes in channel, e.g. whether adding or removing channels, etc.
    If we had robust enough systems in the first place mobile wouldn’t be such a big deal however the pendulum has swung the other way with approaches like mobile-first.
    NB: When we says systems we mean architectures and NOT IT or CRM systems.
  • Reduction: Any channel can reduce the relevance for its role in the bigger picture i.e. it can stand alone or together meaningfully for users.
    Reduction is not about the amount of information but how the information is organised.
  • Correlation: An image of birds flocking to either forage or preparing to migrate.
    In the same way that birds will migrate to warmer climates so instinctively do people. We tend to choice the paths of least resistance and greatest meaning.
    Correlation emphasises journeys across channels over hierarchies within channels. Synchronistic movements across the space that holds the channels or places we cohabit.
  • A typical business process diagram produced by an analysts.
    They know that traditional systems need to span channels e.g. the traceability required when a customer complaint begins on a call centre and is resolved in a store and/or feedback gather via the website at a later stage.
    However, a great experience is more than traditional systems. Business Analysts tend to focus on efficiency and effectiveness for the business and not for the customer.
    This is where design thinking can be really useful.
  • Jon Fisher’s Meaning map. A great method for representing and understanding your channels and the interactions that occur.
    Channel interactions can be either sequential or simultaneous. Understanding the types of interactions that occur is a great way to provide a meaningful channel experience.
  • So, again, where is the store?
  • Perhaps the store actually exists in the mind of the user?
  • Banks are starting to look very different. They are becoming less transactional and more customer-friendly. What has spurred this shift?
    In the later 90’s early 2000’s banks thought that online banking would replace the branch. By 2005 they realised this wasn’t the case that sales and complex tasks were still better performed int he branch. They discovered that although online banking had a very important role the branch remained the corner store of the customer relationship.
  • The Physical, Digital and the Human layers must form one harmonious whole (experience).
    Appreciating and understanding that Data represents the golden thread can really help in the design meaningful cross-channel experiences.
  • Digital should no longer be considered as a layer that fits into the physical layer. Once we see the whole experience from a data perspective we can begin designing in a different way e.g. using the data. The data represents the map for successfully ‘joining all the dots’ together e.g. Hobb’s Golden Thread.
  • Meaning map describe the channels - the way the brand touches you. Great brands touch you consistently and add meaning.
  • A Claude Loraine picture titled ‘Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba’ painted in 1648 as part of the group: The Bouillon Claudes).
    Think of cross-channel information architecture design as composition across space and time with a foreground, middle ground and back ground. The composition occurs over space and time and represents a great way for thinking about cross-channel information architectures as narratives.
  • In this image we see lots of people. There is no doubt lots of technology. That means lots of information consumption and ultimately lots of data consumption and generation.
    Therefore, what we are seeing is an inversion in how we used to see things. Previously we saw people in physical space with digital layered over data. Now we are seeing data in digital as the composition in which people and places co-habit.
    What does this mean for us
    As the custodians and experts in the field store design your role will be to understand and assist clients with understanding the meaning of the store channel in the context of the new cross-channel customer experience.
  • Thank You.
  • Cross-Channel Design: thinking and practice

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    37. 37. Thank you!