E-Retailer Invites Consumers On A Digital Shopping Spree

The South African ecommerce market is “small and niche … turning browsers into shoppers is difficult,” says Ryk Benadé, art director of online retailer Spree, who will be speaking at the upcoming Adobe Summit EMEA.

E-Retailer Invites Consumers On A Digital Shopping Spree

Online fashion retailer Spree launched three years ago in South Africa. Spun out of the ecommerce division of publishing group Media24, the business has always had content at its heart.

How it can keep pace to deliver high-impact campaigns at speed is constantly top of its mind.

Art director Ryk Benadé will explore this topic along with other brand panellists at the Adobe Summit EMEA next week in a session called “Designing and Delivering Extraordinary Digital Experiences.” (Adobe is CMO.com’s parent company.)

As someone who combines a publishing background with a key role in South Africa’s evolving ecommerce sector, Benadé is well-placed to comment on the challenges of content and commerce. When CMO.com caught up with him, we began by asking what expectations South African shoppers have around digital commerce.

Benadé: South Africa has the third highest mall density in the world. With ready access to so many bricks-and-mortar retailers, South African consumers expect to do their shopping at a mall, and trips to the mall are an integral part of the South African lifestyle. As such, the ecommerce market is not just still very young: it is also small and niche. Relatively limited (read: expensive and slow) Internet access presents a further challenge to growth.

We can guide people, give them style advice, and a lookbook, but turning browsers into shoppers is difficult, even though from a user-experience point of view we’ve succeeded in making the process extremely easy. Holding the customer’s hand to the point of conversion, and supporting the offline experience beyond that point, means being thoroughly committed to customer service.

From a creative point of view, we try to make the journey as rewarding and comfortable as possible, from surrounding customers with beautiful, inspiring visuals to building a relationship of trust through, among other things, our tone of voice. Our approach is to offer something very much richer than a catalogue-style shopping experience, and we achieve this through storytelling with all the tools at our disposal.

CMO.com: How is the creative team structured, and how else do you respond to this challenge?

Benadé: Spree’s content and marketing teams work closely together—literally, we share the same space—and together we form part of the customer interaction team. Then we also collaborate with the fashion team who produces editorial and campaign images as required by the business.

Our core focus is on engagement with the Spree customer, but along with creating content for the site, we also function as an in-house agency, conceptualising and executing all the above-the-line and below-the-line campaigns for Spree.

Ecommerce is 100% dynamic: it changes hourly and sometimes more frequently than that. The head of content and I work with a team of five content producers and designers, and we bring in freelancers for a quick turnaround.

Using the tools we have, we can bring a magazine to the market in a week, from inception to completion, and a lookbook, which is typically smaller and less copy-dense, in a day, which includes coding it into a sliding version for the desktop and creating a mobile version. It’s hectic and the pace is extreme, but we’re quite agile to get stuff to the market as quickly as possible. Having a highly skilled and motivated team helps.

Because ecommerce is so data-driven, we’re fortunate that we can get almost instant feedback on how well a campaign is performing (or not), and adjust our creative approach accordingly.

Mobile Internet access is where the growth is in South Africa (and elsewhere in Africa), so a mobile-first approach is key, and no longer just on weekends and public holidays, when mobile traffic peaks and we generally keep things simple with big visuals and single click-throughs. In fact, mobile now dictates how we’re designing for desktop all the time .

As a creative team, we have to service the digital and mobile versions of the site, our only partly (for now) responsive desktop site, and our native apps on Android and iOS. We design with a mobile mindset first, but still with the objective of offering a magazine experience rather than a catalogue one. In the app, for example, we will soon be offering customers a content-focused daily feed that gives them the option to shop or read more stories.

We also recently reengineered our digital magazine so that it provides a good experience on both desktop and mobile. Previously, people would design for desktop with a tablet mindset. But it’s mobile-first now. The lines are becoming blurred, which makes it interesting from a design point of view.

CMO.com: What new things are you looking at to evolve the digital experience for customers?

Benadé: We are working on several ideas for further enhancing the shopping and user experience, and incorporating a feed into the app is one example of that. On desktop people want to scroll through lots of products, but on mobile and tablet, it’s the lean-back experience they want, so they’ll consume content and shoppable content more readily on mobile than on desktop.

So getting storytelling and the magazine onto mobile is something we talk about a lot. Whether this would be via a separate native app of stories or inspiration, or something we plug into existing native apps via an API, we haven’t decided yet, but we know that’s where we want to go.

To complete the circle, we’re also interested in the integration of mobile with a potential print magazine to see how those two will work together. I like the idea of the two working hand-in-hand, someone reading in print and being able to scan and shop it then and there. It’s not very close for us, but we’re working towards it.