Retail Systems Profile Nov2011


Published on

With customers ranging from ASOS
to Tesco, this fi rm has a fair claim to
being the world’s biggest mobile
platform provider. Karen Moss speaks
to Jason Taylor, vice president at
Usablenet, the company that does
exactly what it says on the tin

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Retail Systems Profile Nov2011

  1. 1. RS profile Usablenet What’s in a name? With customers ranging from ASOS to Tesco, this firm has a fair claim to being the world’s biggest mobile platform provider. Karen Moss speaks to Jason Taylor, vice president at Usablenet, the company that does escatly what it says on the tin U sablenet’s vice president of platform, Jason Taylor, says the company’s aims and ethos can be summed up in their name. “It’s usable and net,” he says. “That’s what we promise and that’s what we deliver, highly usable websites that are functional on all mobile devices, apps and kiosks.” In fact, when it comes to m-commerce, there’s nobody quite like Usablenet. They are the largest mobile platform company in the world and service 20 per cent of Fortune 1,000 companies, including seven of the top 10 retailers in the UK. Their customers per cent of adults and 47 per cent of teenagers in the UK include; Fairmont Hotels, Amtrak, Dell, JC Penney, Walgreens, have a smartphone.) Tesco, Marks & Spencer, House of Fraser, Boots, B&Q, Mothercare, “The iPhone really changed the perception of what people JD Sports, Arcadia, Expedia, ASOS and Sunglass Hut. wanted to do on their phones,” he says. “Consumers began to Based in New York, Italy, and the UK, Usablenet is a global expect to have a successful experience when they went online leader in extending companies’ online brands to their customers, with their phone and that has driven the growth of mobile com- wherever they are: on mobile, on Facebook, at an in-store kiosk merce. At Usablenet we have one platform that allows us to de- or via tablet computer. After 11 years, the firm now has more liver the mobile platform experience to retailers with client the than 300 clients worldwide, including 218 mobile clients, and is choosing level of IT, from no IT to full developer access to the currently opening offices in Asia and Brazil. same platform. We can have sites up and running within eight to Taylor says: “Our first mobile client was Amtrak, and a lot has ten weeks. We can have it up and running within eight weeks, it changed since then in basic customer expectation. The average is this agility when it comes to IT solutions that we bring to our consumer expects that a website works on any device they clients to help them go multi-channel. If they want tablet solu- might want to use and they want an optimised experience. They tion or an in-store kiosk, we can do it without IT being involved.” want mobile sites and mobile apps, but they also now want sites Usablenet offers the leading technological platform for optimised for tablet computers. Then you have in-store kiosks, transforming and optimising web content. With usability as the that Usablenet has delivered for Tesco and M&S, which needs to starting point, they have developed a uniquely powerful and be different than a Facebook store. We helped deliver an opti- flexible platform that optimises content for the constrained mised f-commerce store for ASOS. In a multi-channel world you environments found in the mobile world and the growing have to accommodate your customer, making sure everyone can number of outputs used by consumers. access all your different channels.” Taylor says: “Customers don’t want to be told that they can’t Many retailers see the advent of the smartphone as a real have it their way. They want to dictate to retailers how they game-changer, and the software as a service (SaaS) companies want to shop. Maybe they want to buy product and pay online who provide their mobile platforms are no different. Initially it via computer, but then pick up the item in-store. They expect was just business people who carried smartphones and used the retailer to provide that service.” them to access websites for work, but the average consumer One of the world’s fastest growing and most successful has now caught up to them and, Taylor says, this is reflected online pureplayers, ASOS, turned to Usablenet when they in smartphone use. (A recent Ofcom survey revealed that 27 decided to launch a mobile site, then again when they opened46 RS October - November 2011
  2. 2. Usablenet profile RStheir Facebook site and when they launched their iPhone and “Retailers need to create inside Facebook a shareable socialiPad apps. And multi-channel giant, Tesco, called on Usablenet’s experience, if you just put up a promotion, that’s not whatexpertise when designing their eight mobile sites and integrat- Facebook is about, it has to be shareable content. Step one ising them with apps at in-store kiosks. bringing content and then there’s the convenience of purchase “There are so many different channels these days,” says within Facebook. But it is not anything like mobile commerce,Taylor. “It’s about how you integrate them that makes a retailer social media users are in consideration mode and knowledgetruly multi-channel. So how do you take Tesco Direct into a mode, not purchase or Mothercare online into a store? In the UK 27 per cent “Retailers need to decide how these channels fit into purchaseof adults own a smartphone, so they are now looking up pricing decisions. I believe social media is limited in retail revenue, but bigand reviews on their phone as part of their in-store purchasing in content sharing. All these things like apps, websites, Facebookexperience. It’s about how you scale these channels; it might be – it’s about furthering the brand loyalty. Anyone who is an ASOSa consumer facing application on in-store facing application. It fan on Facebook is committed in some way to the ASOS brand.could be a sales assistant in-store with their iPad to help up-sell. Another customer of ours, JC Penny, does well on social mediaOnce a customer is in-store, you have to think about how their because stay at home mums and working mums are a powerfulinteraction there affects their overall experience. The consumer and very social group on Facebook. Retailers need to know theirjourney can start on any channel.” target audience.” Right now the average retailer is reporting that three-fivef-commerce per cent of their online revenue comes from mobile commerce.For Usablenet’s Taylor, the power of social commerce is all in But it is difficult to tell if these sales are incremental or anthe retailers’ content. He believes that consumers are no in expansion of their online base. Certain companies, especiallywhat he calls ‘purchase mode’ when they are logged onto fashion retailers like Net-a-Porter and ASOS that appeal toFacebook or Twitter, instead they are looking for knowledge younger generations, do better at m-commerce.through consumer reviews and considering the possibility of Taylors adds: “Shop NBC is one of the most visited sites inmaking a purchase. America because people are watching TV and surfing the web on “Facebook is not a store,” he says. “It’s a social sharing site. We their tablet or smartphone at the same time. Then when theyfind things that we like, want to comment on and want to share. see something, like a DVD box set that they want to order, it’sIf you take ASOS as an example; all of their products are avail- only a few taps away. The point is that consumers want every-able inside Facebook for you to find, share and review. Then you thing to be highly accessible. They want to build their wish listcan allow your friends and family see your review – that’s social in-store and then be able to access it from home or vice versa.”currency. That’s the stuff that generates interest. However, there are subtle differences between smartphone and tablet shoppers that Taylor says retailers need to be aware of. Even where and when they will shop is different. Most of us would never dream of leaving home without our mobile phone, but you will go out to work, or a restaurant without your tablet device. At the moment five per cent of retailers’ online revenue comes from consumers purchasing on tablet devices. “It’s more of a replacement of the computer, it’s not a mobile phone,” says Taylor “The consumers who have tablets are af- fluent and tech savvy. From an interface perspective the way we use a tablet is totally different to the way we use a website. It’s a tactile dashboard approach, we want to see everything right there in front of us. This person could be mobile, so the retailer could change homepage to say where the nearest store is to them. But they could also be accessing your site from the comfort of their home.” Yet, Jason says it doesn’t matter how complex your website is, or how many different devices are in use in the world today. It doesn’t even matter how many different devices will be in use in the world next year. Usablenet’s platform is designed to scale in every direction, from their own infrastructure capacity to the support for the full range of functionality on your website, to support for any and every device your customers may be using. October - November 2011 RS 47